Club president Bill DeWitt III says he understands.
"The public dialogue, it seems to me, in recent months has been somewhat negative," DeWitt said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "We did some important moves early, and here it is January, almost February, so there's this gap. It's the timing of the things we've done. It lends itself to the question, 'What's next?'
"There are perceptions that we cannot ignore because we are in the position we are because of a variety of reasons, and fan support is a big part of that."
The Cardinals have drawn 3 million or more in 10 of the past 11 seasons, but they are budgeting for anything between 2.7 million and 3.4 million this year, with the expected target 3.2 million.
"Fan support is a huge part of it," DeWitt said. "And I think it is even more important when you're a small-market team. It allows you to act bigger than you are because of how much support you have.
"We have a historically strong and devoted fan base. And we know we cannot take it for granted. They want a competitive team, and if there is a suspicion that we are squandering it or putting it all in our pocket, then you've broken that trust. This is a public trust."
NOTES AND QUOTES
--For the eighth year in a row -- he has played only eight seasons -- 1B Albert Pujols was selected the St. Louis Baseball Man of the Year by the local baseball writers. Pujols also received the 2008 National League Most Valuable Player award.
--Manager Tony La Russa, talking about OF Chris Duncan, whose 2008 season was ended in July by a herniated disk in his neck that required surgery: "If he's healthy, this a legitimate, rise-to-the-occasion, impact bat with A-plus competitiveness and toughness."
--OFs Chris Duncan, Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick and RHPs Todd Wellemeyer and Brad Thompson all filed for salary arbitration. Ankiel and Wellemeyer are five-year players and can be free agents at the end of next season.
--RHP Kyle McClellan, who had 30 "holds" last year, will be conditioned this offseason to be a starter, although he may remain in the bullpen if the club adds a starter.
--RHP Chris Carpenter, winless the last two seasons as he's battled various arm problems, has begun playing catch and plans to begin throwing off a mound on Feb. 1.
BY THE NUMBERS: 42,382 -- Average attendance for the Cardinals last year. That ranked behind only the New York Yankees, New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "This year, we have a strong core of players, we've added where we had needs, and there are still things we'd like to do. I feel we have the right players. ... I think it's also clear what our direction is." -- GM John Mozeliak, on the present and immediate future of the club.