It wasn’t that long ago that the St. Louis Cardinals were held up as the model organization for Major League Baseball. Not only were they annually competitive despite being in a lower-tier media market, but – for some, at least – they also exemplified how it was that an organization and its players should comport themselves.
In the wake of the Astros hacking scandal, I think it’s fair to say that some of the sheen has come off.
The Cardinals also did not make the playoffs last year for the first time since 2010, and they haven’t won fewer games than the 86 they won in 2016 since 2007. Much of that speaks to just how successful they’ve been, but it also marks a rare down period for the organization, where the Cubs have overtaken them in 2015-16 as the class of the NL Central.
This offseason, although they did not scramble to make over-reactionary wholesale changes, the Cardinals did spend big in free agency, including the addition of the one of the best available outfielders. That outfielder, as it happens, was a member of those 2015-16 Cubs teams, and his ability on the field was as representative of the success of the team as his good nature and high character were off the field.
That is to say: Dexter Fowler is a really good player who is a positive influence in the clubhouse, and he now brings those characteristics to the Cardinals from the Cubs.
Against that backdrop, I found this read at ESPN to be particularly interesting. The headline says quite a bit: “Dexter Fowler’s mission? Change tune in Cardinals’ clubhouse.”
The article gets into, among other things, how Fowler has encouraged his teammates to play music for their morning work at Spring Training, with players taking turns at who selects the day’s music. If that sounds familiar, you’ll recognize it as something Joe Maddon brought along to the Cubs when he took the managerial reins in 2015 – the same year Fowler joined the team.
More broadly, Fowler is looking to bring the fun he had with the Cubs into the Cardinals’ clubhouse.
“We had fun,” Fowler told ESPN of his time with the Cubs. “All the time. I’m not going to say we never were mad, but even when we lost, it was like, ‘We lost.’ Ten minutes later, put on some music, chill, do what you need to do. It’s over. I think the best baseball players have the shortest memories.”
That will all sound familiar to you, and it’s the spirit Fowler is taking with him to the Cardinals. You can read more about the Cardinals’ waning clubhouse culture, and how they’re looking to make some positive improvements this year. Adding Fowler to the mix was a big part of that.
Put another way, it’s a little funny to think that the Cubs so demonstrated an effective, impactful clubhouse environment that their arch rival is now seeking to import that philosophy.
Maybe the Cubs are now the model organization?