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Albert Pujols Gives the Cardinals What they Need

photo: Albert Pujols (St. Louis Cardinals)

At 42 years of age and in his final season as an active player, Albert Pujols returned home to St. Louis and is contributing to the 2022 Cardinals in many ways, on the field and off.



Prince Albert was St. Louis Cardinals royalty in late 2011 when he walked away to the Los Angeles Angels on a 10-year deal. From this fan’s perspective, Albert Pujols left for the almighty dollar and cost himself the opportunity to possibly surpass Stan Musial as the greatest ever to wear The Birds on The Bat. Selected with the 402nd pick of the 1999 draft, Pujols was not expected by anyone to become a baseball icon – a sure-fire Hall of Famer. No one expected him to be one of the best all-time hitters, yet he has done all this and more. In his final hurrah, he is delivering the intangibles that the 2022 St. Louis Cardinals need.

Leadership and experience can never be overlooked. It did not work out with Matt Carpenter last season, but Carpenter is not Albert Pujols. “The Machine” may no longer strike the same fear into the hearts of pitchers that he once did but he knows about winning, especially in St. Louis. Number 5 has delivered time and again both on and off the diamond.  Now in perhaps his greatest role, he has a chance along with Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright (the last remaining active members of the 2006 and 2011 World Series champions) to bring one more title to the city and help develop another generation of Cardinals’ winners.

Adam Wainwright, Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina (St. Louis Cardinals)

Many wondered if Pujols could be content with a lesser playing role in his final season. Through over six dozen games, Albert clearly understands and accepts his role. He did not come to St. Louis expecting to contribute on an everyday basis – though if he could, it would be exciting. His time with the Los Angeles Dodgers told him though that he still wanted baseball. In fact, he wanted it so much that he played in the Dominican Winter League for the first time in 2021. In an interview with La Vida, he explained what still drives him day in and day out.

“At the professional level, I have achieved everything: a World Series ring, MVP, all that. But one thing is your passion, the passion you’ve had for baseball ever since you were a kid. You start to think about your childhood, what you sacrificed, what you’ve fought for, and that’s what still attracts me – the passion that I have.”

Add Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto’s analysis of Pujols and you see why Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak wanted Pujols back. You understand why the signing in St. Louis is paying off.

“He’s so greedy,” Votto said. “He always wants more. I love that about him. He was just always on the attack, never satisfied and always looking for the next big moment. He just has greed. I love it. It’s a trait that is very underrated. Very, very underrated in our sport. To have the fortitude to be able to have a good game but want a great game and then have a great game but want a perfect game,” Votto added. “I just don’t think it’s a habit that a lot of guys have.”

Albert Pujols

When Pujols re-signed after 11 years away, it wasn’t for nostalgia or feel-good accolades. It was because the Cardinals needed a right-handed bat off the bench and one of the best ever to step in a batter’s box was available. Last season in Los Angeles, Pujols proved that in the right moment he can still be clutch. That’s why St. Louis signed him. This season he is delivering exactly what they thought he would. Against lefties, he is hitting .317 (13-for-41) including five extra base hits and nine RBI. No, he hasn’t produced against righties, but he comes to the plate when asked and gives his all..

On April 17th, Pujols crushed a three-run home run against the Brewers to erase a three-run lead. On Sunday, June 12th, he delivered an RBI double that tied the game at four. Coincidentally, both games ended in 7-6 losses but Albert proved that he can still be Albert.

With a 2022 team of young and potentially great batters, Pujols is the perfect voice in the clubhouse, in the dugout and on the field. Who better then a three-time MVP, a nine-time All-Star and a winner of six Silver Slugger Awards to be a voice in the ear of young stars in the making. Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout had this to say about Pujols presence.

“He mentored me throughout my career so far,” Trout said. ”Everything you can accomplish on a baseball field, he’s done. I can go up to him and talk about anything. If I was struggling at the plate, he knows the perfect time to come up and throw something out. He has that feel. I can’t thank him enough. He was an unbelievable person and unbelievable friend to me.”

Don’t just take Trout’s word for it. How about Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner?

“Since Day 1, he’s had a huge impact on all of us in there,” said Turner. “Just his leadership, his experience, work ethic. And the way he goes about his business, he sets an example for everyone. I’ve said it probably 100 times, when you see him at the end of the dugout after a guy hits a homer, it’s almost like he’s more happy than the guy that hit the homer, just waiting to give you a big hug. He’s been great for everyone, and he just brings so much to this team.”

That is Albert Pujols and that is why St. Louis wanted him back. His signing for $2.5 million could easily be the steal of the season.


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Best All-Time St. Louis Cardinals USA Lineup

photo: Lou Brock

This last installment of the article series, the best lineup of hitters from the USA, features a good mix of players from the heyday of yesteryear and current/more recent St. Louis Cardinals players. Although I did not name a manager, Tony La Russa would receive the nod with the “Old Redhead” and Whitey tied for a close second.

This 24-man roster was very simple to create and although there is room for a differing opinion here and there, it stands on its own merits. The lineup does not feature a designated hitter; however, if I were to have one it would be Albert Pujols and he would bat in the five hole. (Though he was born in the Dominican Republic, Pujols was drafted as a US resident.)

The order of players is how I would write out my lineup card.

Lou Brock

Left field – Lou Brock

The trade commonly known as the worst in Chicago Cubs history brought Lou Brock to the Cardinals in 1964 and changed the course of baseball. At the time, it didn’t seem such a bad deal for Chicago since Ernie Broglio was an established 20-game winner and Brock was just another ballplayer. Cardinals manager Johnny Keane had always coveted Brock. On a plane ride from Los Angeles to Houston, general manager Bing Devine told Keane they had a chance to get the left fielder. Keane simply replied, “What are we waiting for?” Brock became the catalyst for three Cardinals World Series teams, winning in 1964 and 1967 before losing the 1968 Series to the Tigers. The Hall of Famer was one of the best when it came to the postseason. In 21 games, he had a slash line of .291/.424/.655 and stole 14 bases in 16 attempts.

