Ah, October baseball! The exhilaration, the stress, the joy, the agony — and now, for two straight postseasons, watching 10 other teams continue to play throughout this month while the Cardinals are done. It was a week ago yesterday that the 2017 Cards season essentially ended, since they were eliminated from postseason contention, and it marked another step back in the Mike Matheny era.
It’s very good that John Mozeliak is not content with this finish, which he spoke about on Tuesday during a season-ending press conference: “Look, we do not find this acceptable … We certainly understand the expectations of our city, of our region, of what they expect of this organization. All of us know there’s pressure from that. Ultimately, it’s our responsibility to get ourselves back.”
And it was even better to hear Mo say this: “For us, we have a talented team, but when you look at our club, no one stood out as an All-Star, that threat. I think for all of us up here, it’s trying to find what that might look like.”
I know what I want that All-Star, that threat to look like: Giancarlo Stanton.
Yep, I know the immediate objections. The contract. The injury history. The tremendous cost it would take to acquire him in a trade — there’s a proposed trade at Viva El Birdos earlier this week to acquire Giancarlo that made sense, though it would involve giving up a lot — and thus the prospects the Cards would lose. The risk of that …
Totally worth it.
Obviously Giancarlo Stanton would be that impact bat Mo mentioned. You are probably as familiar as I am with what Giancarlo did this season, leading the majors in home runs with 59 and RBI with 132 in compiling an MVP-caliber season. I am likely a bit more familiar with how he did over the final week of the regular season, because I had zero interest in watching the Cardinals play the Cubs — or, really, zero interest in watching the Cubs clinch at Busch Stadium — and then, since they were out of contention, zero interest in watching the Cards play the Brewers so I instead watched every Marlins game. I saw Giancarlo struggle at Coors Field, going 1 for 12 with a double and four strikeouts. And I absolutely enjoyed seeing him blast two home runs last Thursday night in Miami, of course, but also was pleasantly surprised to see him drive in runs in each of those four games against the Braves. He had a more complete season than you might expect, plus can make some entertaining catches in right field too.
The production he would bring is the most important factor in obtaining him, of course — which is what Mo is looking for. But there’s something else Giancarlo would bring to the Cardinals, something mentioned by David Wilhelm of the Belleville News-Democrat: “He would create more excitement at Busch Stadium than the fans have seen in years.”
Giancarlo would bring that superstar quality that the Cardinals have been missing, really, since Albert Pujols left for Anaheim. Sure, Yadi is great and justifiably well adored — but he’s not quite that same level. Same with Matt Holliday as far as greatness, though I’m not sure he was ever the level of Yadi adoration. Carlos Beltran certainly made a difference in his two seasons but, again, not quite the same as Albert in his prime.
And is that superstar quality missed on the team now? Well, I can use myself as an example — and look at what just the thought of Giancarlo Stanton as a Cardinal is doing. I’m writing the longest post I’ve done in 2017, a year in which I’ve written a grand total of three other posts. In 2016, the majority of my posts were flashbacks onto what was happening on that date in 2011. My interest in the Cardinals has definitely waned year by year since 2015. But I’ve already told my friend Michael I’ll blog regularly again with Giancarlo as a Cardinal.
I’d even rush out — or rush to the computer — and order a Giancarlo Stanton Cardinals jersey as soon as it was available. My last jersey purchase? Chris Carpenter in 2011.
It’s also been a few years since I’ve been to Busch Stadium — 2015, as a matter of fact. I did see the Cardinals play this season, on May 28 at Coors Field, and was thrilled to see Paul DeJong’s dramatic home run in his first big league at-bat even though the team lost. Otherwise, it hasn’t seemed worth the hassle of arranging a trip to St. Louis and investing the hotel and driving costs. But you know what? I’d book a hotel room right now for April 5 and the chance to cheer Giancarlo Stanton riding around the track in a pickup truck, and would buy tickets as soon as they were available.
Maybe that just makes me a fair-weather fan — but I stuck by the team in 2007 and 2008 when they failed to make the postseason too.
Or maybe that just makes me a Giancarlo Stanton fan — and that has definitely become a very true statement this year in particular, especially when looking back at my recent tweets. But it was Mark McGwire and his home run prowess that first made me a Cardinals fan. To a certain degree, Giancarlo certainly reminds me of McGwire — who, it turns out, was his favorite too.
And that past McGwire fandom could be a benefit, because there would be one final hurdle in acquiring Giancarlo Stanton beyond the Cardinals and Marlins coming to a trade agreement — he has a full no-trade clause in that gigantic contract, so he essentially can decide his own future. Not surprisingly, given the Marlins records during his seasons there, he’s tired of losing — the 2016 team’s 79 wins was their best finish. So the Cardinals do have winning records on their side, although so do a lot of other teams that would be interested in him. So the Cardinals would have to play up one of their strengths, and the strength they’re excellent at showcasing: their tradition.
