Over the past few years, St. Louis Cardinals fans have been frustrated. But what has made the team so unbearable, and is there anything we can do about it?
The St. Louis Cardinals may be one of the most frustrating teams in baseball. A quick scroll through “Cardinals Twitter” seems to confirm that. At best, you see open and honest critiques of an organization that has failed to live up to its fan’s expectations. At worst, you see doom-and-gloom pessimism that might lead you to believe that St. Louis is one of the worst teams in baseball. It’s clear that the Cardinals are exasperating Cardinals fans everywhere.
Despite some of the public outcry, the Cardinals aren’t one of the worst teams in baseball. In fact, since 2015 (the last time they made the playoffs), they’ve been the ninth best team in baseball by record (201-182). This year, they’re currently sitting in the middle of the pack with the 10th best record in baseball (34-27). The Cardinals aren’t the Marlins or the Reds or the White Sox. They aren’t an awful team.
The problem, of course, is that they aren’t a good team, either. The St. Louis Cardinals have missed the playoffs two years in a row — and things don’t look great for 2018 right now. They still don’t have a bona fide star, despite acquiring Marcell Ozuna this past offseason.
Some might argue that Cardinals fans are simply spoiled. After so much winning, we just can’t take missing the playoffs for a season or two and overreact when our team misses the playoffs, but I don’t think that’s true at all. As hard as it is to watch a team lose, the Cardinals have managed to find the perfect balance of mediocrity to frustrate and infuriate their fans.
If the Cardinals were truly a terrible team, the fans would have low expectations. Lots of fanbases enjoy teams that are less than stellar (Mets, Cubs, and Mariners fans have all experienced that at various points). You can stomach losing when you know it’s coming.
But St Louis is almost good. Almost. The team has consistently been one well-timed hit or one decent bullpen inning or one big name signing away from clearing the hurdle and crossing over from mediocre to decidedly good. For every glimmer of hope that Cardinals fans get, there’s something counterbalancing that drags the team back to mediocrity.
For instance, the Cardinals starting pitching staff has the third best ERA in baseball. The bullpen has the fifth worst. The team recently promoted electric top prospect Alex Reyes, only to immediately lose him to injury. Again. Not to mention Greg Holland, Paul DeJong, Matt Bowman, Luke Gregerson, Carson Kelly, Adam Wainwright, Tyler Lyons, Carlos Martinez, Yadier Molina, Dominic Leone, Sam Tuivailala, Ryan Sherriff, Jedd Gyorko, and Brett Cecil, who have all spent time on the disabled list this season as well.
This is a team that missed the playoffs by four games last year and just one game in 2016. There’s nothing quite as frustrating as almost, and the Cardinals seem to embody that word in every imaginable way.
Being Cardinals fans is like having a sports car that never quite starts. It’ll turn over, and occasionally it’ll almost get started — sometimes you hit the gas and it sounds great! But then it dies. St. Louis is just good enough to invest your time and energy into, without being good enough to ever reward that investment.
As a Cardinals fan, the persistent mediocrity has made it difficult to have continued interest. It’s hard to motivate myself to watch every game — other stuff just seems more important and less heartbreaking.
But maybe there’s a solution. As frustrating as St. Louis has been over the past few years, I’ve still loved baseball. Recently, I’ve tried to appreciate the game itself, without worrying about winning or losing. If the Cardinals go to the playoffs or win the World Series, I’ll love it. But if they don’t, I want to enjoy the season anyway.
So if you, like many Cardinals fans, have struggled to get past your frustration the last few seasons, maybe step back. Take in a game for the fun of it; for the love of it. Remember why you’ve been a fan of the game and the organization.
And when you’re done, don’t forget to post an irate tweet about Mike Matheny‘s latest blunder.