Ozzie Smith (Getty Images)

Shortstop – Ozzie Smith

“The Wizard of Oz” and his traditional backflip will forever be remembered by St. Louis Cardinals fans. He’ll also be remembered for getting Cardinals’ broadcaster Jack Buck into a frenzy with his “Go crazy folks, go crazy!” call on Smith’s 1985 Game 5 NLCS walk-off home run. Cardinals’ fans can tell you exactly where they were at that moment and what they were doing when his ball went over the wall at Busch Stadium. The iconic Hall of Fame shortstop earned 13 consecutive Gold Gloves during his career, the most by any shortstop in baseball history.

Ken Boyer

Third base – Ken Boyer

Boyer, initially drafted as a pitcher, played 11 seasons for the Cardinals. Boyer became team captain in 1961. Three years later, he won the National League MVP Award and led the Cardinals to the 1964 World Series title. Boyer and his brother Clete, third baseman for the Yankees, became the first brothers to to play against each other in the World Series, play third base and hit a home run. The Alba, Missouri native and his seven brothers were all professional ballplayers and third basemen to boot. Ken, Clete and Cloyd all played at the major league level. Boyer managed the Cardinals from April 1978 to June 9, 1980 before being replaced by his former Mets coach and roommate Whitey Herzog. Following his passing from cancer in 1982, the Cardinals wore a black armband in remembrance of “The Captain” and fittingly enough won the 1982 World Series. Boyer’s number 14 was retired in 1984, so in 2014, he was honored as one of the inaugural inductees into the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame.

Stan Musial

First base – Stan Musial

Stan “The Man” is the epitome of St. Louis baseball. He set the standard by which all others are measured over the years. His backup at first base, Albert Pujols, would be in the argument had he not left for 10 seasons. It is unexpected that any Cardinal will ever play more games, have more hits, slug more doubles or hit more home runs than “The Man.” Next year will be 60 years since his retirement and no one has come close to touching his records. Need more be said?

Yadier Molina (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Catcher – Yadier Molina

The Cardinals have had some of the greatest catchers in baseball history but none are more well-rounded than Number 4, Yadier Molina. The current Cardinals backstop has been a consistent offensive machine. Of all the catchers in St. Louis baseball history, Yadi is first in nine of 15 offensive categories and second in the other six. As good as he is offensively, he is even better defensively. It’s his knowledge of both hitters and pitchers that sets him apart from nearly every catcher in baseball history. With Molina behind the dish, St. Louis wins 56% of the time. Only Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk has won more games as a catcher. Molina has received nine Gold Glove Awards and thrown out 40 percent of would-be base stealers. In all-time defensive WAR, he ranks 21st among catchers. Thirteen of the 20 ahead of him are in the Hall of Fame and it could be argued that Thurman Munson, Joe Mauer and Buster Posey should be there as well.

Frankie Frisch

Second base – Frankie Frisch

Like catcher and first base, this was a relatively easy selection. The “Fordham Flash” holds the top spot in nearly every offensive category for St. Louis second basemen over the years. He is one of the few players in baseball history to never play a day of minor league ball. Not only was Frisch a great ballplayer, he was a crafty manager as well. Frisch came to the Cardinals in exchange for player-manager Rogers Hornsby, who had just led St. Louis to its first World Series title in 1926. For a decade, Frisch manned the second base bag, and from 1933-1937, he was also the player-manager. At his retirement, he held the Cardinals record for most World Series at bats and games played.

Roger Maris

Right Field – Roger Maris

Roger Maris is possibly the only member of this lineup who deserves to be in the Hall of Fame but is not. Maris came to Cardinals following a solid six year stretch during which he was one of the best in the game despite playing next to Mickey Mantle. The right fielder was a seven-time All-Star, a two-time MVP and broke the single-season home run mark set by Babe Ruth. A relatively short 12-year career still produced Hall-worthy numbers. Let’s begin with back-to-back MVP awards in 1960 and 1961. Only 11 players in baseball history have won three or more and only 32 have ever won two or more. Of those 32, 24 are in the Hall of Fame and four are still actively playing. Of the remaining four, only A-Rod kept himself out while the rest all have credential worthy resumes. Maris played in seven World Series including 1967 and 1968 with the Cardinals. In just two seasons with the Redbirds, 54 percent of his hits produced a run batted in.

Willie McGee, 1983

Center field – Willie McGee

McGee burst on to the scene in 1982, bringing reminders of the Gas House Gang with his effervescent energy. McGee’s speed, bat and defense won the hearts of St. Louis fans and many a baseball game as well. McGee is the only player to win the National League batting title while playing in the American League after the Cardinals dealt him to Oakland at the trade deadline in 1990. Over his 13 years in St. Louis, he not only hit .294, legged out 255 doubles and stole 301 bases in 398 attempts but led the Cardinals to four World Series berths in six playoff appearances. A four-time All-Star, McGee earned three Gold Glove Awards, an MVP trophy and a batting title.

Bench – Red Schoendienst, Jose Oquendo, Jim Edmonds, Jack Rothrock, Whitey Kurowski, Albert Pujols, Ted Simmons

Starting Pitchers – Bob Gibson, Dizzy Dean, Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Jesse Haines

Bullpen – Bruce Sutter, Dennis Eckersley, Al Hrabosky

Prior articles in this series

St. Louis Cardinals All-Time All-World Lineup

St. Louis Cardinals All-Time Pennsylvania Lineup

St. Louis Cardinals All-Time California Lineup

St. Louis Cardinals All-Time Midwest Lineup

Top St. Louis Cardinals All-Time Lineup by State – New York and the East Coast

Top St. Louis Cardinals All-Time Lineup by State – Texas

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Memphis Redbirds Notebook – 2022 Week 11

2022 Prospect Guide now available

Now available, The Cardinal Nation 2022 Prospect Guide is back for a fifth year. It includes 276 pages of in-depth commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of color photos, scouting reports and much more.

Sale! Now through Father’s Day only, the spiral-bound version is 20% off!

Order TCN’s 2022 Cardinals Prospect Guide

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Follow Lou Roesch on Twitter @sportsguy409.

© 2022 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

St. Louis Cardinals All-Time All-World Lineup

photo: Yadier Molina and Albert Pujols (USA TODAY Sports)

Creating an all-time St. Louis Cardinals lineup from players born outside the 50 States was more challenging than one might imagine. Plenty of players have passed through the organization from various nations, yet most played similar positions.

Because of the challenges, this was also one the most enjoyable to research. It is also the first lineup featuring at least one currently active Cardinal.

