(Just a note before I get started with today’s column on the Cardinals. I’m saving my NCAA Tournament takeaways for Tuesday, when I’ll have more time to work on it. Thanks, Bernie.)

I’ve accepted the realities of living in a short-attention span nation. I don’t fuss over it. I have four social-media accounts. I sample TikTok. I record TV shows and sporting events but don’t always watch in real time; I’d rather fast-forward through the commercials.

I like to watch condensed baseball games on MLB.TV. I’m a faster reader than I used to be. Skimming usually works for me. I like bullet points. I can get to the pertinent info, and then it’s onto the next story. I like skipping over tracks on my music playlists. It just depends on my mood, which can change every 12 seconds depending on what’s distracting me or annoying me at the moment. I may have been born in 1959, but I’ve always adapted.

So yeah, this is how we do it in these United States and I’m in alignment with the times. Everything matters every second. Spring-training baseball exhibitions are now AFC Playoff games or something. Where is the intensity? Why aren’t these baseball players setting their hair ablaze during spring-training slumps and losses? It’s time to wake up?

I’m continually fascinated by media members and fans who disregard the unique length and rhythm of a major-league baseball season. It’s entertaining, if not helpful. The whole point of these spring-training rehearsals is sharpening up, working on new pitches and batting grips, giving a look to roster candidates. Well, that and selling tickets, merch and ball park hot dogs.

Then it’s regular-season time. Go time. The baseball schedule is like no other. And oh, by the way, this is nothing new. Major league teams began playing 154-game endurance tests in 1904 when Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House. The team schedules increased to 162 games during the JFK administration.

Don’t ya think we should have gotten used to this by now?

This is a proud and knowledgeable baseball town that should have an acute sense of history. It’s still a fantastic baseball town, and it would be great to keep it that way. I can’t stand seeing it dumbed down.

So why do so many media people and baseball enthusiasts apply NFL standards to major-league baseball? As Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver once told a new baseball writer who had come over from the NFL beat and was freaking out over the team’s early-season losing streaks: “This ain’t football. We play 162. We do this everyday.”

The 2023 Cardinals were atrocious, losing 91 games in a season for the first time since 1990. And before that, the Redbirds hadn’t staggered through 90+ losses in a season 1978. So yeah, 2023 was historically rotten for a franchise that’s competed in 36 postseasons, winning 19 NL pennants and 11 World Series. Last season was an unconditional embarrassment for a St. Louis institution that’s one of only four MLB franchises to win more than 10,000 regular-season games since 1900.

But may I point out something?

Thankfully, last season is over.

I expect that we’ll see improvement from the Cardinals in 2024, but how much? Ninety-plus wins? A division title? Or 86, 87 regular-season wins and a wild-card playoff ticket? Of course, none of this could take shape. The Cardinals could stray into a second consecutive losing record (full season) for the first time since 1958-1959.

The 162-game schedule will ultimately give us an answer and tell us who the 2024 Cardinals really are. That’s how it’s supposed to work. The final record isn’t determined by how a team does in the opening month, or first six weeks, or two months … or how you personally choose to define “early.”

I’ve been at this for a long time, and hopefully developed a healthier perspective on how to diagnose a baseball team. I make mistakes. I’ll make mistakes in 2024. But I don’t think the sun is about to crash on my roof when the Cardinals flop. It’s fine to criticize them during those periods, and I never hesitate to do that. But I don’t see any logic in writing off a team before they have a chance to play real baseball.

I grew up watching Weaver’s teams often start slowly, gradually heat up, then come on like a runaway train late in the season. In St. Louis I’ve seen teams get off to poor starts and win 100 games. I’ve seen the opposite trend, with Cardinal teams starting fast, then fading.

Baseball has its own cadence that can’t be rushed.

It isn’t like this in the NFL. Teams that start out with three consecutive losses are almost certainly doomed. Since the beginning of 1990, only four of 160 teams that stumbled to an 0-3 rebounded to make the playoffs. That’s 2.5 percent.

In major-league baseball, if you go 3-0 at the start of the season it means you’ve won your first series. It’s nice to win that first series. Congrats! The 2023 Cardinals did it too. And if you lose your first three games, it means you have 159 games remaining. That’s it.

