I think there is some truth to what you're talking about. This is probably where the disconnect is, but it's not at the 85-win level or the 95-win level. It's at the point where fans want teams to spend all the money possible and therefore they believe that with spending comes the better team, while teams have to consider Greg Holland happens.
Let me explain.
That Cardinals spent $14 million to get a closer who had been an All-Star, had pinned-down the job well, had been to the postseason, and was by every definition a high-dollar, highly capable signing. He was the reliever the manager wanted and the spending and brand name the fans wanted.
It didn't work out. Now, a one-year deal isn't all that detrimental. But consider that the Cardinals had to make less-costly but smarter moves (Norris, promoting Hicks five weeks early and losing a year of control) that then allowed them to paper over the sunk cost of Holland. Some teams can throw more money at such a problem -- while others budget and move to compensate with decisions. In this case, the Cardinals were able to find their way (though it may have cost them a playoff spot) with other moves.
I'm sure a vast majority of fans recognize and understand that. But some want the dollars, and ignore the results, or when the results don't match the dollars they get frustrated because they didn't spend $18 million on a closer, or something.
Here is another place where the disconnect happens: It's that win total thing that keeps coming up. Whether it's 90 wins or 85 wins or 95 wins, the Cardinals are basing that number on what it takes to win the division and get in the playoffs. That's how they're doing the math. Their preference is to avoid the wild-card, however the math says that there are outliers, like the 2015 Cardinals, that won 100 games and won the division. The Cardinals have talked about a 90-win team, sure, but what they mean is averaging 90 wins over many years -- allowing for fluctuation that means 88 one year and 97 and so on. We all agree that the math needs to change on that. Tanking has shifted the standings so that a 90-win average over time isn't as successful as it once was for the Cardinals. They need to dial it up. They have agreed to this as well.
And, here's the disconnect, they aren't alone.
The Cubs have the approach. They talk about the same philosophy to team-building. They even use some of the same language -- and they admit they got the language from the Cardinals.
And and one more thing: Every team has money. Every team. Every team can spend and spend and get the free agents they want. There is a lot of revenue spilling into the game and spilling over the coffers of teams profits. They can spend money. What teams, in this analytical age, seem less and less likely to do is spend years and spend money frivolously.
Despite that last paragraph -- again, every team can spend money! -- there is another disconnect: By explaining this there will now be a flood of questions accusing of being a house organ or taking the Cardinals side. Nope. I'm explaining it. This is how they do business. They've been successful until recently. That's because other teams caught up, the market changed, and the Cardinals remained pragmatically the Cardinals. It may work for them. I still bet some rogue move must yet happen for them to truly begin another reign atop the NL Central.