The hardest decision in creating this lineup was who should be the catcher in the starting nine. Yadier Molina from Puerto Rico or Mike Gonzalez, who is considered one of the architects of modern Cuban baseball. Gonzalez won four World Series rings as a Cardinals catcher and coach. He also happened to be the third base coach when Enos Slaughter made his “Mad Dash” from first to score the game winning run in the 1946 World Series. So, who received the nod? Read on, find out and enjoy.

So Taguchi (Getty Images)

Left Field
So Taguchi – Japan
2002-2009

Not a prolific hitter. Not a swift base runner. Not even an above average fielder yet Taguchi managed to make his way to the big leagues because of determination and heart. Already a 10-year veteran of Japanese baseball, Taguchi was the Cardinals first foray into players outside of the Americas.

Taguchi had been expected to step right into being a major leaguer in the United States but the challenge was bigger than expected. He began at Double AA New Haven and worked his way through the minors from the spring of 2002 to the middle of 2004. Then nearing the age of 35, he finally stuck with St. Louis in mid-2004.

His impact play was especially felt in the postseason. Taguchi helped St.  Louis win two World Series titles. Less than a third of his hits went for extra bases yet this is where St. Louis fans remember him the most. Leading off the ninth in Game 2 of the 2006 League Championship Series, So’s home run gave St. Louis a lead it did not relinquish. In Game 5 of the ensuing World Series, Taguchi’s sacrifice set up the Cardinals first run, then a single in the fourth set up the tying run before he scored the game winner on a groundout by David Eckstein.

David Green (Getty Images)

Center Field
David Green – Nicaragua
1981-1984, 1987

David Green had a short time with St. Louis and in the majors but what he had was productive. The center fielder joined the Cardinals from the Milwaukee Brewers in a trade that sent future Hall of Famers Ted Simmons and Rollie Fingers along with the 1982 Cy Young winner Pete Vuckovich going the other way. Cardinals’ manager Whitey Herzog had insisted on Green being a part of the deal.

At the time, Green was considered Roberto Clemente-esque but never really panned out. The fleet-footed outfielder did play against the Brewers in the 1982 World Series, recording two extra base-hits in 10 plate appearances. His best season with Cardinals came in 1983 when he hit .284 with eight home runs, 10 triples, 39 RBI and 34 stolen bases. Spending five seasons in St. Louis, the center fielder hit a solid .273.

Green passed away this January 25th in St. Louis at the age of 61.

Right Field
Patsy Donovan – Ireland
1900-1903

Donovan spent four years in St. Louis on the back end of his 17-year playing career. Not once in his four years in St.  Louis did he fail to hit less than .300. Never known for his power, only 17 of his more than 600 hits for the Cardinals went for extra bases. An adept base stealer, he averaged 38 swipes a year for St. Louis including a league high 45 in 1900. Donovan still ranks in the top 35 all-time base stealers in baseball history.

In 1903, his final season as player-manager in St. Louis, Donovan was the National League’s highest paid player at $8,800 yet his team finished 46.5 games out of first place. Despite managing some of the worst team finishes ever, the Ireland native was considered a brilliant judge of talent. After leaving St. Louis, he eventually landed in Boston where he is credited with convincing Red Sox owner Joseph Lannin to purchase Babe Ruth from the then minor league Baltimore Orioles.

Albert Pujols (USA TODAY Sports Images)

First Base
Albert Pujols – Dominican Republic
2001-2011, 2022

The future Hall of Famer could have been named to three different positions on this list including left field and third base. That Pujols is only active player on any of the lineups posted thus far speaks to his incredible career. Drafted in the 13th round out of a Kansas City area junior college, the native of the Dominican Republic has become one of the greatest ballplayers in baseball history.

Pujols did everything asked of him in 2001 spring training camp, forcing the Cardinals to take him north for the season. The 21-year-old slugger set the baseball world on fire, hitting .329 on 194 hits including 37 home runs and 130 RBI.

His prodigious prowess continued over the next 11 seasons, putting him on track with Stan Musial as the greatest Cardinal of them all. During this span, he placed himself in the conversation of baseball legends. With the exception of triples, Pujols ranks in the Cardinals top five all-time producers in 10 major offensive categories. Five of the Cardinals all-time top 11 individual season performances in franchise history are owned by Albert Pujols. “The Machine” currently sits fifth on the all-time home run and doubles list, third in RBI and 15th in hits.

Depending how Pujols’ final season goes in 2022, he could very well end up even higher but nevertheless Cardinals fans will be booking their trip to Cooperstown for his induction ceremony in 2027.

Second base
Julian Javier – Dominican Republic
1960-1971

Known for his soft hands in the field and his bunting prowess at the plate, Javier had initially signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates for $500. Fortunately for the Cardinals, the Pirates had Bill Mazeroski as their second baseman. Because of that, the Pirates traded Javier to St. Louis on May 28, 1960.

The slick fielding second baseman had two hits in his major league debut on that same day. Although he hit only .237 in his first year, he was still named to the TOPPS 1960 All-Rookie team and firmly established himself as the starting second sacker for 12 seasons in a Redbirds uniform. Two solid seasons and a strong beginning to the 1963 season earned Javier his first All-Star Game berth, replacing the injured Mazeroski. His replacement nod gave the All-Star Game an All-Cardinals starting infield.

In three of his first four seasons, St. Louis’ second baseman finished first or second in sacrifice hits. Javier played in three World Series for the Cardinals, hitting .360 in the 1967 win over Boston and .333 in the seven-game loss to the Detroit Tigers.

Edgar Renteria (Getty Images)

Shortstop
Edgar Renteria – Columbia
1999-2004

Renteria arrived in St. Louis from the Marlins following the 1998 season. Already a proven All-Star and World Series hero, Renteria became a fixture at shortstop for the Redbirds for the next six seasons. In 2000, with the addition of second baseman Fernando Vina, they were one of the slickest keystone combinations in Redbirds history.

Renteria won Gold Gloves and Silver Slugger Awards in in back-to-back seasons not to mention that he was a three-time All-Star. The Cardinals shortstop enjoyed his best major league season in 2003 when hitting .330 while slapping 194 hits and driving home 100.  His RBI century mark was the first by a Cardinals shortstop in more than 100 years. Following the team’s 2004 World Series loss, Renteria signed with the 2004 baseball champion Boston Red Sox replacing fellow Columbian Orlando Cabrera.