As near the start of the season, the ongoing fear and anxiety over the Cardinals’ difficult early schedule is unusually intense. The 2024 Cards haven’t played a game, but those clouds look ominous … or so we are told. Beware of the easy, quick-fire narrative. It’s better to be true to the 162 as long as it is still reasonable to do so.

Let’s say the Cardinals lurch out of the starting gate and are wobbly early on. No. 1, it wouldn’t be a surprise. The Cards will play 19 of their first 28 games against clubs that made it to the postseason in 2023. Of STL’s first nine series, eight will be against teams that had a better record in ‘23, six of the nine teams qualified for the playoffs, and four of the nine have higher 40-man payrolls.

Even if the Cardinals are .below .500 late in April, it doesn’t mean they’re burnt pie. They have plenty of time to work their way back to claim a playoff spot. They’ll have access to four of the six postseason entry points: winning the NL Central title or qualifying for one of the three wild-card tickets. It’s never been this easy to advance to October’s tournament.


Going back to the Whitey Herzog years, the Cardinals had a series of uprisings to overcome plodding starts and make the playoffs.

1985: Herzog’s Runnin’ Redbirds lost their first four games, sputtered to 2-6, and were three games below .500 on May 19. No problem. That special team ended with 101 regular-season wins and captured the NL pennant.

1996: The Cardinals stalled early in the first season of the Dewitt Era, sitting with a 17-26 record through the first 43 games. But they stayed after it, finished 88-74, won the division title, and advanced to Game 7 of the NLCS before falling to Atlanta.

2001: The STL record was 12-13 after the first 25 games, 14-15 on May 6, and 43-45 as late as July 13. The Cardinals finished 93-69 and tied Houston for first in the division. The Cards lost the tie-breaker (because they lost the season series to the Astros) and were relegated to wild-card status.

2002: A 12-14 start got worse; it was 14-19 by May 7. No worries. Despite having to deal with the cruel and tragic death of starting pitcher Darryl Kile, the Cardinals went on to win 97 games and advance to the NLCS.

2004: What’s this? A team that rolled to 105 regular-season wins and the NL pennant did so after experiencing early turbulence? Correct. The Redbirds were 10-11 after 21 games, and 15-16 after 31. But they still won the NL pennant and produced their most regular-season wins since 1943.

2005: I shouldn’t even mention this because it accounts for only the first five games of the season. But the ‘05 Cardinals lost three of their first five and trucked on for 100 wins.

2007: The Cardinals were in a fog after winning the 2006 World Series and fell to 20-29 on May 29. They were coping with the death of pitcher Josh Hancock who crashed on I-64 while driving when intoxicated. It was a brutal time. But even messy, dysfunctional teams can rally. It may not look like much now, but the ‘07 Cardinals dug in and defied the odds. I never imagined this team could climb above .500 and be only one game out if first place as late as Sept. 6. But they did just that before running out of gas.

2011: The Cards went 2-6 at the start of the season, did OK over several months, but didn’t get their act together until a late-season charge earned the NL wild-card on the final night of the season. Next up: three successful postseason rounds and the 11th World Series title in franchise history.

2013: The eventual NL champion lost three of their first four games. They had a decent (not great) 15-11 April.

2014: The Cardinals fought back from a 15-16 start, were 31-31 on June 6, and kicked in for 90 wins and a postseason run that got as far as the NLCS.

2019: Manager Mike Shildt’s team started very well but drooped to 44-45 by July 12. That didn’t stop those Cardinals from winning 91 games and their first division title since 2015.

2021: The Cardinals were 9-10 after 19 games, 36-40 on June 25 and 43-46 on July 19. They were only one game above .500 (69-68) on Sept. 7. And then the boys erupted for their famous 17-game winning streak that booked them a spot in the NL wild-card game. Yep, baseball has a long season.

2022: The Cardinals won 93 games and the division title despite hovering slightly above 500 over the first four months. The long baseball season gives a team time to sort out some stuff, add pitching, and evolve into something better.


1983: After winning the 1982 World Series the Cardinals went 6-1 in their first seven games of ‘83. They were 11-6 on May 1. And then they faded, finishing with a losing record at 79-83.

