Ben Frederickson: Sooner rather than later, Cardinals need a new wave of World Series championship experience
Published in Baseball
JUPITER, Fla. — Something should strike you about this Cardinals roster that will be introduced to a packed Busch Stadium on opening day.
New catcher Willson Contreras not only will be the most recent Cardinal to have slipped on a World Series championship ring.
The 2016 champ, then catching for the rival Chicago Cubs, also will be one of just two current Cardinals players to have experienced the sensation.
And with Adam Wainwright now on the injured list, Contreras will be the only one playing in the game against the Blue Jays.
Yadier Molina, who played in four World Series championships with the Cardinals and won two, spent his first spring training since retirement managing Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. Two-time champ Albert Pujols stopped by Roger Dean Stadium as a visitor during camp, but he’s happily enjoying his own retirement while fulfilling his personal services contract with the Angels. Even Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol’s coaching staff lost a ring recipient, when former Cards champion and bench coach Skip Schumaker took his experience to manage the Miami Marlins, making beloved assistant coach Willie McGee the lone uniformed Cardinals coach in the major-league dugout who has celebrated a World Series championship as either a player or a coach.
The list of current Cardinals who have sipped the sweetest champagne baseball has to offer is down to longtime chairman Bill DeWitt Jr., long-tenured members a baseball operations office led by president of baseball operations John Mozeliak, 41-year-old starter Wainwright and former Cubs catcher turned Cardinals key free-agent addition Contreras.
The team last won it all in 2011.
“It helps,” Marmol said about Contreras’ championship credentials during spring training. “Two things come to mind. You know what it feels like, and the preparation it takes, the dedication and the emotion it takes to get there. And once he tasted it, there was this hunger. He wants that again. That was very clear in how he articulated wanting to be here.”
For some teams, this trend of rings leaving the team picture would not be worth mentioning. I get that. But the Cardinals are not just some team, are they?
They are the National League’s leader in World Series won (11). They identify with the Commissioner’s Trophy enough to build a larger than life replica of it in Ballpark Village, where fans stop to take cell-phone selfies. They like to remind you everywhere you look — in the team gift shop, in the team media guide, in and around the ballpark — of their long and proud history of championship success. As they should. But that also means it’s fair to send out a warning about a growing trend. The Cardinals are growing short on men in uniform who have been there and done that. They once had a spring training tradition where they counted up the rings in the room. It doesn't take long these days.
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