Sports media has evolved (devolved?) quite a bit over the past decade.
The gobs of money #hottake artists like Skip Bayless, Colin Cowherd or Stephen A. Smith have sopped up the past few years has dried out and the fulcrum of power has started to move towards a player-first model where athletes connect directly with fans through their own self-generated content.
That’s a conversation for a different day, though.
The only reason I bring it up is because – and you might think different – ESPN’s SportsCenter is generally regarded as one of the more benign sports programs on their (or any other) station. It’s highlights and reporting and staid interviews and some Disney movie crossover promotion – mostly.
By today’s internet standards it’s not ‘going in’.
But by SportsCenter standards it’s not not ‘going in’.
The Cardinals are quickly morphing from a team that is wasting a golden opportunity to take advantage of a weak division to, well, kind of a joke that even ESPN doesn’t mind poking fun of.
Hell, this is the front page of STLToday’s sports section as of publication of this post:
So, um, yeah. I guess the gloves are off.
I debated (in my head) about what to write about today. I was just going to take a bunch of quotes and annotate them.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who have been through runs like this. This is baseball. It’s heavy right now, there’s no doubt about it. In the long run, we’re going to snap out of this. It’s just hard finding what that key is.” – Mike Matheny
Ask questions like ‘who, exactly has been on the Cardinals during a 7-game losing streak, because I don’t remember a 7-game losing streak recently’. Or ‘assuming you’re not talking about guys that have been Cardinals their entire careers, are you talking about free-agent signings, because, if so, should you really be targeting guys in free-agency that know how to deal with 7-game losing steaks’.
Stuff like that.
But it’s pointless.
We’d be parsing words in the foreward when the whole book needs a re-write.
Maybe the ’17 Cardinals have a winning streak in them and can crawl back into the NL Central race. Doesn’t feel realistic, but even after a disastrous June thus far, the Birds are only 4.5 games out of first and 3.5 back of the Cubs. Plus the Phillies are coming to town and they are not good.
I’m going to assume, though, that the Cardinals are what they are. A team that will probably end up right around .500 when the schedule is finished. Maybe a few games over if they go on some streaks. Maybe a few games under if they are unlucky. But Las Vegas pegged them as a mid 80’s win team and Las Vegas isn’t incentivized to be wrong.
So what should they do? What should we do?
My advice – advice that I need to heed – is to start coming to grips with the fact that the Cardinals ‘golden era’ has drawn to a close. From the turn of the century through 2015, the team had been the most consistent and (twice) the best team in the sport.
They are neither consistent nor good anymore.
They don’t have elite talent at any position (outside of starting pitching) and expecting championship results from non-elite talent is like expecting the Cavs to sign me to a 10-day contract in the hopes that I can slow down Kevin Durant a bit the rest of the NBA Finals.
OK – extremely poor example, but the point remains – there aren’t scouts and front-offices around baseball shocked the Cardinals are 26-32. Mild surprise maybe?
So let’s all take a deep breath. Realize that 2016 wasn’t an aberration, but the new normal. And start encouraging the Cardinals to begin the re-building process al la the Cubs, Astros and Yankees. Tough decisions will come early and often from choosing to travel this path.
But it’s time.
It’s definitely time.
And – hopefully – sooner than later we can get back to watching the Cardinals compete for division titles instead of, well…