This Season is not Win or Bust, Next Season is

Over 60 games into the season, the St. Louis Cardinals are finally in first place in the NL Central with a record of 34-27, but my eyes are already on the future.

Of course, I have very high hopes for this team in the 2022 season, but I cannot contain my excitement when looking at what is to come. This season is the passing of the torch you could say and it is very important to discuss the future.

St. Louis is playing quite well so far this year, even with a lack of arms. The offense is playing the best it has in years with a .250 BA, .709 OPS, 273 RBIs and 522 hits which all rank top five in the NL. They also have the fifth fewest strikeouts in the MLB. When it comes to pitching stats, they are about middle of the pack, with a 3.87 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and .248 BA against them. The team is playing its best ball of the season and can certainly make an October run, but I want to talk about why next season is more important.

Veteran Leadership

It may be silly of me to think the Cardinals will do better next season as we are likely without our three veteran leaders Yadier Molina, Albert Pujols and Adam Wainwright, but I think we will be much better. John Mozeliak will have no choice but to break the bank, which he is infamously known for refraining to do. The biggest offseason need for St. Louis will be pitching, especially of the left-hand variety, and I think we will get that over the winter.

Pujols is not an everyday guy, but his $2.5 million contract is worth every penny, and more. The Cardinals have Oliver Marmol as their manager, but Molina, Pujols and Wainwright are using this season to mentor the young guys as well.

“This role I have is doing whatever I can to help this team out,” Pujols said. “It’s about leaving a mark. So many guys did it for me. It’s almost like paying that favor forward to these guys.”

Pujols is the oldest player in the big leagues at 42-years-old. He has 22 years of experience and wisdom he is sharing with the rest of the Redbirds. Watch any Cardinals game on TV and you will see at least one dugout camera shot of Pujols, Molina or Wainwright mentoring a young player.

Think of these guys leaving as a man retiring from his high school basketball coaching job of 40 years and the assistant coach not stepping up to take his position. Learning from those that come before you, and them willingly wanting to teach you, will help the Cardinals for years down the road.

What Next Season May Look Like

As alluded to earlier, the Cardinals need pitching help. That is their biggest need and one that needs to be resolved at the trade deadline this season, but also in the winter. Let’s take a look at some of the top free agents, so we can get our hopes up for players we will not sign.

Aaron Judge, Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, Joe Musgrove, Jacob deGrom, Willson Contreras, Carlos Rodon, Justin Verlander, Zach Eflin, Sean Manaea, Nathan Eovaldi and Edwin Diaz are some of the most coveted free agents. The Cardinals will likely prioritize pitching this offseason, both starting and bullpen, but they will also likely consider getting another big bat in the lineup or a middle infielder. With Yadier Molina also set to retire, perhaps we could welcome our rival Contreras to replace him as well. There are a lot of questions for next season, but we have a lot of options.

I cannot think of a better ending to this 2022 season than a World Series win for St. Louis. Obviously, that’s always the goal with this franchise, but this season it would just mean more. As cheesy as it sounds, watching our three superhero players ride off into the sunset with another ring could make a grown man cry.