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Who cares about a face of the Cardinals franchise?

Last weekend during Winter Warm-Up, I listened to several media members quiz various St. Louis Cardinals players as to who they felt would become the new “face of the franchise” now that Albert Pujols (and Tony La Russa) have departed.

(In one artificial measure, Pujols is the only person to appear on the cover of  the Cardinals Media Guide in each of the last three years. Stan Musial was also pictured twice.)

I want to be clear that I have never heard anyone even remotely connected to the team mention the phrase “face of the franchise,” even in jest. Yet some writers obviously came in with this idea firmly planted in their heads and sure enough, they followed through.

Do a Google search on the term and you will find half a dozen articles from the last few days about this very subject. I am not listing them here, as I don’t want to single one out. They are all pretty much the same other than drawing different conclusions as to the eventual winner, perhaps.

It does provide a safe vehicle to create a laundry list of “candidates” and string some quotes together during a very dry period for real news, but that is about it. No, here is how I really feel. I thought the concept was stupid then and actually felt a bit uncomfortable for the players when the questions were being asked. After reading a few of the articles, I feel even more strongly now.

If there is such a thing as a face of any franchise, it has to be earned on the field, and hopefully off as well. Leadership isn’t something that is proclaimed by a teammate or worse, a writer.

After all, this isn’t the Pittsburgh Pirates we are talking about here, a team that hasn’t had a winning record in 19 years. This is a proven, consistent winner. If you want a face, how about using the 2011 World Championship trophy?

If a true leader of the St. Louis Cardinals emerges down the road, it happens. If it doesn’t, as long as the team continues to win, who really cares?

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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20 Responses to “Who cares about a face of the Cardinals franchise?”

  1. bigchieftootiemontana says:

    agree totally Brian, to me the face of the franchise is the Birds balanced on the Bat and the interwoven S T L.

    Sure there are individual faces that automatically cause people to think of the Cardinals —
    Hornsby, Dean, Pepper Martin, Medwick,Musial, Slaughter, Schoendienst, Gibson, Brock, Flood, Boyer, McGee, Herzog and many others.

  2. JumboShrimp says:

    When a team does well, it will owe to effective players, who will receive media attention and be called stars. Each team will use its best players in marketing campaigns. The Cards will advertise Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman, Carlos Beltran, Raffy Furcal, Chris Carpenter, all of whom came via free agency.

    • Brian Walton says:

      Agree. If “face of the franchise” discussions are about marketing, that is understood. However, it makes no sense to ask players about it in that context. There, they are probing for the next “team leader.”

  3. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    The question is improperly presented……………….teams always have “face of the Franchise” consideration for artistic and promotional “effectiveness”…………….. correctly presented……… who have the Cardinals been using as the as they pushed AP aside? I’ve noticed………….. of course…… Holiday and Berkman have surfaced………. Freese will be a background 3rd……but for how long..????? that will eventually cost them…….. same with Molina….it will cost them if they do……..Beltran is a good looking guy…but he is so heavily insured, and injury prone, they will wait a bit on him……… Wainwright and Carpenter for the rotation ……….. risky, both have been slow starters of late………. Cardinals like the Trio shots….Holiday will front them………question is who are the other two? In truth, this is one of the organizations big tells……… Billy 3 leaves his imprint on his underlings……as he gets to hear “some” of the adult conversations………. The will push Matheny as hard as they dare ………. again, the real issue is what do you “understand” about this process by noticing the details………

    • T8Ball says:

      I don’t understand the process of the details surrounding Wainwright’s “slow start of late”. Last time he started a season for the Cards he produced a solid April with a 2.13 ERA, .89 WHIP, FIP 2.71, and a xFIP 3.43. That’s sort of contradicts what you said. Now as for Carp’s last season…..Yeah, ultra slow start. But it’s Carpenter and he’s done more than enough to get the “face of the franchise” tag and he could carry it easily.

      Lastly, I sometimes enjoy reading what you post, but you seem to have to add in your little arrogant endings and insults. It really makes people want to stop reading. Just food for thought, we both sit anonymously behind a computer screen, so it’s really neither here nor there, right?


      • CariocaCardinal says:

        Nothing to understand. Some people make it up as they go along.

      • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

        Wainwrights last complete spring training he struggled …grip pressure issues….. Carp I’m guessing will be very aggressive early……..with his buddy at his side……….. mysteries await….unless he is paced,……its going to be tricky………. I’m happy that you enjoy some of my post T8……as Brian well knows….I’m not posting for the enjoyment of any of our local group…… You will notice that he stops posting when I start……… give it some thought…………..oh yeah…right

  4. T8Ball says:

    A theme that comes to mind for me, is one I remember for the White Sox back in the late 1990’s. I was fresh out of school and my first job had me move to Chicago. The White Sox were in a rebuilding mode, and to get the public excited about the south siders, the TV was plastered with commercials that said over and over again “Man these kids can play”.

    Basically, over the next several years, the Cards are going to be getting younger and younger. We saw last season what kind of young core we have with significant contributions from Garcia, Freese, Craig, Jay, Descalso, and the Young guns in the BP. Along the way, we’ll add perhaps Miller, Martinez, Jackson, Adams, Wong, Cox (I did say “perhaps”).

    We are lucky to have Vets like Holliday, Molina, Berkman, Carp and Waino….but I think we are all on notice that YOUTH is served 🙂

    • Brian Walton says:

      Good point, T8. I recently did an analysis of the experience level of the players currently on the roster. If you graphed it out, it would kind of look like an inverted bell curve. Youth is becoming more predominant, as you noted.

      “St. Louis Cardinals’ Shrinking Middle Class” (subscriber article)

      One key observation as it relates to this subject is that seven guys on the current roster each have over a decade of MLB experience. Yet some media members were pummeling guys like Carp, Berkman and Holliday with questions about who would step in to assume the supposed leadership gap that was created by Pujols leaving. To me, it seemed insulting. Finally, at one point Holliday explained that he had done his thing on other teams without Pujols, too.

  5. blingboy says:

    I think that we will not have a face and it will be a refreshing change after a decade of the iconic Albert and Tony plastered all over everything Cardinals.

    I also think that the sports media will try mightily to create one and relentlessly shove it in our face.

    An interesting poll would be whose jersey will sell the most this year. I’m not sure if there is a way to find out. I assume Albert has led in jersey sales by a wide margin.

    • Brian Walton says:

      I had been thinking about that very point, bb. I suspect the team store tracks jersey sales, so I might look into that. I was too busy during WWU to do anything about it, but if I had it to do over, I would have checked with the jersey sellers on Monday. I also thought about doing an informal survey at the ballpark in spring training and regular season. One of the advantages of the press box is that we can see everyone’s backs who are sitting in the vicinity. My perception is that Pujols was the landslide leader among kids with more diverse choices by adults.

  6. blingboy says:

    Last week 99 year old Jamie Moyer, coming off TJ surgery last year, signed a minor league deal with the Rockies. I’ll be pulling for him. He has won well over 100 games since turning 40, including a 21 win season.

  7. CariocaCardinal says:

    I deally the face of the franchise will be here more than 1-2 seasons. In that regard I think you will see Holiday and Freese pushed o the forefront with Carpenter and Wainwriht also in the mix.

    • blingboy says:

      I’m not so sure, CC, about the ability of the veterans who have been here a few years to pull it off. Once you are seen trembling in the corner as the big dog walks past, the absense of the big dog doesn’t erase it from the institutional conciousness.

      I think that the org, and the media, will try to create Holliday as the alpha dog, but the public will never go for it. Not after doing his best to be invisible while Albert was here. In deference to the Mang no doubt, and rightfully so, but still. . .

      Becoming ‘the face’ of the St. Louis Cardinals is a tall order. Musials, and Gibsons and Alberts have set the standard high, and they don’t come along too often. And they didn’t become what they become in a season, or because somebody decided to push them out front.

      By default, Lance will probably become the media’s go-to guy this year. Perhaps by the end of the year we will get a sniff of a new icon in the making, if he is even here yet.

  8. blingboy says:

    Assuming both McClellan and Skip are on the roster all year, which will be the better value? Mac for $2.5 or Skip for $1.5? Both are essentially replacement level. Both have been described as versatile mediocrity.

    Skip’s guaranteed $1.5 again next year may skew the value comparison.

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