Saturday, November 5, 2011

Do the Green Bay Packers and St. Louis Cardinals borrow from the same playbook?

Successful Franchises – Green Bay Packers and the St Louis Cardinals.

As of last night (October 28, 2011), the St Louis Cardinals are the World Series winners for the 2011 Major League Baseball season. Congratulations! Eight months earlier, the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV.

During their last seasons, both teams have remained competitive even though they were impacted with injuries. The Packers had over 15 players on injured reserve during their playoff run and still found a way to win the ultimate trophy. The Cardinals lost their ace, Adam Wainwright, for the entire season and also battled other player injuries but found a way to eventually hoist this year's World Series trophy.
Both teams have many solid players but only one superstar – Albert Pujols of the Cardinals and Aaron and Rodgers of the Packers. Regardless, both teams had many times during their championship run where other players stepped up and made a difference. James Starks of the Packers and David Freese of the Cardinals are just two players who come to mind.

One could argue both the Cards and Pack began to peak during the last 6 weeks of the regular season. Playing well in the post season is key, you may be peaking againist teams with better records and often enjoy more success. Often, one's record gets thrown out the window.

One could argue there are two key ingredients for gauging playoff success: How well a team is playing during the playoffs and how well do they match up aganist their opponent? Both of these teams this past season appeared to match up with each of their playoff opponents and again, were playing their best at the most critical time.

They both have a storied history in their respective sports. The Packers have been around for around 90 years and the Cardinals first began as the St. Louis Browns in 1880.

Both teams have won at least 11 championships in their history and have played in many more championships – illustrating in their sport a successful winning brand. It’s clear to those who follow both these teams that many numbers could have been retired throughout their history with all those great players who came before these current players.

The Cardinals and Packers come from States where the other sports franchises have not done well over the years. Take the Bucks and Brewers in Wisconsin, they have one championship between them in over 80 years of combined competition and some say that was due to Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (formerly Lew Alcindor) teaming up in the early 1970s. Take Missouri, St. Louis used to also house the Cardinals of the NFL who never won a championship while in St. Louis. The most recent football championship came when the St. Louis Rams won Super Bowl XXXIV in 1999. The Hawks of the NBA played in St. Louis played from 1955-1968 before leaving for Atlanta. Their franchise has one championship to their credit, where the St. Louis Hawks defeated the Celtics in 1958.

Both these franchises have a loyal base and this fan base extends far beyond the contiguous states. Part of this can be attributed to their long and successful history. It may also be due to the fact that people love baseball in the St. Louis area and football throughout Wisconsin.

Obviously the draft systems are not the same between professional football and baseball but both organizations are effective at finding and signing strong talent year after year. This doesn’t guarantee a championship but helps put these teams in the position to make a run for a championship more often than not.

One could also argue that neither the Cardinals nor the Packers have the luxury of having the highest payroll in their respective sports. As sports’ fans know, teams with the highest payroll don’t always win the title. It’s about how and where you spend your money and smaller market teams need to be more prudent with their money.

Each team historically had at least one team within their division that seldom won more than 50 percent of their games. The Cardinals can thank the Cubs and Pirates for not being very competitive over the last 20 years and the Packers have the Lions of Detroit to thank. Of course things are changing as the Lions are much more competitive and have turned the corner in the Central Division of the NFL. Regarding the Cubs and Pirates, perhaps changes to their ball clubs will improve the competitiveness of this division moving forward.

There are high expectations for both franchises. Green Bay expects to win these days…Cardinal fans along the meandering Mississippi don't expect a World Series appearance every year but do expect to be competitive each and every year. I think this mentality may apply to the fans as well as the entire organization.

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