Will the Cubs ever catch the Cardinals?
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter August 15, 2013 9:18PM
The St. Louis Cardinals celebrate after Texas Rangers' David Murphy flies out to end Game 7 of baseball's World Series Friday, Oct. 28, 2011, in St. Louis. The Cardinals won 6-2 to win the series. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
THE CARDINALS WAY
Playoff appearances: 25
100-win seasons: 8
90-win seasons: 29
Winning seasons: 70
90-loss seasons: 5
100-loss seasons: 0
THE CUBS WAY
Playoff appearances: 12
100-win seasons: 1
90-win seasons: 12 (5 in last 72 years)
Winning seasons: 41
90-loss seasons: 22
100-loss seasons: 3
Updated: August 16, 2013 11:28AM
The Cincinnati Reds just swept the Cubs and have dominated them this season. The Pittsburgh Pirates own the National League Central and have a young, powerful core that promises to stay near the top for years.
But the guys running the Cubs don’t look at any team with as much competitive envy and grudging admiration as the one coming to town for the weekend to try to kick the Cubs while they’re down: the St. Louis Cardinals.
“They’re the standard,” general manager Jed Hoyer has said more than once.
And rarely have they looked more like it — and from more miles away — compared to the Cubs than right now.
They’ve gone from arch-rivals to the antithesis of the Cubs in the National League. They are young and sound at nearly every position, powerful in key spots in the lineup. They have the best catcher in the league, and they have more quality pitching than spots in the starting rotation for it.
And they have a farm system ranked No. 1 in baseball by most pundits.
So is there any reason in the baseball world for a Cubs fan to believe this organization will catch up to that Cardinals organization — maybe ever?
“Well,” said Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak, taken aback by the question for a second. “I would say the answer is … sure. When you think about sustainable models, there’s limited resources in the sense of the new [collective bargaining agreement restrictions on amateur spending]. So when teams are picking up front [in the draft], they have the ability to arbitrage because of the [bigger] signing pool.
“I do think Theo [Epstein] and Jed are two really smart guys, and creative. And, frankly, they’re not afraid to really hit the reset button. They’re focus is completely on the long view. And I think that’s smart.”
So the answer would be: Not for a long time. Not until they’ve cannibalized at least a third major-league roster to build more volume in the system while developing the players acquired in the last three years.
Before he became GM Mozeliak helped stock the Cards system with spending deep in the draft for years before the commissioner’s office slammed the door on that practice. He now reaps the benefits, along with a dozen or more teams that did that for years, in a locked-in-for-years advantage the Cubs execs talk about.
How different are the two clubs? It’s hard to even imagine the Cardinals — who have 70 winning seasons in the last 100 years — giving up on whole major-league seasons to undergo the process the Cubs have chosen.
“If we had to, we would,” Mozeliak said. “Obviously, we work in a very fragile market in the sense that our TV market doesn’t drive our major-league payroll. It’s our fan base. So we want to make sure we keep throwing out an entertaining product for that.”
Some executives see the Cardinals as the team best poised to make a run of championships as the New York Yankees did starting in the mid-1990s.
“The Cardinals are the Yankees of the National League,” Yankees GM Brian Cashman told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “They’re a baseball operations machine from top to bottom.”
Where does that leave the Cubs for the next three years – or five, or a decade?
“I’m not saying they’re screwed,” said Reds outfielder Ryan Ludwick, a former Cardinal. “But they’ve got a tough task.”