Show Giancarlo a video like this and ask him to imagine himself being a part of that. Show him the reception Dexter Fowler received in April upon his official introduction at Busch, and even show him this — yeah, that’s how Cards fans even treat former non-superstar players. Ask him how he’d like playing in front of large and loyal crowds at Busch Stadium night after night, for a team that draws nearly double the amount of fans at home per season than what he’s been part of in Miami.
Yes, it will require a bit of imagination on his part, and a bit of trust for the future — and we know that asking someone to trust in Mike Matheny as your manager certainly sounds like a scary proposition. But life is about risk, isn’t it? A trade like this would be a risk all around, absolutely.
Sometimes, though, risks come with great reward.
Would Giancarlo Stanton look good in the Birds on the Bat? Unquestionably. Would he had superstardom to a lineup sorely lacking in charismatic talent (Yadi notwithstanding)? You bet. Would it be absolutely fun to watch him hit dingers in batting practice and long shots into Big Mac Land during games? Absolutely.
Would the Cardinals trading for Giancarlo Stanton be a terrible baseball decision? Has the potential to be.
Let’s assume Stanton would waive his no-trade clause to move from glamorous and sexy Miami to the brewski and toasted ravioli river town that’s home to the Favored Nine. Let’s also assume we would waive his no-trade clause to join a team that no longer can be called a proven winner in a way that, say, the Dodgers can. Let’s assume the Cardinals can afford to play an injury-prone player a jaw-dropping amount as he moves in a couple of years into his unproductive 30s. Let’s assume the fans won’t mind if Stanton sees a fall off in power from 59 home runs to something in the high-30s or low-40s, maybe. Maybe more.
Let’s also take those trade suggestions from Viva El Birdos seriously. Suggestions which would involve stripping the organization of some of its most MLB-ready (or in the case of Randal Grichuk, already ready) depth, but at the same time optimistically leaving intact the most treasured prospects, such as Luke Weaver and Alex Reyes.
Would it all be worth it? Man, I really don’t think so.
The McGwire comparison actually is a pretty good one. Back in 1997, the Cardinals took on a contract from the Oakland Athletics to pick up Big Mac in exchange for players with little projected value. There’s no doubt McGwire helped to put a jolt in the franchise with his immediate pursuit of Roger Maris’ record that year, and the home run chase in 1998 and again in 1999. But even with all the home runs, something was missing. Playoff appearances. Do you remember the Cardinals actually had a losing year in 1999? It’s true, look it up. Big Mac didn’t get the Cardinals into the postseason; it took Jim Edmonds and Darryl Kile and Edgar Renteria and J.D. Drew and even Will Clark.
Look, if the Cardinals are able to convince Stanton that they’re a perennial winner (that’ll take some salesmanship after the last couple of years on the field), that St. Louis can be a great place to play and live just like Miami or LA, and if they’re able to convince the Marlins that a grab bag of four B and C level prospects in exchange for potentially nine figures in salary relief, okay. Pull the trigger on that deal.
But here’s the thing: the Memphis Redbirds posted the best won-loss record in all of Triple-A this year, and that was no accident. They did so with a roster than was feeding St. Louis and developing surprising breakout seasons (Patrick Wisdom was something else). There is going to be a tidal wave of great young talent reminiscent of the wave in 2009-2011 that fed a largely homegrown roster that went to the World Series in 2013.
After a dull, disappointing season we’ve just suffered through, why wouldn’t we want to see Giancarlo Stanton knock dingers wearing the Birds on the Bat, sunlight glinting off his red helmet?
I’m just saying next year and 2019 will be much better. MUCH BETTER. They’re going to be a fun team to watch. I know this because this year, the Baby Birds in Memphis were, and they’re on their way.
Those “waiver wire” deals don’t often turn out so well for the acquiring club. I’d much rather see the Cardinals gamble on their young future than take the risk of putting the chips on a single, often-fragile talent. Even one as charismatic as Giancarlo Stanton.
This makes me the minority among Cardinals fans. I get that. I promise, though, if the Cardinals don’t trade for Stanton, and he falls off the cliff, and the team returns to the World Series (I’ll settle for the NLCS) in 2019, I won’t gloat.
Good points, as I knew they would be. But the influx of Memphis talent that was on the Cardinals later in the season wasn’t enough to catch up to the Cubs, or the Brewers. Yes, with more of them on the roster, you would guess they would improve. But it still fills like something is missing. And Giancarlo doesn’t have to be that something — there are other, less costly and less risky options out there. Because I don’t think you can just transport Memphis to St. Louis and think they’re going to beat the other NL Central teams for the division title.
Also, McGwire on the Cardinals in ’98 and ’99 — isn’t that essentially what Giancarlo was this year for the Marlins?
Ah, Christine. Even when I disagree, I do love your posts. And I hope that you will post more – even if the Cards don’t crush their future to get Stanton. I have been a fan of your blog. Perhaps it’s time to introduce you to mine, and my take on how the off-season should be approached. Let me know what you think.