The phrase “Keeping up with the Joneses” originated in an Arthur R. “Pop” Momand comic strip in 1913. For better than a century, the phrase has characterized the attempt by many Americans to match or exceed the assets and social status of those in close proximity to them, namely their neighbors. (Of course, now you can keep up with all the Joneses on social media.)
The Chicago Cubs have created much envy in the NL Central. They are the neighbor with the new infinity swimming pool, the shiny new luxury car parked in the three-car garage, and the remodeled kitchen complete with a $10,000 range. They had a lot of parties last summer and generally seemed quite popular.
There cannot be a greater feeling of envy toward the Cubs than in St. Louis. The Cubs are a threat to the Cardinals’ sustained excellence over the last decade, perhaps the most impressive run in the sport since the Atlanta Braves’ MLB-record 14 consecutive postseason berths in the 1990s and early 2000s.
We know the Cubs are coming off a World Series title and a 103-win regular season. The Cubs retain their core and have few weaknesses. The Cardinals won 86 games last season, missing the postseason for the first time since 2010.
With a passionate fanbase that’s unaccustomed to watching a rival neighbor accumulate such wealth, now would seem the time to act boldly and irrationally and emotionally if the Cardinals front office were ever to operate in such fashion. On the contrary, the Cardinals have been cautious, having made a total of zero 40-man roster transactions since December 12. While the Cardinals did raid the Cubs for a significant asset in Dexter Fowler, St. Louis has otherwise operated in a relatively low-key fashion this offseason.
Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak has been asked one question over and over again this offseason, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports: has he done enough to catch the Cubs?
“I always feel like it’s sort of dangerous to simply chase your neighbors,” Mozeliak said. “That phrase — ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ — can be dangerous, right? I think the best strategy is try to build a club that you think has a chance to win your division, get to the postseason. Obviously, a lot of things have to happen along the way, and part of that’s good fortune. Part of that is playing well. You look back to last year, some of those things we just didn’t do that well.”
By taking on too much debt, by making extravagant purchases, and trading too much of tomorrow in a quest for immediate satisfaction, Keeping up With the Joneses can have dire consequences. The Cardinals, probably wisely, are apparently not willing to try and keep up with the Cubs via a dramatic and bold offseason. It’s perhaps why the Cardinals remained on the “periphery” of the Chris Sale talks, according to Jon Heyman. Moreover, baseball is crazy and unpredictable. The Cubs might suffer some serious regression in 2017.
But right now the Cubs are a heavy favorite and the Cardinals – and every other team in the division – have a significant gap to bridge.
So what to do?
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