Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright began the 2013 season against the Diamondbacks on April 1.
When it comes to classy organizations, the Cardinals remain perched at the top of the pecking order.
The deal also upholds the abundance of benefits the Cardinals continue to garner without Albert Pujols.
Initially, many may have been under the impression the Cardinals would flounder after being outbid by the Angels for then-free agent Pujols.
We all know how that tale ended; Pujols darted for greener pastures out West, where he signed a 10-year, $254 million mega deal with the Angels.
El Hombre packed up and left the city that was so devoted to him for so many years. He bolted St. Louis after saying he wanted “to be a Cardinal forever.”
But Pujols and Wainwright are on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of professionalism and class.
Wainwright was in the same boat as Pujols. Entering the final stanza of his original four-year, $15 million deal signed in March 2008, and as one of the game’s most legitimate pitchers over the last five years, the 31-year-old Wainwright could have opted to test the market in November.
He had reason to; Having won 19 and 20 games respectively in 2009 and 2010, Wainwright finished second and third in the National League Cy Young Award balloting. He also boasts the lowest ERA (3.161) among active starting pitchers with at least 1,000 innings pitched.
But he didn’t.
He could’ve milked every last cent from the deep pockets of owner Bill DeWitt Jr. Wainwright could’ve been immature about his then-ongoing contract negotiations like his former brethren Pujols.
But he wasn’t.
And his professionalism and loyalty further establishes the "Cardinal Way."
The Cardinals have benefited tremendously without Pujols.
Rather than being on the hook for a $220 million-plus contract over the next decade, DeWitt Jr. and general manager John Mozeliak were able to lock up vital core players.
After Pujols departed, the Cardinals and slugger Carlos Beltran agreed on a two-year, $26 million contract.
Last year, Yadier Molina signed a five-year, $75 million contract extension—a deal that keeps the best backstop in the industry under the Gateway Arch through 2017.
In January, Mozeliak inked hard-throwing closer Jason Motte to a two-year, $12 million gig—one that ensures the ninth inning will be in the appropriate hands over the next two years.
Last month, emerging slugger Allen Craig signed off on a five-year, $31 million extension that will solidify the first base position for years to come.
With multiple veteran pieces in check, the Cardinals can afford to let their young birds—Oscar Taveras, Carlos Martinez, Kolten Wong, Michael Wacha and Carson Kelly—develop in the minors.
Moreover, the Cardinals will boast considerable cap space flexibility in the coming years. According to Baseball Prospectus, the Cardinals are on the hook for $76,325,000 next season, $52,575,000 in 2015 and $43,200,000 in 2016.
That’s considerable leeway for an organization that continues to strive in the right direction. If Pujols remained in St. Louis, you can certainly forget about signing Molina, Craig, Beltran and Wainwright. The funds wouldn't be sufficient enough to outbid other wealthier organizations. The Cardinals would've handcuffed themselves by dishing out a contract to a player who is on the downside of his career.
His stats speak for themselves. In 2008, Pujols hit .357, with a .462 on-base percentage, a .653 slugging percentage and a 1.114 on-base plus slugging percentage. Last season, Pujols managed .285/.343/.516/.859.
In order to compare the effects Pujols has had on the Cardinals, look no further than how the Angels did in 2012. According to Forbes, the Angels lost $12.9 million last season on revenues of $239 million. Moreover, according to Forbes, the fans weren’t as excited as owner Arte Moreno was when he inked Pujols. Home attendance dropped three percent and local television ratings sunk by one percent.
On the flip side, according to Forbes, the Cardinals garnered a profit of $19.9 million while operating with the same amount of revenue as the Angels. Not to mention the Cardinals were one game shy from the World Series last season, while the Angels failed to even reach the postseason.
Better yet, Angels attendance declined by 104,551 last season with Pujols in the everyday lineup, while Cardinals attendance ascended by 168,155.
As Pujols begins the second season of his 10-year contract with the Angels, the Cardinals continue to prosper in every facet of the game.
Wainwright’s contract extension further justifies the Cardinals' formula for continued success.