This is a blog series I put together on the 8 MLB Wild Card playoff teams. You can click these links for the other previews already published:
Hopefully it helps improve your MLB playoff experience whether you're a diehard like me or just getting into the season and don't know where to start.
And of course - follow Starting 9 for world class MLB playoff coverage.
Let's get into it:
But first you guys should know I'll be streaming Cards vs. Phillies today at 1pm central in the first ever Starting 9 Carl-Cast
And of course a juicy prop bet for the Phillies/Cards game:
The St. Louis Cardinals
Division: Central (1st)
Playoff Seed: 3rd of 6
Wild Card Opponent: Hosting (#6) Philadelphia Phillies
Obligatory Sweet Moment:
Manager: Oliver Marmol
Years Active: 1
Overall Record: 93-69 (.574)
Postseason Record: 0-0
Accomplishments: Won division in his first year at the helm. Youngest manager in MLB by 5 years. Artisan crafted facial hair with precise layering.
Noteworthy Nuggets: Took over for Mike Shildt this offseason despite Shildt averaging 91 wins in his 4 years with St. Louis including 3 straight trips to the playoffs. Marmol was simply too good of a manager candidate to leave for another team so the Cardinals got aggressive and promoted him. Now they have their guy for probably the rest of my life.
Head Honcho: John Mozeliak (15 yrs) was on the ground floor of Albert's departure in 2011 and now over a decade later, he's the guy who brought him back for his majestic 2022. Severely underrated by the general public but I think that's been his preference since taking over for his mentor, Walt Jocketty, in 2007.
Since then, Mozeliak has accomplished some incredible things. But what's most worthy of your attention is his time before St. Louis.
It's maybe my favorite origin story of any front office guy, ever.
The year is 1993 and John Mozeliak is a somewhat-recent graduate of Colorado-Boulder after transferring back home from the University of Arizona. I don't know the details but you don't exactly need to know details to fill in those blanks. Story goes he's hanging around, not doing shit just like the rest of us at 23 years old. But it's Colorado so "not doing shit" means "hiking" and "fly fishing" and a bunch of cool activites.
So one day he gets a call from a buddy who works in the Rockies video department. One of the veteran pitchers wanted to go fly fishing. Can John take him next on the next off day?
Sure. Of course he can.
John and Bryn Smith spend the day together catching fish and they develop an immediate bond. The pitcher invites him to come by Coors Field for some batting practice the next week. Meet the guys and hang out.
Mozeliak takes him up on the offer and heads over to Coors Field for some random day game.
Well turns out it was also the same day the Rockies needed an emergency left handed batting practice pitcher. And as luck would have it, John was some local standout left-handed high school pitcher. Real Glory days type shit.
So he gets behind the L screen and starts throwing BP all nice and firm. The Rockies are loving it. In fact, it's such good BP that Dante Bichette asks him come back the next day and throw to him some more.
He and Dante Bichette proceed to become close enough friends that Bichette gets him a job working in the Rockies clubhouse. He's now a paid employee for the Colorado Rockies doing whatever they need. And honestly it wouldn't surprise me at this point if he was there to facilitate illicit activity because none of this makes any sense to me. The wandering, aimless, unemployed John Mozeliak turns a blind date fly fishing trip into a full-time gig folding uniforms and throwing lefty BP to All Star Dante Bichette.
That alone is a preposterous story and it's actually the most believable part of his journey. Because once in the clubhouse, he starts making friends with everyone including the guys in the front office. GM Bob Gebhard takes a particular liking to Mozeliak, so he transitions upstairs and gives him a job. Doing what? I don't know exactly. But he did it so well that Walt Jocketty had no choice but to bring John with to St. Louis in '95 when the Cardinals named Walt their new GM.
So he goes to St. Louis with his buddy. He gets some assistant-something-something title. Little scouting here. Some player development there. Probably a lot of cocktails and good times everywhere. Basically just an all time cupcake front office job because you were the right guy at the right time and people like you.
And then when things are all nice and settled, the hammer drops on John Mozeliak's life.
Walt decides to put him in charge of the amateur draft. Big promotion.
A couple months later, the Cardinals would use a 13th round draft pick on a JUCO infielder from Independence, Missouri named Albert Pujols.
"John Mozeliak's the guy who discovered Albert"
All time career arc.
Cardinals Owner's Box
Owner: Bill DeWitt Jr.
Net Worth: $2.3B
Source of Wealth: Bill DeWitt Sr. was an OG heavy hitter in MLB during the mid-20th century. Junior took his family money and franchised over 60 Arby's in the early 1980's while developing a business-relationship with The Bush Family. He flipped that into some exotic energy investments/holdings and then subsequently became filthy fucking rich.
