Until they emerged from the Land of Nod on Sunday to put a 7-3 flogging on the Mets, the Cardinals had been outscored 32-5 in a gruesome four-game losing streak that exhibited the telltale signs of a team that had packed it in for the season. The baseball was bad. The energy and effort were lacking.
The weather turned Busch Stadium into a giant sweatbox, but that didn’t stop the A’s or Mets from playing with purpose and embarrassing the Cardinals. During the unsightly four-game skid the Cardinals batted .192, scored in just four of 36 innings, got out-homered 8-2 and were thrashed for a 7.25 ERA. Sure, the Redbirds were missing injured regulars Lars Nootbaar, Nolan Gorman, Brendan Donovan, Steven Matz and Dylan Carlson – but that’s no excuse for the lethargy.
The Cardinals weren’t playing the Cubs and Brewers at home last week; they were going against the A’s (34-90) and Mets (58-67.)
At least the fellers woke up in time Sunday to prevent a four-game sweep by the Mets, but still finished with a 3-4 mark in their seven-game homestand.
It was more of the same. St. Louis is 28-37 at Busch Stadium this season for a .431 winning percentage. Excluding the 1994 season halted early because of a labor dispute, the current .431 home winning percentage would be the third-worst by a Cardinals team in the 63 seasons since MLB expanded to a 162-game schedule in 1961. The 1970 and 1990 Cardinals each went 34-47 (.420) at home.
Unless the Cardinals pile up a bunch of home wins the rest of the way, their .431 home winning percentage would be the worst by the franchise since Bill DeWitt Jr. and partners took over before the 1996 season.
The Cardinals have had a winning record in only two of their 10 homestands so far 2023. They’ve had a losing record in six homestands and a .500 record in two others.
This a stunning fall. Last season the 2022 Cardinals did not have a losing record in a homestand all season. They had a winning record in 10 of 13 homestands and finished with a .500 record in the three others at Busch Stadium.
With a dozen or so Cardinal Hall of Famers in town for the weekend — gathering at Busch Stadium for Sunday morning’s induction of Jose Oquendo and the late Max Lanier — the apathy made for a depressing scene.
The uninspiring Cardinals are playing before a sea of empty red seats at home late in this abysmal 2023. The no-show count is glaring. As I mentioned, the St. Louis area has been hot and muggy in recent days, but that’s nothing new. In past summers the high temperatures didn’t do much to discourage Cardinals fans from heading to Busch Stadium for an entertaining day at the park.
And while it’s true that the number of tickets sold by the Cardinals remains robust, the no-shows tell us a story behind the story. When fans who purchased tickets don’t bother to attend the game, DeWitt notices. And he can’t be happy about it.
On Aug. 11, STLtoday published an informative story on the state of the business at Busch Stadium and the adjacent Ballpark Village. Here the notable takeaways in the piece written by Hannah Wyman:
– Tickets prices to see the Cardinals play at Busch Stadium are some of the lowest in the majors this season. According to STLtoday, a survey of 2.2 million MLB tickets sold on the resale site StubHub from more than 1,300 games found that the Cardinals had the seventh least-expensive home game ticket prices.
– Dan Farrell, the Cardinals’ senior vice president of sales and marketing, confirmed that ticket sales were going down. “There has been more discounting the second half of the season and we’ll continue to do so, with less demand,” Farrell told STLtoday. “When the team is struggling, none of the sales techniques are as effective.”
– The Cardinals sold 3.3 million tickets in 2022. Part of the appeal was watching Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina in person during their final seasons before retirement. But the Cardinals also won 93 games and had a .654 winning percentage at home. This year the Cardinals (according to Farrell) will likely reach 3.1 million tickets sold.
– The STLtoday story included this information: according to records from the State Department of Revenue, spending around Ballpark Village and other downtown businesses was on the decline. Between April and June of 2022, sales and use tax collected for the zip code of 63102 totaled around $157 million. This season, less than $89 million was reported during the same time frame.
Is DeWitt paying close attention to the disturbing trends? If so will he go with a more aggressive and expensive offseason approach to boost the overall roster, rebuild the starting rotation, and generate more excitement in advance of the 2024 campaign? The Cardinals have a lot of work to do and can’t afford to have a dispassionate offseason.
The Cardinals aren’t just losing too many games. They’re also losing fans. They’re losing business at the concession stands and merchandise stores during games. They’re losing business at their Ballpark Village revenue source. The warning signs are there. St. Louis is still a helluva baseball town, but the fans are sending a message.
Thanks for reading …
Bernie hosts an opinionated sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. on Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. Friday. You can stream it live or access the show podcast on 590thefan.com or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.
Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz … For weekly Cardinals talk, listen to Bernie’s “Seeing Red” podcast with Will Leitch via 590thefan.com or through your preferred podcast platform. Follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.
All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, StatHead, Baseball Savant, Fielding Bible and Baseball Prospectus unless otherwise noted.
For the last 35 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. 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.