(KMOV.com) — The Cardinals enter the season as 6/1 favorites to win the World Series. They return five of their six All Stars from 2013 and have added a better-hitting shortstop and elite defensive center fielder. Scouts and media alike say their Opening Day rotation may be the best ever.
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The expectations through the stratosphere, and Mike Matheny doesn’t like that word when it’s defined by those outside the clubhouse.
“Expectations are potential,” he said. “And potential doesn’t win you any games at all.” The Cardinal manager went on to say there are plenty of expectations that his team places on themselves, but the rest fall on deaf ears.
It’s hard to blame observers for expecting a lot. The team is full of young stars, and there are more behind them in the farm system.The youth is something that adds it’s own challenges for the team, and something Matheny says will be a test for a lot of the team’s budding stars.
“Everybody’s gunning for them, feel like they have a new approach for them so there’s challenges that come with it,” he said “I think overall, we like how the young players go about being ready to show what they can do. A good mix of veteran leadership helps that too.”
Though inexperience may be a handicap in some ways, it keeps a team energized moving into a new season. With many Cardinal players getting a taste of their first Opening Day, and many still hoping to find longterm roles on the club, a sense of urgency permeates the locker room.
“They’ve got a lot to prove still, and they always feel like they’re right there trying to make a name for themselves,” Matheny said. Many point to the postseason success of the young pitching staff (and they are young. Average age 25.6, 24 without Adam Wainwright) as evidence that they will have success.
Unfortunately the grind of 162 games is a much different struggle than the high-drama games of October. For guidance on that, they look to their ace.
“The worst thing you can do is worry about getting through six months in the first month,” Wainwright said. “You just worry about where you’re at and let it sneak up on you in the end. After a couple years you learn what your body needs to get through those years and early on in your career you find ways to grind through it until you do learn that.”
The nice thing for the youthful staff is if the expectations become reality and they find themselves in October once again, they have some of the best experience around after 2013.
“It answers some questions that some veterans haven’t even answered about themselves. How do you perform when the heat is turned up?” Matheny said. “How else do you find out if you can handle what Michael Wacha handled in Pittsburgh? You can’t replicate that.”
With the (much-noted) exception of Shelby Miller, everyone on the staff has postseason success to draw on when the lights get brightest, something the Cardinal manager says is invaluable to a young pitcher.
“Once they compete at that level and they succeed, it’s something they check off and a reservoir they go back to,” he said.