Such developments suggest more success in the team's near future. Any good fortune will be shared by the entire organization. In 2011, the Cardinals flew 170 people to Texas for Games 3 and 4 of the Series and doled out 400 diamond-encrusted rings when they won. "I always think that my role here is almost like working for a public trust, and I'm a steward of it," says Mozeliak—who, in a navy bow tie, light-blue gingham shirt and square-rimmed glasses, might look at home in a financial house. "I always hope that when I look back at my time here, that I've left this place better than I found it. But most important, [that] I didn't take it backward."
A modernized rotation and ever more days spent in first place make that unlikely. Still, this is a club that always looks back, even as it moves on more quickly than many realize. On May 15, Wainwright stood on the top step of the home dugout at Busch Stadium, watching his teammates take batting practice beneath the rounded cage that looks like a shelled reptile. "Look out there behind the 'turtle' right now and you'll see Red Schoendienst"—the Hall of Fame second baseman from the 1940s and '50s. "He's 90 years old, and he's still hitting fungoes, shagging balls. That's how it works here. The legacy that Chris Carpenter passed to me, I look forward to passing to the next guy, like Shelby. We take such pride in being a Cardinal and the way we play the game, we want to pass that on and keep it going. We honestly look at our organization as greater than an individual. Stan the Man, Red, those guys helped make it what it is, but the legacy lives on no matter who is in here."
The sentiment might sound mawkish, but it is one that even those that have departed say is genuinely felt. "The people that work there and leave, they continue to identify themselves as former Cardinals," says Mike Elias, a 30-year-old Yale graduate who got his first job in baseball as a St. Louis scout in 2007. Last year he became the Astros' scouting director after his former boss Jeff Luhnow took the G.M. job in Houston.
"When I think about how we're running this business right now, we tried to find a way to do it where we were able to sustain our own success," says Mozeliak. A similar goals is shared by every organization, but only one has been able to meet them, almost without fail, for as long as most anyone can remember. Even the Yankees—who had three straight losing seasons between 1965 and '67 and four between '89 and '92—can't quite say that.