Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ortiz: Cards Fans Don't Have to Put Up with Tanking

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ortiz: Cards Fans Don't Have to Put Up with Tanking

Article excerpt

This is usually the time when big league teams are full of optimism. Even teams expected to lose in the past could feign excitement and sell their fans on hope in the days before pitchers and catchers reported to spring training.

Yet, over the past few years several teams have started to concede the pennant before any Grapefruit or Cactus League pitch has been thrown. Even worse, some teams aren't even trying to hide their willingness to lose.

Why carry an expensive National League most valuable player like Giancarlo Stanton and a costly two-time All-Star coming off a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove-winning season such as Marcell Ozuna when you have no interest in competing? Even the most cynical local fan will appreciate Cardinals Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr.'s stewardship when the tanking Miami Marlins and Mike Matheny's players report to Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla., for the start of spring training.

The Marlins are the most pathetic example of a franchise purposely failing to live up to its status as a big league franchise. They are hardly the only team committed to losing this season. Almost a third of the teams in Major League Baseball can be accused of not investing enough to compete for a pennant.

There are many theories for why there are so many free agents still unsigned in the coldest Hot Stove League since the owners were colluding to keep salaries down. Teams are clearly tired of rewarding free agents for past performances, which is why there hasn't been a rush to give long-term deals to players who aren't likely to be worth their salaries at the end of their contracts.

Even worse for current free agents, however, some teams see no incentive to add an expensive free agent while the franchise is committed to lose its way to the top in a few years. Fortunately for local fans, DeWitt has often said that tanking is not an option that he is willing to explore.

The Cubs could sell a Lovable Losers mantra while losing to build the system that produced the 2016 World Series title. Fans of the 11-time World Series champion Cardinals have grown accustomed to Lovable Winning at Busch Stadium.

Astros owner Jim Crane, a St. Louis native who grew up cheering for the Cardinals, proved willing to absorb harsh local and extreme national criticism while the eventual 2017 World Series champions finished with the worst record in baseball for three consecutive seasons under his watch as they built a championship foundation.

While embroiled in a television distribution dispute that kept the Astros out of most Houston homes, Crane stuck to general manager Jeff Luhnow's tanking plan while building the championship team's base by picking first overall for three consecutive years.

Heck, the Astros' championship window might have opened a year earlier if Luhnow had picked slugger Kris Bryant first overall in 2013 instead of Stanford pitcher Mark Appel. …

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