No St. Louis child born since 1902 has reached age 25 without seeing a World Series championship parade in his town.”
The most impressive aspect Howard Megdal’s THE CARDINALS WAY is the access Megdal gains to key St. Louis Cardinals personnel, including not only key figures such as John Mozeliak and Jeff Luhnow, but also included Bill DeWitt, Jr., former general manager Walt Jocketty, and countless other front office personnel.
Especially early in the book, I wasn’t impressed with Megdal’s writing and constantly found myself rewriting sentences in my head. However, as the book progressed, I found myself doing this less and less.
Megdal doesn’t give away any major trade secrets, which certainly isn’t surprising, but he does an excellent job of providing value anyway, providing a macro view of the Cardinals’ organizational strategy, and making a strong case that the Cardinals’ belief in analytics was not a sharp change in direction but merely a continuation of the principles that led Branch Rickey and George Kissell to success with the birds on the bat.
Megdal is especially thorough in documenting Kissell’s impact on Cardinals culture before approaching the Luhnow hire. Megdal is somewhat successful in describing the Jocketty/Luhnow tensions with an anecdote or two, but it’s obviously not something the people he spoke to really want to dive into. It was interesting, though, to read Jocketty’s thoughts on those days and see how he has changed his mind — at least somewhat — regarding analytics since his Cardinals days.
Maybe the most interesting portion of the book related to the draft, as Megdal sat in with Cardinals executives and scouts as they created their draft board and discussed the pros and cons of different players. This scene really gives readers an inside look at how difficult a scout’s job is, and how challenging it is to be a general manager or scouting director who must take all these scouting reports and various opinions and make decisions with long-term ramifications.
As a Cardinals fan, this was an insightful read. For baseball fans interested in roster construction, scouting and organizational decision-making, this book could serve as a worthy sequel to Michael Lewis’s MONEYBALL.