Third Base
Placido Polanco – Dominican Republic
1998-2002

Polanco was one of the cornerstones of the St. Louis clubs in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Never a consistent starter, he was adept at all the infield positions making him invaluable before his trade to Philadelphia in 2002.

As a Cardinal, Polanco played 151 games at second, 248 games at third, another 121 games at shortstop and three innings at first base. Throughout his nearly five years with the Redbirds, he hit .295. In over 1,500 at bats, he struck out just 111 times. As dependable as he was to get a hit for Tony La Russa’s teams, he was just as flawless in the field, making just 28 miscues out of 1500-plus chances.

Not known for his power and thinking he had hit a double, Polanco slid in to second only to find out he had hit the first of his 104 career home runs. Speaking of home runs, he was the only player to pinch-hit for home run slugger Mark McGwire during his chase for immortality in 1998.

Yadier Molina (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Catcher
Yadier Molina – Puerto Rico
2004-2022

One can count the number of players in the history of major league baseball who are known by one name. “Yadi” is arguably the greatest catcher in the history of St. Louis baseballl. He is the only backstop in baseball history to catch 2,000 plus games with one club. Molina ranks in the top 70 catchers of all-time in assists, fielding percentage and double plays turned. It is little wonder that he ranks first among active catchers in assists, runners caught stealing and pickoffs.

The nine-time All-Star garnered nine Gold Gloves, including eight consecutive from 2008-2015. Only Hall of Fame catchers Johnny Bench (10) and Ivan Rodriguez (13) have more Gold Gloves. He has been the catalyst to 12 St. Louis playoff appearances in 17 seasons and two World Series titles in four tries. Add to the resume two silver medals in the World Baseball Classic with his home country and there is little reason to doubt that he has had a career worthy of first ballot Hall of Fame recognition.

Joaquin Andujar (Getty Images)

Pitcher
Joaquin Andujar – Dominican Republic
1981-1985

The “One Tough Dominican” established himself as one of the best Cardinals pitchers of all-time in 1982. After arriving in June 1981 via a trade with the Houston Astros, Andujar went 6-1 with a 3.47 ERA. It was a prelude of things to come. The right-hander quickly became the ace of the staff with not just his fiery disposition but by pitching winning baseball.

In 1982, Andujar finished 15-10 with a 2.47 ERA but it was his heroics in the World Series against the vaunted Milwaukee Brewers that solidified his place in Cardinals’ history. In Game 3, on the road in Milwaukee, he outdueled Brewers ace Pete Vuckovich by throwing 6 1/3 innings of three-hit scoreless baseball. The win sent his team back to St. Louis up 2-1 in the series. In the deciding Game 7, he once again bested the Brewers ace scattering seven hits over seven innings and allowing two earned.

For the series, Andujar threw 13 1/3 innings, surrendering just 10 hits and a walk while allowing just two earned runs. He was the last St. Louis Cardinals pitcher to have back-to-back 20-win seasons. Andujar passed away in 2015 at the age of 62.


Prior articles in this series

St. Louis Cardinals All-Time Pennsylvania Lineup

St. Louis Cardinals All-Time California Lineup

St. Louis Cardinals All-Time Midwest Lineup

Top St. Louis Cardinals All-Time Lineup by State – New York and the East Coast

Top St. Louis Cardinals All-Time Lineup by State – Texas

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Memphis Redbirds Notebook – 2022 Week 5


2022 Prospect Guide now available

Now available, The Cardinal Nation 2022 Prospect Guide is back for a fifth year. It includes 276 pages of in-depth commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of color photos, scouting reports and much more.

Order TCN’s 2022 Cardinals Prospect Guide


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© 2022 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

St. Louis Cardinals All-Time Pennsylvania Lineup

No St. Louis Cardinals lineup series would be complete without the inclusion of the team’s greatest player of all-time – and that led to the All-Cardinals Pennsylvania lineup. With 35 players hailing from The Keystone Stats to have played with St. Louis at one time or another, it made for some interesting decisions as to which players would be included.

Here are the final results.

First Base
Stan Musial – Donora, PA.

Simply known as Stan “The Man,” Musial was in a league of his own both on and off the field. His prowess on the diamond and character off made him one of the most beloved players in baseball history.

Signed as a left-handed pitcher in 1938 by the Cardinals, Musial injured his left shoulder diving for a batted ball thus changing the course of history. It was described that his batting stance and swing were all wrong, but he did everything right. Only twice in his first 12 seasons, beginning in 1942, did he hit below .320. He led the Cardinals to three World Series appearances and two titles from 1942-1944 before leaving to serve his nation in World War II.

In 1946, he returned to the Cardinals and helped them win their third World Series title in five years and he took home his second of three Most Valuable Player trophies. His final one camg in 1948, the year he missed the Triple Crown by one home run.

When Musial retired following the 1963 season, his 24 All-Star Game appearances were second only to Hank Aaron. He retired as the National League All-Time Hit King with 3,630 – exactly half at home and half on the road. At the time of his retirement, Stan “The Man” Musial held seven major league records and tied for 12 others including hits, total bases, and extra base-hits.

To this day nearly 60 years after he retired, Musial remains the Cardinals career leader in 10 offensive categories including hits, doubles, triples, home runs, RBI and a career batting average of .331.

Ton Herr

Second Base
Tommy Herr – Lancaster, PA

Herr made his mark on Cardinals baseball in the 1980’s. Undrafted out of high school in 1974 and no longer wanted by Duke University basketball, he accepted the Cardinals offer to play professional baseball.

Developing over the years from a natural right-handed hitter to a switch hitter proved valuable to both Herr and the Cardinals. By 1979, the second baseman had made his major league debut and just waited for an opportunity. The Cardinals opened the door in the 1980 offseason when they sent third baseman Ken Reitz to the Cubs and moved Ken Oberkfell from second to third. Herr played all 103 games of the strike shortened 1981 season batting .268 with 23 stolen bases.

In 10 seasons with St. Louis, the second baseman hit a solid .274 and helped lead the Cardinals to three World Series berths and a title in 1982. Herr was elected into the Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2020 and was inducted in 2021.

Whitey Kurowski

Third Base
Whitey Kurowski – Sinking Spring, PA

Born George John Kurowski, Whitey receievd his nickname from his premature white hair. Along with the white hair, he suffered and injury as a youth that required removing three inches of bone from his right arm. The injury kept most teams from taking a chance on the Sinking Spring native and worked to the Cardinals advantage.

Whitey arrived in St. Louis late in 1941 and by 1942 he and his minor league teammate Stan Musial would help turn the Cardinals into a World Series machine. The Cardinals won titles in 1942, 1944 and 1946. Kurowski put together his best season in 1947, hitting .310 with 27 home runs and driving home 104. He also drew 87 walks and scored 108 runs.

A lifetime .268 hitter, Kurowski finished in the top ten in the league in home runs every season from 1943-1947. From 1945 -1947, he remained one of the most consistent hitters in the National League finishing in the top ten each season in batting average, OBP, slugging percentage, total bases and RBI. The four-time All-Star twice led National League third basemen in fielding. Kurowski held the Cardinals record for most home runs (12) in a month for 50 years and a month before Mark McGwire broke it in September 1997.

Dick Groat

Shortstop
Dick Groat – Wilkinsburg, PA.

Groat spent just three seasons in St. Louis but what a stay it was. The MVP of the 1960 season arrived via a trade in 1962. Although Pittsburgh may have thought Groat was on the backside of his career, the rest of the National League found out he wasn’t.

In his first year in a Redbirds uniform, he finished fourth in hitting with a .319 average, smacked a league leading 43 doubles and was third in triples with 11. In 1964, Groat made his fourth All-Star appearance and led National League shortstops in assists and turning double plays all the while hitting .292 and helping the Cardinals to another World Series title.

During his three years in St. Louis, nearly a fourth of his 500-plus hits went for extra bases including 104 doubles. Groat is the only player to be inducted in both the college baseball and basketball hall of fames. His three seasons in St. Louis were so good that he was eventually elected to the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.

Left Field
Chick Fullis – Girardsville, PA.

Fullis arrived in St. Louis on June 16, 1934 via a trade for Kiddo Davis. It was the second time that the two had been traded for each other in barely 18 months. Fullis’ arrival took him from the last place Philadelphia Phillies to a Cardinals team in the thick of pennant race. The arrival also meant that Fullis would now be coming off the bench, as St. Louis already had Joe Medwick in left field.

The Cardinals eventually won the 1934 pennant and faced off against the Detroit Tigers. Fullis was a defensive replacement in Game 1 and recorded a hit. He got the start in Game 5 for Ernie Orsati and the usually surehanded outfielder committed two errors leading to a 3-1 loss.

With the Tigers one game away from a World Series title, St. Louis won Game 6 and set up redemption for Fullis. In the top of the sixth Medwick laced a triple off the centerfield wall. As he slid into third. an altercation ensued between Medwick and Tigers third baseman Marv Owen. Although peace was initially restored, Medwick was met by a barrage of food and trash thrown by fans when he went to left field for the top of the seventh. The trash barrage happened not once, not twice but three times forcing baseball commissioner Mountain Kennesaw Landis to remove him from the game. Enter Fullis who got a chance to redeem himself and not only played flawlessly but got another hit, ending the series with a .400 average.

Center Field
Red Murray – Arnot, PA.

Murray could play all three outfield positions as good as anyone. He patrolled left field for 128 games, center field for 99 and right field for another 95 games before being traded to the then New York Giants following the 1908 season. Recognized as one of the best of his era, Murray led all National League outfielders four times in a seven-season span in home runs, RBI, stolen bases and assists.

His best season in St. Louis was 1908 when he finished second in stolen bases and third in hits and home runs all the while hitting .282. The five-tool outfielder is one of only three players in baseball history to twice finish in the top five in home runs and stolen bases.

During his three seasons in St. Louis, Murray averaged nearly a hit per game with 331 base knocks in 332 games. He is credited with hitting the longest home run in Cardinals’ history at the time, a mammoth 471 foot shot in 1908 during the Deadball Era.

Ripper Collins

Right Field
Rip Collins – Altoona, PA.

Is there a better nickname for a hitter than the Ripper? Collins played both corner outfield positions early in his career until the Cardinals made way for him to take over the first base bag in 1933.

Collins was proof that one can achieve their dream if they are willing to work for it. He spent nine years bouncing around between professional baseball and coal mining in his hometown before making his major league debut in 1931. Collins’ career .307 average with St. Louis still has him 10th on the team’s all-time list. He is also in the Cardinals all-time top 10 in slugging and OPS. In 1934, he became the first switch hitter to hit 30 home runs in a season and tied Mel Ott for the home run title with 35. In addition to his 35 home runs, he smacked 40 doubles, 12 triples, knocked home 128 runners, and recorded the only 200-hit season of his career.

Catcher
Doc Marshall – Butler, PA.

Doc Marshall is another Cardinal who played in the Deadball Era. Marshall arrived in St. Louis on July 13, 1906. Although never a regular, Marshall did enjoy one of his finer seasons in St. Louis when he hit .276 in 39 games following the trade. His playing time increased to 84 games in 1907 but his average took a hit and by mid-season 1908 he was dealt to the Chicago Cubs.

As the Cardinals catcher in 1907, Marshall had the dubious distinction of leading the league in both assists and errors. During his playing time, he studied medicine and after his big-league career ended in 1909, he practiced medicine for 45 years in Clinton, Illinois, thus the nickname Doc.

Bill Sherdel

Pitcher
Bill Sherdel – McSherrytown, PA.

Before there was Dizzy Dean and Bob Gibson, there was Bill Sherdel. The left-hander toiled for the Cardinals in 14 of his 17 seasons in the big leagues.

He still ranks in the top 10 Cardinals all-time pitching categories for wins (153), games (465), games started (243), complete games (144), and innings pitched (2450.2) among others. He started four games in the 1926 and 1928 World Series combined but lost all four.

Bruce Sutter

Closer
Bruce Sutter – Lancaster, PA.

His bio on baseballhall.org begins with these words; “Bruce Sutter was on the fringes of professional baseball, a struggling minor league pitcher with an injured arm, until he received a gift that changed his life forever. He learned a new pitch, a split-fingered fastball.” The six-time All-Star mastered the pitch and became one of the most dominant closers in baseball history.