Year Purchased: 1995
Purchase Price: $150 Million
2022 Team Value: $2.45 Billion
2022 Payroll (MLB rank): $170 Million (12th of 30)
Get To Know The Cardinals:
Brand Recognition: They're so good every year and it honestly kills me.
3 Best Players:
1. Nolan Arenado, 3B = The best I've ever seen
2. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B = went 4-5 against my college team in 2008
3. Tommy Edman, SS = played for Stanford so it's okay to hate him
Best Starter: Nobody Knows. No, seriously. There's no clear answer right now based on the last couple weeks. You'd think Wainwright but this September was his worst baseball IN YEARS. Meanwhile, Jack Flaherty is finally healthy but he's only made 8 starts this year - 5 in the 2nd half. No clue what you get from him. Miles Mikolas is probably the most predictable, but is that enough? Jordan Montgomery's results have been up-and-down despite maintaining the quality of stuff, which is extra confusing. But same time nothing is more confusing than Jose Quintana. Basically everyone in the universe wrote him off, and the people who didn't simply just forgot to do so. Well turns out he's one of the best pitchers in the entire league right now pitching to a 1.67 2nd half ERA in 14 starts. Digging deeper, that's a 0.81 ERA in his last 6 outings where opponents posted just a .443 OPS in 121 plate appearances.
That's why I said Nobody Knows
Best Reliever: Ryan Helsey. He throws 105mph and the Cardinals use him a ton of different ways. Not just a traditional closer as 44% of his 54 appearances occurred before the 9th inning. He's comfortable in practically any situation which should directly impact his comfort and utilization.
Surprise Guy To Watch: Utility man Yuan Yepez should get a lot of Tyler O'Neil's plate appearances. He's got some defensive limitations but such is the case when you moonlight around the diamond to get your bat in the lineup. Now that O'Neil is for sure out, the bat should be good enough for Marmol to feed him some chances. 111 OPS+ in a little over 250 at bats isn't too shabby for a 24 year-old rookie about to make his October debut.
Oldest Guy On The Team: Albert Pujols, 42-49
Youngest Guy On The Team: Dylan Carlson, 23
Strengths: Four separate 1st ballot hall of famers on the roster with Wainwright probably being the 5th to make Cooperstown. As much superstar DNA you could possibly ask for in a Big League clubhouse. The best corner infield defense across MLB surrounded by a bunch of homegrown dogs. Yadi calling pitches may be the most underrated aspect of the squad and that's before I remind everyone that ALBERT PUJOLS IS A GODDAMN MAGICIAN.
Weaknesses: No clear cut shutdown #1. The best outfielder is injured while his replacements moonlight on the morning shift at the local butcher shop. Marmol is beloved by all, but let's put some context on his inexperience. Albert Pujols had already:
- played-in two World Series
- made 6 All Star Games
- won an MVP
- finished top-5 in MVP another 5 times
- and accumulated 54.9 WAR for his career
And he did all of this before Oliver Marmol even finished his junior year of college.
I know he's awesome but that's a lot to process. If he has a mental breakdown exchanging lineup cards then I don't think anyone can blame him.
3 Biggest Questions:
1. Are Nolan and Paul going to snap out of their funk? They're hitting like .225 since 9/1 with a combined 4 homers and everyone knows this isn't a good team without them rolling.
2. How many innings can Ryan Helsley throw? He's only gone back-to-back 8 times this season so I think you can rule out 3-straight appearances to kick off the playoffs. So does that mean more innings early or save them for later? It reminds me of Britton on the Orioles. Everyone knows that mistake.
3. Do they have the balls to send Quintana out for game 1? He's been so much better than anyone else on his team and nearly anyone in the world the last few weeks. But still. It's Jose Quintana. Imagine losing the home wild card then coming back years later and remembering Jose Quintana was your game 1 starter. Idk if I'd ever overcome that but I also don't think there's a better option right now for the Cardinals. Maybe it's time I live in the moment.
The Cardinals can win the World Series IF…
Goldschmidt and Arenado play like the best two players in the world. The starting pitching depth plays up as they move into the DS. The outfield defense avoids any catastrophic mistakes. Tyler O'Neil comes back strong after the Wild Card while the old version of Paul DeJong surprises everyone with a breakout October. Pujols hits a couple of big tanks. Helsley proves to be the most valuable reliever in a postseason since whoever. And then an overwhelming amount of luck over the next 4 weeks. That should do the trick.
For more on the St. Louis Cardinals and the 2022 Wild Card Series: