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Last year: 12
Title track: 1
Fan relations: 10
Stadium experience: 6
Bang for the buck: 58
Before you question how a team that hasn't won a championship since 2011 took the top spot in title track, remember who we're talking about: the Cardinals -- a team that's ranked 1, 2 or 3 in title track five of the past six years and has made NLCS appearances in 2000, 2002, 2004-06 and 2011-13. The Redbirds' playing far into October is now as much a certainty as baseball personalities fawning over Don Draper (see: the Aug. 18 Jon Hamm night at Busch). According to Bloomberg Businessweek, they've been the second most efficient team in all of sports in the past five seasons, thanks in large part to the gold standard for development systems: The Cardinal Way. That advanced prospect development means the Cards can make it back to the World Series despite bringing a 25-man squad that had just six holdovers from their winning 2011 roster. With a tradition like theirs, it's no surprise the Redbirds draw a crowd. Attendance is up three years running (at about 98.9 percent capacity) -- and when the postseason hits, forget about it. Edward Jones Dome transformed into the country's largest Cardinals bar when last season's Rams "Monday Night Football" game coincided with Game 5 of the World Series. Free hot dogs, two-for-one beers, a JumboTron broadcasting the game during pregame and halftime, and at least 600 screens showing both games throughout the stadium. Even the Red Sox tipped their cap in a full-page ad in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Your region, its people and the entire Cardinals organization represent everything that's great about baseball."
So why not a higher overall rank? Well, an average ticket is $33.84 (compared to $24.96 in Milwaukee, $22.03 in Cincy and $18.32 in Pittsburgh) and Tony La Russa's recent HOF induction might have had fans pining for the days when they were the ones placing the ads in opposing local papers. But that's just nitpicking. In the end, Cards backers say they're No. 1 in the category that matters: Winning.