COMMENTARY | There's no denying that the St. Louis Cardinals are a model franchise for a majority of Major League Baseball.
They just advanced to their fourth World Series in the past decade, own one of the most beautiful ballparks in baseball and keep a modest payroll of $116 million. That's enough for any losing franchise to look at the Cardinals and say, "This is what we should be."
That's especially true 566 miles north of Busch Stadium, where the Minnesota Twins are trying to figure out a way back to relevancy.
The Twins' failures in the past three seasons have been well-documented. They've finished toward the bottom of the American League Central with three straight 90-loss seasons. They also have a pitching staff that resembles tees more than legitimate major league pitchers and a lineup that's known more for swinging and missing than driving in runs.
Yet, there are still similarities to what the Cardinals have accomplished. The Twins have a beautiful new ballpark in Target Field. They also have a modest payroll that has hovered around the $100 million mark since their new home opened in 2010. They've even had recent success with six division championships since 2002.
With those similarities, it's easy to wonder why the Cardinals are thriving and the Twins are not. The answer lies in decisions that have been made in the past couple seasons.
The most obvious answer would be that the Cardinals have done a tremendous job in producing homegrown talent. On its NLCS roster, St. Louis boasted 17 players that were acquired through the MLB Amateur Draft. That impact is mostly present in its pitching staff, which boasts eight drafted players, including Trevor Rosenthal and Michael Wacha.
The Twins, on the other hand, haven't had the same luck. They also feature 17 players and eight pitchers that were drafted by their organization on their roster. But that would be their 40-man roster. The names for Minnesota aren't as impressive either as they have the likes of Glen Perkins, Kyle Gibson and Brian Duensing.
It shows that the Twins don't possess the scouting department that their reputation suggests. While the Twins are trotting out players who are replacement level at best, the Cardinals rebuild and reload as evidenced by Allen Craig stepping in seamlessly when Albert Pujols bolted for free agency.
Speaking of Pujols, he brings me to my next point: Where each team is spending its money.
Both teams had an opening-day payroll around $100 million in 2013. Still, the Cardinals are in the World Series and the Twins are headed to Florida to set up tee times. How do the Cardinals get more bang for their buck?
The Cardinals have been smarter than the Twins. While they haven't had the resources to throw big-market contracts at their superstars, they've picked their spots and landed great complementary talent for what they have in their farm system.
The biggest example was Pujols' demands for a monster contract extension prior to 2012. The Cardinals balked at a 30-year-old asking for a $300 million contract, so they let him walk and spent the money on more affordable pieces such as Carlos Beltran (who signed at two years and $23 million) and Matt Holliday (who had a previously existing contract signed prior to the 2010 season).
You may notice that the Beltran and Holliday contracts aren't exactly headline makers and something the Twins could afford. They even made a similar commitment a couple years ago by signing Josh Willingham to a three-year, $21 million contract.
That's where the front office similarities end. The Twins needed to sign Joe Mauer to prevent a state-wide riot, but their final contract of eight years and $184 million was overkill. While it hasn't hindered the Twins' ability to make moves, they've chosen their route to free agency poorly.
The Twins could easily make offers to players that could make an impact, but they haven't shown the desire to pick up anything but bargain-basement talent coming off of injury or poor performance. The pieces don't complement the homegrown talent, and the team has suffered as a result.
Things could be on the upswing as the Twins have some premier talent rising through their organization. Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano are being billed as revolutionary prospects and there are other prospects such as Eddie Rosario that can help turn the team's fortunes around.
The key will be to spend wisely as the Twins unveil their new generation of cornerstones. If they can avoid paying the Mike Pelfreys of free agency and add a viable piece to their woeful pitching staff, they will see a run of success similar to what the Cardinals have experienced.
Time will tell if that translates into some World Series appearances (or even championships), but it's what the Twins have to do to make Minneapolis feel more like St. Louis.
Chris Schad is a lifelong Twins follower that has spent a majority of his life cheering the Twins on through the dark '90s and success of five American League Central championships in the 2000s. His work has also been published on Bleacher Report and Pro Football Spot. You can follow him on Twitter @crishad.
- Sports & Recreation
- Minnesota Twins
- American League Central