As a member of the Cardinals from 1981-1984, Sutter was perfect in 127 save opportunities. “Engine #42” recorded a career high 45 saves in 1984. In the 1982 World Series, he had a win and two saves in four appearances. Sutter’s number 42 is retired by the team (as part of MLB’s honoring Jackie Robinson).

Prior articles in this series

St. Louis Cardinals All-Time California Lineup

St. Louis Cardinals All-Time Midwest Lineup

Top St. Louis Cardinals All-Time Lineup by State – New York and the East Coast

Top St. Louis Cardinals All-Time Lineup by State – Texas


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Memphis Redbirds Notebook – 2022 Week 5


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St. Louis Cardinals All-Time California Lineup

photo: Keith Hernandez via Zoom (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Next up in the St. Louis Cardinals All-Time Lineup Series is the West Coast. Interestingly, the Cardinals have employed a plethora of players from California, so this is the Cardinals California lineup. With numerous players from just one state and some of the best during their time at a position made this one of the most difficult lineups to build.

For example, do you pick Mark McGwire or Keith Hernandez at first base or maybe Nippy Jones who batted fourth between Stan Musial and Enos Slaughter back in the mid 40’s? How do you choose the outfield when three of the best center fielders in team history came from California? Those and a multitude of other decisions based on research made this the most difficult lineup to create.

Here is what I have selected to be the best Cardinals lineup from the West Coast.

Bill Sarni

Catcher
Bill Sarni
Los Angeles, CA

Bill Sarni began his professional career at the age of 15 playing for his hometown Los Angeles Angels, then a farm team of the Chicago Cubs. In his first professional at bat, he hit a home run. Plucked off the Texas League Shreveport Sports in 1949, Sarni made his big-league debut with the in 1951. He became the Cardinals starting backstop in 1954, hitting an even .300 with nine long balls and 70 RBI. Defensively, he led the league in double plays started by a catcher. Throwing out 56 percent of would be base stealers that season, he finished third in the league. After an average season in 1955, Sarni started off the 1956 season strong hitting .291 through 43 games before being traded to the New York Giants in a nine-player deal. Over his five seasons in St. Louis, the backstop hit a solid .271.

Keith Hernandez (Getty Images)

First Base
Keith Hernandez
San Francisco, CA

Keith Hernandez continued a tradition of Cardinals first basemen that were great in the field and at the plate. Selected in the 42nd round of the 1972 draft, Hernandez was another late find by the Cardinals who turned into something great. With less than two full minor league seasons under his belt, Hernandez became a major leaguer to stay in late 1975. Although everyone knew he had a good bat, his glove earned him the title of baseball’s best defensive first basemen. From 1978 – 1988, he won 11 consecutive Gold Gloves with the first six while with St. Louis. Despite earning the MVP award in 1978 and leading St. Louis to the 1982 World Series title, off field issues led to his trade to the New York Mets in 1983.

Over his decade with the Cardinals, Hernandez had a career .299 average. He still ranks in the top 10 on the team all-time list in intentional walks and on base percentage. The left-handed hitter ranks third among St. Louis first basemen with a 34.4 WAR. Hernandez was inducted into the Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2021.

Fernando Vina (Getty Images)

Second Base
Fernando Vina
Sacramento, CA

It took a year to solidify the trade that brought Fernando Vina to St. Louis, but it was worth the wait. On December 15, 1999, he came to St. Louis and the rest as they say is history. During his five years manning the second base bag, Vina was a lead off hitter with speed and an ability to get on base. Arriving in St. Louis, Vina is reported to have said, “My plan is to get on base any way I can. This lineup is incredible … If I get on base, good things are going to happen.”  And they did.

His Cardinals debut included two singles, a triple, a run scored and an RBI. For the 2000 season, he batted .300 with an on-base percentage of .380 and 81 runs scored. His play in the field was just as good as he led all National League second basemen in fielding percentage. The 2001 season was even better when he batted .303 with 191 hits and 95 runs scored. During his four seasons in St. Louis, Vina led the Cardinals to three post season appearances, won two Gold Gloves and had 570 hits in 488 games.

Terry Pendleton

Third Base
Terry Pendleton
Los Angeles, CA

Terry Pendleton, whom one scout said was projected to be an average to below average Major League player, spent 13 years in the majors, lifting teams to the World Series five separate times. Raised initially in South Central Los Angeles, Pendleton spent his first seven years in the majors with St. Louis. The 179th pick of 1982 draft brought speed, power and defense to the lineup. A switch hitter, Pendleton became so good that after his playing days ended, he worked as a major league hitting coach and eventually the bench coach for the Atlanta Braves in their run to the World Series title in 2021. Not bad for a guy projected to be an average to below average major leaguer.

Royce Clayton

Shortstop
Royce Clayton
Burbank, CA

Royce Clayton was destined to become the successor to Ozzie Smith and on December 14, 1995, he became just that when he was acquired from the San Francisco Giants. In 1982, when Clayton was 12, his father took him to see Smith play for the Cardinals at Dodger Stadium.

“When we left the game that night, I told my dad I wanted to play shortstop like Ozzie,” Clayton said. “God blessed me. Now playing in the same uniform with him is like a dream.”

In 1996, Clayton supplanted Smith at shortstop, starting 111 games hitting .277 and stealing 33 bases. A year later, he led all National League shortstops in assists while hitting .266 with 39 doubles, 61 RBI and 31 stolen bases. Clayton helped lead St. Louis two postseason berths in his three seasons as a Redbird. Although they did not make to a World Series in either appearance, Clayton did his part, hitting .346 with four walks.

Ray Lankford (Getty Images)

Outfield
Ray Lankford
Los Angeles, CA

Lankford started and ended his career in St. Louis with a bang. In 1991, he became the Cardinals starting center fielder taking over for Willie McGee. In his first full season, he led the National League in triples (15), stolen bases (44) and runs scored (83). Lankford also was the first Cardinals rookie to hit for the cycle, completing the feat on September 15, 1991. He closed out his career at home October 3, 2004, with a pinch-hit home run in his final career plate appearance. No one in Cardinals history hit more home runs (123) at Busch Stadium than Ray Lankford nor has anyone posted more seasons of 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases. In addition to power, speed and plate discipline, the Los Angeles native was an above average fielder. In 1996, he committed just one error yet failed to win the Gold Glove. Eighteen years after the completion of his career, Lankford ranks in the all-time Cardinals top 10 in eight different categories including home runs, extra base hits, and walks. He also ranks 11th in two other categories. Lankford entered the Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2018.

