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.