Cards express optimism in opening message

Club focuses on proud tradition, high hopes for 2017

Cards express optimism in opening message

JUPITER, Fla. -- With a nod to the organization's storied history and nary a mention of their rival to the north, the Cardinals preceded their first full-squad workout of Spring Training with a team meeting Friday morning that was designed to set the tone and expectations for the year ahead.

For the first time since Mike Matheny took over as manager, the Cardinals have opened camp without the distinction of being the division favorite or reigning National League Central champs. Those designations now belong to the Cubs, who were intentionally missing from the first-day message.

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"We've got a whole bunch of teams that want to embarrass us every time we get on the field," Matheny said. "We just want to take care of our business. We keep it simple. We're not going to single out a team. Every single one of them is on the hit list."

Matheny prefers not to divulge the full content of his message to those outside the clubhouse walls, but he acknowledged that there was an emphasis on looking forward.

"It's being excited about what this team has the ability to do together this year," he said. "I want to [give] an honest evaluation of where we are, where we have to go."

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Owner Bill DeWitt Jr. did take an opportunity to look back -- but not at 2016. In his address to the group of players, coaches and staff, DeWitt offered a history lesson. He reminded them that this marks the 125th anniversary of the organization and then offered a few key figures -- as in 19 (pennants) and 11 (World Series championships).

"We're trying to build on that every single year," DeWitt explained afterward. "That's the goal of the organization, to improve and enhance the record that has been built through so many great players over the years. The message was our goal every year is to be competitive and have a team good enough to get to the postseason. And if we do get to the postseason, be good enough to go deep in the postseason.

"I believe this group has that capability."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.