Chick Hafey

Outfield
Chick Hafey
Berkeley, CA

Chick Hafey played more than 600 games in left field for the Cardinals during his eight-year stay. Becoming one of the best almost did not happen for the Berkeley native. When sinus issues began causing eye problems, Hafey had to decide between facing his fear of doctors and hospitals or not being able to play the game he loved. Hafey had the operation and went on to complete a Hall of Fame career. The bespectacled outfielder’s .326 batting average still ranks eighth among Cardinals all time. Of his 963 hits, 415 went for extra bases, placing him fourth on the Cardinals all-time slugging percentage list. Only pure home run hitters Mark McGwire, Albert Pujols and Johnny Mize rank ahead of him in that category 85 years after his retirement.

Willie McGee, 1983

Outfield
Willie McGee
San Francisco, CA

Decades after retiring, Willie McGee remains a fan favorite. The lanky outfielder was one of the game’s best hitters and fielders during his 13 years in St. Louis. As a rookie, he led the Cardinals to the 1982 World Series championship. McGee’s St. Louis playing story included three Gold Gloves, four All-Star Games, an MVP and two batting titles. It was his second batting title that was the stuff of legends. After he played 125 games for the basement dwelling Cardinals in 1987, St. Louis traded the National League’s leading hitter to the Oakland A’s. At season’s end, no one had caught his .335 NL average, making him the first player in history to win a batting title while playing in another league. That same season, he led the major leagues with a total of 199 hits. After his return to St. Louis in 1996, McGee completed 13 years in a Cardinals uniform with a .294 batting average. McGee remains in the top 10 on the team’s all-time list in singles, triples, and stolen bases. He was elected into the team’s Hall of Fame in 2014 and is a coach on the Cardinals staff today.

Ernie Broglio

Pitcher
Ernie Broglio
Berkeley, CA 

Ernie Broglio might never have been remembered had it not been for his trade from St. Louis to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Lou Brock. After graduating from El Cerrito High School in 1953, he began his professional career at age 17 with the Oakland A’s, then of the Pacific Coast League. Five years later the Giants traded Broglio to St. Louis. Becoming a starter in 1959, he went 70-55 over six seasons with the Cardinals, including a career best 21-9 and a 2.74 ERA in 1960. Three years later, in 1963, he was 18-8 with a 2.99 ERA. Arm trouble led to the trade to the Cubs and the eventual end of his career. Broglio, unlike many players, found joy in the trade. He told the San Jose Mercury just weeks before the Cubs won the 2016 World Series; “You live with it,” he said. “You go along with it. I mean, here you are 50-some years later after the trade and we’re talking. And I’m thinking, ‘What trade is going to be remembered for 50-something years?”


Prior articles in this series

St. Louis Cardinals All-Time Midwest Lineup

Top St. Louis Cardinals All-Time Lineup by State – New York and the East Coast

Top St. Louis Cardinals All-Time Lineup by State – Texas


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Cardinals 2022 Season-Opening Top Prospect Assignments


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St. Louis Cardinals All-Time Midwest Lineup

The St. Louis Cardinals All-Time Midwest Lineup was built a little bit differently from the other lineups in this series. This time the attempt was made to find a former or current Cardinal at each of the nine positions covering the 15 states that make up the Midwest.

This was much harder than anticipated due to the fact that so many Midwestern players – and good ones at that – played the same position. Two of the most notable to be excluded are second baseman Miller Huggins and pitcher Burleigh Grimes.

Here is the final lineup for the Midwest.

Leon Durham

Left field
Leon Durham – Cincinnati, OH

The 15th overall pick in the 1976 draft bookended his time in St. Louis around a strong career with the Chicago Cubs. Durham came out of Woodward High School in Cincinnati, OH and his major league debut came on May 27, 1980. His first big league hit was a single into center field also driving in the first run of his career. Over the course of 96 rookie games with the Cardinals at a variety of positions, Durham hit a solid .271 with 15 doubles and 42 RBI.

Whitey Herzog (Cardinals manager and GM) and Durham’s Triple-A manager Hal Lanier thought Durham could be another Dave Parker or Willie Stargell. Herzog wanted to trade St. Louis first baseman Keith Hernandez to the Chicago Cubs in the 1980-81 offseason but the Northsiders insisted it be Durham not Hernandez for future Hall of Fame reliever Bruce Sutter.

Bill Virdon

Center field
Bill Virdon – Hazel Park, MI

Originally drafted by the New York Yankees, the Hazel Park, Michigan native arrived in St. Louis via the trade route. The steady hitting, fleet footed, strong armed center fielder became one of the best for the next decade. In his first full season with the Cardinals, he was named the 1955 Rookie of the Year.

Technically, Virdon replaced Cardinals great Stan Musial in right field. Musial was to move to first base but instead manager Eddie Stanky shifted 1954 Rookie of the Year Wally Moon to right and Virdon took over in center. A slow start in 1956 got Virdon shipped off to Pittsburgh. The one-plus season Virdon played with “The Birds,” he hit .271 with 165 in 168 games.

Roger Maris

Right field
Roger Maris – Hibbing, MN

The man known most for hitting 61 in “’61” was an excellent if not great ballplayer. The right fielder played in seven World Series, won two American League MVP awards and a Gold Glove. A seven-time All-Star, Maris remains the all-time American League single season home run king.

As a member of the Cardinals, the right-fielder helped lead the St. Louis to the 1967 World Series title. It was perhaps the finest Series of his career. His performance in 1967 was overshadowed, yet it is the stuff upon which legends are built. Maris drove home both runs in the 2-1 Game 1 win against the Red Sox. In Game 3, his one-out hit in the sixth gave starter Nelson Briles all the cushion he needed to go the distance. In Game 4, the number three hitter in the lineup drove home Brock and Flood giving St. Louis and Gibson a lead they would never relinquish. In a Game 5 loss, he went 2-for-4 with a home run. Finally in Game 7 with the series tied three games apiece, Maris went 2-for-3 with a sacrifice fly. Overall, he hit .385 (10-26) with seven RBI in the 1967 World Series.

