No. 25: St. Louis Cardinals

Ultimate Standings 2012

Updated: September 6, 2012, 5:40 PM ET
By Morty Ain | ESPN The Magazine

Last year's rank: 34
Title track: 1
Ownership: 20
Coaching: 48
Players: 12
Fan relations: 9
Affordability: 44
Stadium experience: 23
Bang for the buck: 69

The Cards' World Series run was legendary ... nearly '51 Giants legendary. Storming from 10.5 games back in the wild-card race in September, the Redbirds were money down the stretch (especially for that guy who won $375,000 after taking their 999-1 odds on September 12th. So why in the name of Don Denkinger is this team not ranked higher? Maybe because the Cards were traveling on cloud nine and ended up flying straight into a nightmare offseason. The franchise didn't have but seven weeks before losing manager Tony La Russa to retirement and future Hall of Fame 1B Albert Pujols to free agency. The St. Louis Cardinals without Pujols and La Russa -- how will they take the field? In June during the midst of a slump, new manager Mike Matheny openly asked fans to stop giving him and his team pity. And while a 3 percent ticket price increase is not an unusual move from a World Series champion, the Cards still have the second-highest ticket prices in the NL ($31.57), and 12 ounces of beer for $6.75 is indeed Busch league. But enough with the nitpicking, these are still the defending champs, after all. Attendance is up nearly 3,000 a game, the ticket office rolls out dynamic pricing (adjusting single-season ticket prices based on demand) and the rally squirrel made it onto the World Series ring! Heck, every single promo ticket package was sold out. Pujols and La Russa's name were swapped out for replica World Series rings, mini-World Series trophies and David Freese MVP bobbleheads. The faces of the franchise might have changed, but the World Series and fan base haven't gone anywhere.