Way back in 1989, in the first movie where Batman killed a bunch of people, The Dark Knight drops through a glass skylight, rescues Vicki Vale, and grapples away. Amused, Jack Nicholson's Joker muses, "Where does he get those wonderful toys?" Later, Joker tries to poison Gotham City using gas-filled parade balloons, but is thwarted by the Batwing. "Why didn't somebody tell me he had one of those...those things?" he wonders, before shooting a henchman.
That's basically where I'm at with the Cardinals.
Oh sure, they go out and sign/trade for their share of stars. They spend mightily to hold onto their homegrown core. You can't win in baseball without a couple of Matt Hollidays, Adam Wainwrights, Yadier Molinas, Jason Heywards, Jhonny Peraltas, Lance Berkmans, Mike Leakes, and Carlos Beltrans. And you can't win without developing your own talent, like they've done recently with Koleen Wong, Randal Grichuk, Steven Piscotty, Michael Wacha, and Carlos Martinez.
But you also have to supplement those guys with quality players. You need to be able to plug holes with guys who will perform.
It used to be cute how they'd keep plucking random minor leaguers out of their system and turning them into productive Major Leaguers. I mean, you have to respect your Matt Carpenters and your Trevor Rosenthals. It's occasionally fun to see an Allen Craig or a Matt Adams or a Tyler Lyons break through and contribute. You have to respect a Jon Jay, who consistently outperformed his skill set for years.
But I started to draw the line at Tommy Pham, who came up and raked for the Cardinals late last year, Jeremy Hazelbaker (currently hitting .317/.348/.659 with three homers) and Aledmys Diaz (.389/.436/.778). Hell, even Eric frigging Fryer, a 30 year old catcher with 158 MLB plate appearances who had hit .237/.328/.328 across five seasons at triple-A, is hitting 1.000/1.000/1.333 with two doubles and a walk in seven plate appearances to start the season. None of them, understandably, were on a top prospect list. None of them had even been heard of prior to the middle of last season by anybody but the most detail oriented prospect guys.
My annoyance isn't that these players aren't good. I mean, the 28 year old Hazelbaker will probably turn back into a pumpkin eventually, and Pham is currently on the DL. Eric Fryer has to make an out at some point. My annoyance is that the Cardinals seem to be able to do this whenever they want. If and when Hazelbaker, Fryer, and Diaz cool off, the club will just shove someone else into that spot and roll along without an interruption in service. They develop a hole, and they plug it with someone who performs just as well or better. It's simply ridiculous to me, and my club isn't even in direct competition with the Cardinals. Imagine how frustrating it must be if you're a Cubs or a Pirates fan.
Ultimately, of course, this isn't an actual problem. Not for the Cardinals, anyway. It's a sign of a profoundly healthy organization. The Cardinals keep plugging these guys in because they do an exceptional job of drafting, signing, and developing them. Where do they get these wonderful toys? They make them. And, as much as anything, it's why the club has had just one losing season in the 21st century.