The confidence in the St. Louis sporting world is as high as it has been in a long time. The St. Louis Cardinals are constantly pushing for World Series Championships while the Rams seem to have established a talented young team that is expected to push for the playoffs in the near future. On the other hand, the Kansas City Chiefs are the face of inconsistency while the Royals have been bad for as long as I can remember. The intent of this post is to look back on a series of managerial decisions and trends that can illustrate the differences between the way these four teams operate.
I have been a baseball fan for as long as I can remember and have been a Cardinals fan more specifically. Throughout my twenty two years it is hard to remember a time where the Cardinals have struggled, which can be attributed to the people they have put in charge of there operations. Never has this steady level of success been more evident than last season, following the departure of Albert Pujols. By allowing Pujols to walk, the Cardinals acknowledged that no individual is more valuable than the team and that the addition of a cumbersome contract could have weighed the franchise down for years. As opposed to signing the biggest star in baseball to a ridiculous deal, as the Angels did, they opted to spread out the money that Pujols would have received to obtain veteran leaders such as Beltran and Furcal. As the Cardinals do not operate with much money relative to a few other teams, it is important for them to stay flexible and acquire as much bang for their buck as possible. This front office has made a habit of doing just that. They have a tendency to bring in young talent such as Allen Craig, David Freese, Kozma and many others and they have shown the ability to put these players in the position to succeed. None of these players are stars but they are solid, cheap, youngish players that know how to play within a team.
The St. Louis Rams have recently begun to build a front office and a team that makes fans of the Rams proud to support. The most notable move the Rams have made lately was the trade of the number two overall pick for three first rounders and a second with the Washington Redskins. This move indicated that the Rams' front office was not in panic mode with regards to starting over with a new QB. The front office stayed calm and made a move to maximize future cheap talent. Another good sign that the Rams are heading in the right direction is that they have not made any panicked move for overpriced free agents. They have, thus far, made the concerted effort to remain flexible and to build a team by adding cheap young talent. If the Rams are going to continue to head in the right direction it will be by continuing on this path. It is important to avoid tying too much money into any individual and the Rams have showed a good propensity for avoiding such contracts.
Where St. Louis has experienced such success lately it appears that Kansas City's two major franchises are heading in a quite different direction. The Kansas City Royal's highest win percentage since 2004 is 46.3%. In comparison the lowest Cardinals win percentage since 2000 was 48.1%. The Royals have been accumulating high draft picks for a long time but have been unable to get over the hump in terms of winning percentage. Many of their elite draft prospects are just now coming into maturity but the Royals impatience has seen much of the potential vanish as of late. Two of the more recent moves that spring to mind regarding the Royals include the large contract extension offered to Jeff Francoeur and the trade recently made for James Sheilds. After a career year for the Royals in 2011, journeyman Francoeur signed a two year contract extension for $13.5M. This deal took away a great deal of flexibility for the Royals and proved to be a rash move considering that Francoeur regressed substantially in 2012. The more recent move the Royals made involved a trade with the Rays for James Shields where they gave up the 2012 minor league player of the year, Wil Myers, among other players. In the deal, the Rays received Myers as well as two other promising pitching prospects while the Royals received James Shields and Wade Davis. Neither Shields nor Davis is likely to provide the impact on the Royals that Myers alone will have for the Rays and Myers is under team control for much longer as well. This move exhibited a lack of patience in the Royals front office. It would appear that they have taken on a "win now" mentality, though they appear to be lacking the pieces for such a mentality.
The Chiefs have also made a few recent moves that are worth evaluating. The first move that the Chiefs made was to trade their 2nd pick in the 2013 draft and a "similar" pick in the 2014 draft for QB Alex Smith. Alex Smith has proven to be an (at best) average, middle aged QB. The 49ers would likely have parted ways with Smith for much less, as having a back up QB eating up a large portion of the salary cap isn't appealing to many teams. The Chiefs exhibited incredible impatience and decided to offer much more than should have been required for a player of Smith's caliber with his contract. The ultimate (deserved) slap in the face for the Chiefs would occur if the 49ers were to take a cheap QB with the second round pick they acquired. I would be unsurprised if that player became a better player than Alex Smith. More recently, the Chiefs have just resigned Dwayne Bowe, Dustin Colquett, and franchise tagged Brandon Albert according to reports. While it is certainly important to retain talent in order to compete, the Chiefs just tied up a reported $8M a year for their punter and I imagine they overpaid for Bowe as well. The team that the Chiefs have assembled hardly appears to be the type that will compete for Super Bowls soon and if not now, when? This team has greatly reduced its window with which it can compete by decreasing its draft picks and tying large amounts of money into middle aged players.
The Cardinals have experienced enduring success and the Rams are showing signs of similar success to come due to the fact that they have remained both patient and flexible. The Chiefs have not been terribly unsuccessful though I fear they are heading in the wrong direction. Although the Royals appeared to have all of the makings of a future contender, their front office has exhibited the lack of patience needed to propel their team to the top. Only time will tell, though I have never been as glad/proud to be a fan of either St Louis teams.