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How the Cardinals became baseball's model franchise - Grantland

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The St Louis Cardinals are a very unusual baseball team.

They're almost all home grown: 20 of the 25 people on the team have never played for another team.

Half of the Cardinals' starting lineup is made up of players who weren't good enough to reach the majors before they turned 25, but who kept improving to the point where they're now everyday players on the NL pennant winner. Everyone in the Cardinals' organization associated with hitter development ought to take a bow.

They never have to spend more than necessary, because they rarely have to go outside the organization and pay for talent on the open market. Of the 25 players on the Cardinals' World Series roster, 18 were originally signed by the organization. Two (David Freese and Adam Wainwright) were acquired in trades before they ever reached Triple-A. Just five of the Cardinals' 25 players have ever played a game for another major league team, and while Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday are two of the team's most important players, the other three are middle relievers (Randy Choate, Edward Mujica, and John Axford).

In the span of just four years, from 2006 to 2009, the Cardinals drafted 13 of the 25 players on their World Series roster. And that doesn't include Clayton Mortensen (first round, 2007), Brett Wallace (first round, 2008), or Shane Peterson (second round, 2008), who were all traded to the A's in 2009 for Matt Holliday before their prospect sheen had dissipated. As a front-office executive from another club told me admiringly (and maybe a little enviously) earlier this year, "The Cardinals reverse-engineered the draft." The draft is the biggest puzzle in baseball, but, at least for a time, the Cardinals have been able to solve it.

This organization is bigger than any one man. The Cardinals lost Pujols to free agency two years ago, and again have the best offense in the game. La Russa retired at the same time and took legendary pitching coach Dave Duncan with him, but the Cardinals are back in the World Series. And while it's early, so far the Cardinals have similarly shrugged off the loss of Luhnow, who departed after the 2011 season to become the Astros GM and took some key employees (Astros scouting director Mike Elias, director of decision sciences Sig Mejdal, and new pitching coach Brent Strom) with him.

In the last 14 seasons they've had 13 winning seasons and made the playoffs 10 times.

Jiminy crickets:

I'm as envious as anyone that Cardinals fans have gotten to witness so much history and enjoy so much good fortune. Just twice has a team won the World Series after being one strike away from elimination: the 1986 Mets (sorry, boss!) and the 2011 Cardinals … who were one strike away twice, in the ninth and 10th innings of Game 6, but won after Nelson Cruz couldn't handle a playable fly ball to right field. Since 2000, the Cardinals have been to more League Championship Series than any other franchise and more World Series than any other franchise, and they're four games away from winning more world championships than any other franchise in that time.

Whiny brat. Represents everything the rest of the country can't stand about Cardinal fans.

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