Rebuild … Win … or Both by Bob Ryan

The huge trade of Bookie Betts to the Dodgers coupled with the Chicago White Sox in the process of coming close to the completion on their “rebuild” are classic examples of the WIN or BUILD mentality of the MLB.

….in general, even the teams “rebuilding” are making money due to the television contracts. Attendance is no longer the primary source of income sooooo….if you can’t REALLY compete, some teams trade off their highly paid players….coast … lose big  for a couple years as their young players “mature”. They are banking in the hopes of several of their “Key” young players developing at the point that they’ll reach the golden land of a World Series Championship. Perfect example was the KC Royals…it worked for them as they reached the World Series in 2014, 2015 after decades of fielding weak teams…so others witness their success and try traveling the same long, slow, unknown road.

…meanwhile our Cards take a very unique, different approach. They walk a highwire with meticulous care. If their key players drop suddenly…they’ll fall off that highwire. The Cards continually try “building with youth” while STILL trying to win..and win big. This is a REAL challenge. It seems to me that the Cards are one of the few teams that travel down this road.  While the fans here are spoiled and expect a WINNER EVERY year, they do their part and reach the 3m mark in attendance . Even while reaching the NLCS last year, some fans STILL complained….maybe it’s the nature of the game…its ALL or NOTHING…..Win it all…or rebuild?!  CAN you do both may be a question?!

… The Cards keep a corp of good, solid players while zeroing in on one/two positions a year to “rebuild”or   have a young, prepared player ready to jump in if the ol’ guy falters. Meanwhile, they go out and sign/trade for “star” power (eg Goldschmidt) on a regular basis. This year…It seems…there are some unique challenges. The Cards are uncertain in 2 OF positions , maybe 3B,  uncertain in the starting rotation in a couple spots and an undetermined closer.

…the way to develop these young players is to have them on the field…and on the field for significant points of the game…not just defensive replacements in the 9th,or pinch hitters/runners, or mop up when the club is down by 4 or 5 runs. One gauge to judge real usage of a player is to use the At Bats for a player. The average AB for the #5 hitter (Middle batter of lineup) is 4.24 ab/gm or app 544 AB for the season….let’s round it off to 500 AB’s give a player a “true” full season of experience. In 2019, the Cards did NOT get nearly as many AB’s as most teams. They were #28 in the MLB (of 30 teams) in At-bats for the season– Averaging 33.61 ab/gm…not enough guys getting on base to “keep the line moving”

…prior to showing these stats…remember a plate appearance is EVERY time that you reached the batters box, At Bats are lower because walks, HBP, sacrifice bunts/hits are removed from the total.

..in 2019, the Cards “rebuild” players…Harrison Bader (406 plate app/347 AB), Tommy Edman (349 PA, 326 AB), Tyler O’Neill only  151 plate app & 141 AB. Lane Thomas had 222 PA & 197 AB.  Harrison Bader has accumulated 925 plate appearances already in his career….far, far above any of the others. The Cards need to reach a decision on him….I do LOVE his speed & defense….and…maybe…that overrides his seemingly C- hitting accomplishments.  I do wish that he’d bunt more often and work on taking that outside pitch to RF. Edman, a versatile performer  and still young, could probably be used at any OF position or 3B on a regular basis….getting  3-5 days of action each week.

….the Cards will again work hard to win but….they must make hard decisions this year about which “young” players will be “their guys”.

….Meanwhile the Dodgers go “all in” in obtaining Mookie Betts. Their lineup is clearly superior to any other in the NL.  One bypass of rebuilding is to a) sign high priced Free agents  b) trade for those high priced players a year PRIOR to their free agency and hope to convince him to remain with your club. The Cardinals DO NOT use this course of action…hence, no Nolan Arenado…may opt out after ‘21.

…Long ago when free agency was just coming of age….many baseball people were concerned that the really big markets, i.e. New York & LA, would dominant the market. New York had 3 baseball teams at one time (Yankees, Dodgers, Giants) so the ad money/fans  were somewhat split up. LA still does have the abundance of teams –Dodgers, Angels and basically the Padres aren’t far away. Its clear to me that a HARD cap in needed on the top end AND the bottom end for the MLB. Just check out the NFL….it seems that at least 1 or 2 teams rise dramatically…maybe not all the way to the Super Bowl… every year. It brings interest…and hope…for the fan base.

….rebuilding takes place in all sports. Sometimes we forget about the struggles of the seemingly long-time winners….it’s happened .. and continues to happen in college football….even to the BIG boys…

….Even the current kingpin of them all—Alabama which  ALWAYS seems to be and have been on the top….not so….Between 1996-2007, Head Coach Mike Dubose arrived in 1996 and compiled a 24-23 record in 4 sesons. Dennis Franchione was 7-5 then 10-3 but bolted for Texas A&M  because Bama was to undergo NCAA sanctions for violations. Mike Price was hired as his replacement but before he could coach a game @ Tuscaloosa, he was fired for frequenting strip clubs. Mike Shula followed him,  he registered a 4-9 record in 2003, was 6-6 in ’04, elevated to 10-2 in 2005, in 2006 the Tide fell back to 6-6—Shula was bought out of his contract. In 2007 Nick Saban was hired and things have been turned around.

….Notre Dame….maybe the most recognized NCAA football program over decades…ND has experienced its moments of futility and rebuilt. From 2003-2011, the Golden Dome wasn’t so bright.  Ty Willingham 1st year record in 2002 was 10-3. It was followed by 5-7 and 6-6 seasons and he was removed. Charlie Weis arrived from the Pats Coaching Staff claiming that “this was only college ball”…more or less…he started beautifully. He recorded 9-3 and 10-3 records in his first 2 years. But…then HIS recruiting classes  went 3-9, 7-6 and 6-6 and Charlie exited. Brian Kelly replaced him and still holds the job.

Thanks for the read!  I’d enjoy reading your thoughts about WIN vs build mentality.  Just post your thoughts on my FB page….others would enjoy the comments as much as I do. There isn’t any right or wrong….we all have our own thoughts.

Comments

  1. Very thoughtful analysis of the Cardinals!. I have often felt that the Cardinals had such a loyal fan base that they were impervious to losing seasons. Am I wrong? What was their attendance in the 70s for example? Not sure what the Red Sox are thinking with the Mookie Betts trade? Are they conceding the 2020 AL East to the Yankees? Rough days in New England? Has Missouri ever enjoyed two National Championships within one year before? JD

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