1984: Their 7-4 start didn’t grow into something more substantial and the team finished 84-78 and didn’t make the postseason.

1986: Herzog’s team started out 7-1. A wonderful start, sure. Just what you want to see. And the current group of sportswriters and bloggers would have put them in the World Series based on 7-1. Alas, the cold harshness of a 162-game season prevailed again, and the ‘86 Cardinals sputtered to a losing (79-82) mark.

1991: Joe Torre’s team went 13-8 April, improved to 24-18 by May 6 but went 60-60 over the rest of the journey. Final record: 84-78.

1992: Torre’s performers were 26-18 early and led the division by 1 and ½ games on May 25. But this isn’t the NFL. Reality entered the picture, and the ‘92 Cardinals settled for 83-79.

1993: The Cards won seven of their first 10 games, were still moving along at 15-11, and but eventually finished 10 games out of first place. But the 87 wins were Torre’s high point during his leadership of an underfunded payroll.

1998 and 1999: The Cardinals were 13-6 through the first 19 games of ‘98, and got off to a similar start (12-6) in 1999. They failed to make the playoffs both times – despite Mark McGwire averaging 67.5 homers and 147 RBI over the two seasons. Maybe we can blame that on Oli Marmol, or something. Probably not. The long baseball season can be crazy. Deliriously so.

2006: The Cardinals were strong early with a 29-15 ledger on May 21. But baseball’s long season can make your team work harder and prove that the 29-15 record was more than a fluke. The Cards put their division title at risk by going 25-36 (.409) over their final 61 games. Their final total was 83 victories, and the Birds held on during the final weekend to win the division by 1 and ½ games. From there, the Cardinals pulled an October surprise by beating the Padres, Mets and Tigers to win their first World Series title since 1982.

2003: After a 16-12 start the Cardinals peaked at 85 wins and didn’t make it to the postseason.

2008: Hey, a 22-12 start! Everyone get outta the way! Nope. Baseball’s marathon season won out. The ‘08 Cardinals won a respectable 86 games but it wasn’t enough to land in the postseason.


2021: The Braves were 30-35 and eight games out of first place in the NL East. Time to fire the manager, right? No. From that point on, Atlanta blasted its way to a 58-38 record, won the division, and came away with the World Series trophy.

2022: The Phillies were awful early on, sinking to 21-29 on May 31. No one thought they’d go from there to win 87 games, grab a wild-card spot, and proceed to win the NL pennant.

2023: The Diamondbacks were up and down all season. Their 11-7 start was positive and offered hope. They were 52-39 at one point, then lost 10 of 13. But let us remember: a long season can offer shelter from the storm as long as you win enough games, hang on, and find it. Or not find it. You can still sneak in. Despite losing their final four games of the regular season to finish with a modest total of 84 victories, Arizona qualified for the NL’s third wild-card pass and knocked off the Brewers, Dodgers and Phillies in a raid to the NL pennant.

Just be sure to at least try and remember this when 2024 launches. That way you may avoid overreacting and having tantrums during every disappointing home stand or road trip. And you’ll be happy but won’t overdo it and go dancing in the streets if the Cardinals get hot and win 8 out of 10.

Don’t be overly influenced by the Chicken Little clucking from distressed scribes. Some will be covering the 2024 St. Louis Cardinals as if the team was playing an Arizona Cardinals NFL schedule.

Just follow the path to 162, and that’s where you’ll find the truth about your team. The truth may emerge (and prevail) once we reach the All-Star break. We’ll get closer to the truth in the second half of the season. Sometimes, the conclusion won’t be settled until very late.

A slow start in April isn’t a crisis. A fast start in April isn’t nirvana.

It’s just baseball.

Thanks for reading …


A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie hosts an opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. Stream it live or grab the show podcast on 590thefan.com or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.

Please follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz and on Threads @miklaszb

For weekly Cards talk, listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast with Will Leitch and Miklasz via 590thefan.com or through your preferred podcast platform. Follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link. A new Seeing Red is available now.

All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, StatHead, Baseball Savant, Baseball Prospectus, Sports Info Solutions and Cot’s Contracts unless otherwise noted.

Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

For the last 36 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.