JUPITER, Fla. -- Before the Cardinals took the field for their first official full-squad workout of the spring, manager Mike Matheny gathered players and staff inside the team's spring clubhouse to talk expectations and a goal left unfinished.
Matheny stressed the need to deflect outside expectations and assumptions. That means ignoring the prognosticators who expect the Cardinals to repeat as National League Central champs, and to make sure the players work to enter the season as a team, not merely a collection of talented individuals.
The message also stressed the necessity to put last year's success in the rearview mirror. Not only does it no longer matter, but resting on it could diminish the opportunity for growth.
"We have talent and a group of talented people, but the way this group developed into a team last year doesn't automatically translate into this year," Matheny said. "The talent is there. Talent is potential. And potential hasn't won one game for anybody. We have to start all over.
"We have a lot of expectation on us, which really doesn't matter because that's not something we put on ourselves. The expectations we put on ourselves are going to be more than anything put on us. But the way that we go about playing the game and how we focus coming together as a team, those are going to be our two main focuses."
Building that team culture will be a priority throughout Spring Training, and Matheny will rely upon several veteran players to help facilitate that process. He has encouraged players to watch the work ethic of those coming off career seasons, like Yadier Molina and Matt Carpenter, who are two of the earliest players to arrive at the Cardinals' complex for workouts. That, Matheny said, is no coincidence.
A portion of Tuesday's meeting was used to introduce players to staff members and personnel. Matheny also took time to address the way the 2013 season finished. Reminding players of the disappointment they felt after losing the World Series to the Red Sox, he hopes, can be a motivator moving forward.
"As you let that go and you realize there are a whole lot of things to be proud of, we just had one series there where we didn't play the way that we wanted to play," Matheny said. "That's baseball. There are a lot of teams that could say the same thing. But to use that as a motivator, I think, is a very powerful tool. The past is one of our greatest teachers."