After winning 100 games last season – the most in the majors – the St. Louis Cardinals enter the 2016 season with a couple of question marks.
Just don’t tell that to the clubhouse.
Yes, the Cardinals lost John Lackey and Jason Heyward, among others, from last year’s squad, but the franchise feels it still has what it takes to win the NL Central for the fourth straight season.
“When you have some people go away from your club, it doesn’t really affect us as much as maybe others,” Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “(There’s) a very positive vibe going on. Candidly, I think these guys actually look at it as they have something to prove because a lot of people feel like we did lose a couple players and we’re an aging team. The boys downstairs don’t agree with that. We feel like we’ve got a pretty strong youth movement coming in our outfield, and we feel like all the other pieces that we have in place are there to win.”
The Cardinals return Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright, among other franchise cornerstones. All are 33 or older, and all will almost certainly perform at a high level.
So, what’s the secret sauce in St. Louis? Why does it always come together for the Cardinals?
“I think it does start with the talent, of course, and we’ve got a lot of players who care,” Mozeliak said. “In a lot of ways, they almost value what’s on the front of the jersey more than what’s on the back. I think that’s a great compliment to them. I also feel like it’s about the opportunity that we do try to create. Everybody has a different business model or team model but we really want to reward guys in our minor leagues that play hard, work hard and earn the right to get a chance to play in St. Louis. Our model is based on how strong our pipeline is and about creating a place for them to play. When you think back to your own playing career, knowing that someone was in your corner to give you a chance, you actually work harder. That’s something that we actually do do.”
Jhonny Peralta could miss up to two months of the regular season recovering from a torn ligament in his left thumb, but aside from that, it’s all systems go in St. Louis.
“We feel like our rotation is going to be strong, and we feel like our everyday club – with the expectation of the hole at shortstop – should be everything we hope it will be,” Mozeliak said. “So we’re looking forward to the season and certainly hope we’ll be competitive.”