Like so many kids in our neck of the woods, I grew up listening to Cardinal Baseball on KMOX in the Harry Caray and Jack Buck days, trading baseball cards with my brothers and cousins, and even going to a few games here and there.
Unlike brothers, Joe and John, or cousin, Danny, I am not a St. Louis Cardinals expert. But I definitely dig the Redbirds…and there is so much to dig!
So, I started digging. What in the world are these guys doing in the World Series… again? Since 2000, they've won two World Series, earned nine postseason berths and suffered only one losing season. What's the deal?
It apparently has little to do with Fred Bird, the rally squirrel, first draft picks, an iconic manager, Anheuser-Busch, the Spectacular Clydesdales, or a field full of Hall of Famers.
And finally, Eur-Wacha!!!!! Turns out there is something called The Cardinal Way!
But, it seems that no one has actually ever seen the official Cardinal Way Manual. The Cardinal Way has been passed down throughout the decades, and is a living tradition. Potent and predictable, The Cardinal Way seems to be a home spun, handed down code… a philosophy, a set of principles and practices. Many articles have been written about The Cardinal Way, in an attempt to crack the Cardinal Code.
It was aptly described as "Organizational Mastery" by Paul White, USA Today Sports Writer, in his September 11, 2013 article:Cardinal Way: Unlikely Stars Emerge from Stable System. "Identify and draft talented and versatile players. Teach them a wide variety of skills. Impart consistent franchise philosophies across all affiliates. And watch previously unheralded players flourish at the major league level."
Excellent!!! But how does this all work?
Pouring through articles and books of Cardinal lore, I gleaned a few Redbird Rules of my own. And, here's what I've gotten so far!
The Cardinal Way seems to be about…
- Empowering players to make decisions… hard decisions.
- Developing homegrown talent from the Cardinals own famous farm system, a pipeline for talent. Everyone they bring up, it seems, is already developed and ready to play.
- Practicing the "Next Man Up Philosophy" (Every Man Ready to Play) which dates back a half-century or so.
- Expecting success. Ignoring the press. Cardinals create their own sense of momentum.
- Developing a fully-engaged, insanely [Best Fans in Baseball] loyal, knowledgeable, respectful fan base. Cardinal fans have even been known to applaud a great play by the opposing team.
- Embracing former "enemies" when they put on the "Birds on the Bat" uniform. Think Carlos Beltran.
- Perfecting skills, while winning games.
- Building character. Doing the right things for the right reasons.
- Stewarding the Legacy. Honoring Past Cardinals… both living and those with us in spirit. Maintaining, respecting and adding to a proud history, dating back nearly a century.
- Paying attention to detail. It's the accumulation of a bunch of little things done well.
- Practicing extreme positivity. Intentionally looking for strengths and what's working well. Doing more of that which works. Appreciating small accomplishments and wins.
- Continuously following up with players. Communication, communication, communication.
We can speculate about it, talk about it, and write about it. And, if we're lucky, we might even identify a few of the Redbirds' special, secret ingredients. How the Redbirds mix those ingredients into their very ownCrazy Cardinal Concoction and serve it up for yet another Red October Celebration, is anybody's guess. Win or not, one thing is for certain. The St. Louis Cardinals will do it their way, The Cardinal Way.