The St. Louis Cardinals are an exemplary franchise, but are they on the verge of becoming a dynastic one?
The organization is among the best in baseball, if not all sports, when it comes to recent success, decision-making and player development. All of that has brought about 10 trips to the postseason—including a current spot in this year's National League Championship Series—and two world championships since 2000.
The pair of titles came during an even more recent window, in 2006 and 2011, and with a chance at what would be a third in only eight seasons, an argument could be made that St. Louis is not only the best club in Major League Baseball but also a dynasty.
Of course, that brings up a key question: Just what is a dynasty?
That's not necessarily the easiest query to answer. There is, on some level, an objective approach to defining a true dynasty in baseball. That would be a certain number of World Series wins over a specific period of time. Think something like: At least three titles over no more than five years. The actual numbers may vary depending on who's doing the defining, but there should be some standard.
On another level, though, there's also a subjective approach to dubbing a team a dynasty, right? This is not all that different from using the sniff test—that initial yes-or-no gut reaction—to determine whether a player is or isn't a Hall of Famer.
So how does all of this apply to the St. Louis Cardinals exactly? Well, it's a way to bring them into this dynasty discussion. And that's what it is in this case—a discussion rather than a definitive yes-or-no answer.
Obviously, if we're taking the above by-the-numbers approach, then the Cardinals aren't a slam-dunk dynasty if they do go all the way this season. Three titles in an eight-year stretch is darn impressive, but it's not three in five. Again, it doesn't have to be specifically three-in-five (or any other ratio), but what St. Louis could reach to earn the "d-word" label.
The other thing about this 2013 club is that even though it hasn't been that long since the first championship in 2006, this current version just feels different, doesn't it? That's where the gut test comes into play.
Among Cardinals who were on the 2006 team, only right-hander Adam Wainwright and catcher Yadier Molina remain. (Yes, Chris Carpenter, the longtime ace, is still technically a part of the franchise, but he's more of a figurehead than a participant at this stage due to injury.)
To that point, while each of the past two World Series-winning Cardinals teams consisted of a collection of quality, All-Star-caliber players, at the heart of it all was Albert Pujols, an iconic superstar who was easily identifiable with St. Louis (until he left for Southern California, that is).
With Pujols no longer around, the aura around the Cardinals has changed. Some might argue it's actually changed for the better—and they might be right—but regardless, it has changed.
As much as this season's success has been driven by veterans like Wainwright and Molina, as well as injured first baseman Allen Craig and outfielder Carlos Beltran (who came to town after the 2011 win, by the way), it's really built on young breakout players like Matt Carpenter, Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Matt Adams and Trevor Rosenthal. None of those youngsters, it's worth mentioning, have been a part of a World Series winner—or even a World Series—yet.
Change goes beyond just the roster, too. Gone are longtime manager Tony LaRussa and pitching coach Dave Duncan, replaced by Mike Matheny and Derek Lilliquist. Matheny was a part of the organization for the 2011 title, and Lilliquist was for both 2006 and 2011 but not in their current roles, meaning it still would be different this time around.
All of those changes, folks, are a pretty compelling argument against potentially dubbing St. Louis a dynasty this year. If you still find yourself believing the 2013 Cardinals would have to be considered as such, though, should they go on to win the title later this month, ask yourself this: Would the Boston Red Sox be a dynasty if they're the last team standing in October?
Fact is, the Red Sox are a lot like the Cards: Both franchises have won two titles recently enough, and each has the opportunity to make it three inside of a decade. And yet, even David Ortiz would agree that the roster, regime, makeup and mentality of this year's Red Sox are nothing at all like the 2004 iteration, those self-proclaimed "Idiots," or even the 2007 champs, for that matter. (Well, except maybe for the beards.)
Perhaps, though, instead of asking the question posed in the title—would a World Series victory this year make the Cardinals a dynasty—we should be marveling at how seamlessly general manager John Mozeliak and his cohorts have handled this organization's transition in the past few years. You know, all the changes, alterations and variations spelled out above.
After all, while a third title in eight years might not necessarily make the Cardinals a dynasty, the franchise is set up better than any other in the sport to take a shot at getting there in the future.