Since its establishment in 1882, the St. Louis Cardinals organization has handled business in a unique way. It has taken on different meanings in its history, but this way of operating is simply referred to as “The Cardinal Way.”
From practice drills to roster management, The Cardinal Way has been used to describe everything that the St. Louis Cardinals organization does and why they do it. In addition, it has served as a conduit through which the organization has blended the philosophies of all its past and present managers/coaches. This blend has even helped mend organizational schisms between the management of the Major League club and the overall development of the minor league system.
However, an interesting aspect of The Cardinal Way is that it has largely been an organizational philosophy that was easy to recognize but difficult to define. Furthermore, in recent years, The Cardinal Way was a philosophy that was exclusively being passed down verbally.
This all changed when two of the most important curators of The Cardinal Way died in 2008 (George Kissell and Dave Rickettts, both former Cardinals coaches). With their passing came a sense of urgency from the organization to see their philosophies and lessons put into print so that it could continue to be passed down through the organization.
This urgency spawned an organizational initiative that resulted in The Cardinal Way being put on paper. This proprietary 117-page document was distributed for the first time throughout the Cardinals organization before the 2011 season and is meant for their eyes only.
The Cardinal Way is important for three main reasons:
1. Scope: It addresses everything a player would need. From practice drills to cutoff positioning, it’s all there.
2. Definition: It provides uncertainty reduction because it explicitly defines all of the nuances that could cause confusion.
3. Differentiation: Whether it’s the fans or baseball operations, the Cardinals have always had a different feel, but this solidifies their unique way of working.
Kissell summarized the reason for The Cardinal Way best: "Tell me and I'll forget. Show me and I'll remember. Involve me and I'll understand." For the sake of the long-term and continued success of the organization, I am glad this document now exists.