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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Cardinals spring training records under La Russa

With Thursday’s first spring training game upon us, I looked at St. Louis Cardinals spring records during the La Russa era with an eye toward the regular season.

I will be the first to admit that spring games don’t mean anything… Or do they?

Certainly, the St. Louis Cardinals don’t get the in-season pleasure of meeting the Florida Marlins and New York Mets almost half the time as they do in Florida this March. Yet, as the old line goes, “Winning becomes a habit.”

Last spring’s 19-12 record by the Cardinals was third-best in the then-16 team Grapefruit League, with only the Yankees and Braves having put together a better mark, and it was second-best in the mythical spring National League Central Division behind Milwaukee.

Only twice in Tony La Russa’s 14-year tenure did his Cardinals club not post a winning spring record, in 2003 and 1998. Not coincidentally perhaps, St. Louis missed the playoffs both years.  Only in three years was the Cardinals’ spring record not among the top two in the NL Central.

In the small consolation department, even when the Cardinals had a below-.500 spring record, there were still either two or three NL Central clubs that fared even worse. Note the two sub-.500 springs of 14 (in bold) and three sub-.500 regular seasons of 14 did not occur in the same years.

As another firm reminder not to read too much into this, the Cardinals’ best spring under Tony was their .656 (21-11) showing in 1997. That club went on to miss the playoffs in the regular season and in fact, posted La Russa’s worst single-season mark as Cardinals manager at .451 (73-89).

In the aggregate, La Russa’s Cardinals have been 20 points better in the spring than in the regular season, .564 to .544.

St. Louis Cardinals spring training and regular season results, 1996-2009

Spring Season
Year FL wins FL losses Ties Pct. FL rank NLC rank NLC rank Pct Reg wins Reg losses PS Result
2009 19 12 0 0.613 3 2 1 0.562 91 71 LDS L
2008 17 10 2 0.630 4 1 4 0.531 86 76
2007 16 10 4 0.615 3 2 3 0.481 78 84
2006 15 14 1 0.517 T8 3 1 0.516 83 78 WS W
2005 15 11 2 0.577 T3 1 1 0.617 100 62 LCS L
2004 17 12 1 0.586 T4 2 1 0.648 105 57 WS L
2003 12 15 2 0.444 14 4 3 0.525 85 77
2002 17 10 3 0.630 3 2 1 0.599 97 65 LCS L
2001 17 15 0 0.531 6 2 T1 0.574 93 69 LDS L
2000 17 11 0 0.607 3 1 1 0.586 95 67 LCS L
1999 16 13 1 0.552 T4 1 4 0.466 75 86
1998 12 16 1 0.429 12 3 3 0.512 83 79
1997 21 11 0 0.656 2 1 4 0.451 73 89
1996 15 15 0 0.500 T8 2 1 0.543 88 74 LCS L
Total 226 175 0.564 0.544 1232 1034

Other spring training-related articles you may have missed:

“St. Louis Cardinals spring training radio and television schedules” (XM schedules being added)

“Cardinals spring training rosters and numerology”

“Cardinals spring training ticket prices this decade”

“Cardinals spring training demographics”

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