JUPITER, Fla. — Adam Wainwright and one particular word — nostalgia — have a mixed history.
The word stuck to the Cardinals starter like an unwanted bumper sticker as he searched and struggled years ago.
Some wondered, when Wainwright was at its worst, if the beloved right-hander’s long and successful history with the team obscured reality and caused the Cardinals to wait for a breakthrough that didn’t come.
We know what happened next.
Wainwright found out and became one of baseball’s most reliable starters again, regardless of age.
“This chip is good for the shoulder,” said opening day starter Wainwright, acknowledging that the word – nostalgia – can be warm and fuzzy one moment and cut the next when it means you’re underperforming accepted because of sweet memories in the past tense.
The 2022 Cardinals can stack these types of chips as high as they like.
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A team built to hit fans head-on will be put to the test to see if 2022 will be more about looking back or moving forward.
What had been presented by team officials as a farewell season for Wainwright and catcher Yadier Molina hit Hallmark film territory when the Cardinals brought Albert Pujols back on a one-year contract to become the team’s designated hitter against lefties, and maybe more.
It’s being pitched as a Three Legends farewell, although unlike Molina and Pujols, Wainwright has refrained from ensuring he retires after the season is over.
Nobody says it thicker than baseball operations president John Mozeliak, who said in the team’s official press release that the Pujols’ signing “feels like flipping through the pages of a favorite scrapbook or baseball card album and seeing those images and memories make you jump.” from the sides.”
So, yes, it’s easy to see why some of the more cynical guys see this as a plan that prioritizes memory over chasing a World Series.
Proving that both can be true is now becoming the mission for this club and that goes from the top of the organization to first year manager Oliver Marmol and his players.
“Often on farewell tours there are players who don’t really contribute,” chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. told the Post-Dispatch on the day of Pujols’ reintroduction. “We expect that the three names we have there will make a big contribution to a possible championship.”
“The only thing I wanted to mention is that this isn’t just a story about Albert coming back to St. Louis,” Marmol said. “It’s about him coming back to help us win a championship. His skills and leadership qualities are hard to beat.”
“That (a world championship) is always the benchmark, I think,” Wainwright said. “Since I’ve been here, we’ve come in with an idea, and it’s not about finishing second.”
What do you say, President of Baseball Operations?
“I’ve always told you guys I never speak absolute,” Mozeliak said during camp. “He (Marmol) is enthusiastic about this club. We are all. I think I’ve been doing this long enough to know that (when trying to set expectations that high) you can’t guarantee delivery. Really what matters to him, he knows we have a talented team. He knows there are people who understand what it takes to win at a high level, at a consistent level, what it takes to get into October and what it’s like to win in October. If you have these attributes and traits, you can easily connect dots to get there. Obviously, all of us who have been in the game for a long time know that there are other things that come into play. This is happiness, good health, good luck. To name a few. There are some things you can control. There are things you can’t do. The good news is we have a talented team and hopefully we can control that.”
Tell me which quote doesn’t quite go with the others.
The Cardinals have a talented team. You will benefit from a split that is weaker than before. If they want to maximize their options while the trio of Wainwright, Molina and Pujols share a roster with Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, a best-in-baseball defense and an outfield on the cusp of producing All-Stars, is now the right time.
The same front office that brought Pujols home should be under pressure to further minimize the number of dots that need to be connected for a deep and meaningful postseason run to take place.
The addition of veteran left-handed DH option Corey Dickerson along with right-handed DH option Pujols was a good start, one that for a complicated, high-pressure job prioritized getting that done rather than prospects with little to no not to entrust a major -league batting experience. The Cardinals have lacked hitting opportunities off the bench in recent years. That has now been reinforced. Shortstop remains a big problem. Paul DeJong has a lot to prove.
The quality of the team’s pitching depth is again a major concern after the spring injuries of Jack Flaherty and Alex Reyes followed free-agent additions Steven Matz and Drew VerHagen. The Cardinals want to see how weapons acquired during an offseason that prioritized groundball pitchers and strike throwers contribute to an elite defense before seeing if further adjustment is needed, and that makes sense. But waiting too long to add outside help last season eventually cost the team the division’s pursuit, instead forcing an insane rush for a wildcard coin toss that the Cardinals lost.
Hopefully that lesson has been learned.
This season’s trade close should be meaningful. The Cardinals have fallen into a bad habit of not being able to justify a big swing because they have to squint to see a deep postseason run. Cardinals fans are hungry to dig deep. They’re tired of being told they should have more appreciation for back-to-back winning seasons and playoff appearances.
Mozeliak has built a team that has not won a single National League Championship Series game since 2014. Dumping execs out after firing both Mike Matheny and Mike Shildt With Pujols, Wainwright and Molina taking the spotlight, the pressure is squarely on Mozeliak. The narrative he developed that editing and significantly improving a team during the season is too difficult, complicated, or detrimental to long-term success must stop. The list of recent World Series champions who found a way to improve their careers after the first half of the regular season is long and gave the club a sense of what it had and what it lacked. This would be a good season for Mozeliak to remind everyone he can still do it.
It’s asking a lot to lean on Wainwright, Molina and now Pujols so late in their careers. If they pull through, the front office needs to keep going to give this team the best possible chance to go deep. Nostalgia comes up on this ride whether you like it or not, but the focus is more on maximizing this season than reminding everyone of old ones.
That was emphasized again and again in the camp, at least by the owner, the manager and the players.