First base
Jim Bottomley – Oglesby, IL

“Sunny Jim” as he was known would probably still be smiling now knowing that after all this time he is still one of the greatest first basemen in St. Louis Cardinals history. Playing in the early heydays of the team, Bottomley might not have gotten his opportunity were it not for the keen baseball eye of a police officer who knew Branch Rickey. Rickey, then the general manager of the Cardinals, sent a scout to check out the 18-year-old prospect. After a brief tryout, Bottomley was signed, and by 1923, he became the Cardinals fixture at first base.

He played in four World Series and was on the first St. Louis Cardinals title championship team in 1926. In 1928, he became just the second member of the 20 (doubles) – 20 (triples) – 20 (home run) club. In the history of baseball, no one had more doubles than Bottomley in a 20-20-20 season (42) and only Willie Mays hit more home runs than his 31. Speaking of history, the 1928 NL MVP’s record of 12 RBI in a single game still stands almost 100 years later.

Second base
Red Schoendienst – Germantown, IL

Growing up in Illinois, all “Red” knew was baseball and amazingly, a staple to the eye only made him better. Beginning his career as a war-time replacement for future St. Louis icon Stan Musial, Schoendienst went on to wear a Cardinals uniform almost until to the day he passed away at the age of 95 in 2018.

Red was as surehanded fielder as they came (.983 fielding average) and a .283 hitter who was clutch over 19 big league seasons. After his playing days, he took to managing and until Tony La Russa came along, he was the organization’s winningest manager. The 10-time All-Star spent 67 years serving the Cardinals.

Scott Rolen (Getty Images)

Third base
Scott Rolen – Evansville, IN

Seven All-Star appearances, eight Gold Glove Awards, a Rookie of the Year Award, five postseason appearances, a World Series ring, (with a 1.213 OPS in that Series) and yet Rolen is still on the outside looking to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame. Though all of this did not occur whole he was as a member of the Cardinals, let’s talk about 2006 alone. Rolen hit .292, slugged 22 home runs and drove home 95 while leading the Cardinals to the World Series title.

The overall picture shows that Rolen was one of the best for St. Louis from 2002 through 2007 averaging 18 home runs, 75 RBI and a consistent .286 average. He was a five-time All-Star and won three Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger Award with St. Louis and entered the team Hall of Fame in 2019.

Shortstop
Daryl Spencer – Wichita, KS

Spencer began his 10-year MLB career in 1952 with the New York Giants and six years later, he hit the first home run in San Francisco Giants history. Spencer arrived in St. Louis in December 1959 after having been on the team’s radar ever since he played for the independent Pauls Valley Raiders in Oklahoma. At 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, Spencer was considered a power hitting shortstop and power was something the Cardinals desperately needed. The Wichita, Kansas native played the same position as his boyhood idol Marty Marion.

Spencer delivered for the Cardinals in 1960, hitting 16 home runs, finishing 10th in the league in on base percentage (.365), gathered 131 base knocks and produced a team-high 84 walks. Including the partial 1961 season, through 185 games with St. Louis, Spencer batted .257 with 20 home runs and 79 RBI. He had 164 hits, 104 walks and a .365 on-base percentage.

Catcher
Bob Uecker – Milwaukee, WI

The backstop was a Cardinal for just two seasons and known more for his defensive prowess than his bat. Behind the dish for more than 700 innings as a Cardinal, he committed just seven errors. Even though Uecker was a one-dimensional player, he managed to carve out a solid six-year career before moving to the broadcast booth where he has covered games for more than a half century as the voice of his hometown Brewers.

Pitcher
Bob Gibson – Omaha, NE

Just saying his name struck fear into the opposition. To say the right-hander was intimidating is an understatement. In part because of his domination, baseball lowered the mound. And even after that, Gibson won 19 or more games in three of the next four seasons. In 482 starts, he completed 255 games including 28 of 35 in 1968. Over a 13-year span from 1961-1974, he threw 200 plus innings 11 times. Between 1962 and 1972, he struck 200 plus batters a season nine times. Depending on the source, Gibson’s career WAR (Wins Above Replacement) ranks between 15th and 25th of the 1,000 hurlers listed. There’s not much else you can say about the Cardinals’ greatest pitcher of all time.

Next up: The West Coast All-Time Cardinals Lineup

Prior articles in this series

Top St. Louis Cardinals All-Time Lineup by State – New York and the East Coast

Top St. Louis Cardinals All-Time Lineup by State – Texas


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2022 Top St. Louis Cardinals Prospects – Behind the Numbers


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Top St. Louis Cardinals All-Time Lineup by State – New York and the East Coast

photo: Joe “Ducky” Medwick

Who are the best St. Louis Cardinals players to come from the Empire State and its coastal neighbors? Ducky, Frankie, Slick, Country, Lefty and more!



When one thinks of the East Coast, highly populous New York is one of the first states that comes to mind. One might guess that New York has produced more ballplayers then almost any other state and arguably, they could be right.

New York has produced over 1,200 players who made it to the big leagues. Try as I might I could not find enough former/current Cardinals players who qualify as being great enough to make an all-time lineup so I expanded the search to states that border the Atlantic Ocean. Here is a lineup derived from that research.

Left Field
Joe Medwick

Ducky Medwick

“Ducky” was not the nickname he preferred but it was the one that really stuck with this indelible member of the Gashouse Gang. Those Cardinals were a fiery bunch of hardnosed ball players and Medwick fit right in. As prolific a hitter as he was an antagonist, the Cateret, New Jersey native hit over .300 14 times in his career and won both the Most Valuable Player and Triple Crown titles in 1937.

His prowess at the plate, especially in 1937 when he crushed a National League high 37 home runs, caused him to earn another nickname, “Muscles,” which he much preferred. There is no doubt that the player known as much for his brawls (even with his teammates) was one of the all-time greats.

Medwick remains third all-time in Cardinals career average, one percentage point behind Johnny Mize.  His 11-year accomplishments with the team include placing fifth in doubles, seventh in triples and OPS and ninth in RBI. Ducky was inducted into Cooperstown in 1968 and was part of the inaugural class of the Cardinals team Hall of Fame.

Center Field
Andy Van Slyke

Andy Van Slyke

The former Cardinals center fielder once told St. Louis sports reporter Frank Cusumano that if he had been thinking on the field rather than playing on instinct, he would have been out of the game much earlier. That instinctive play helped him forge a 13-year MLB career.

The sixth pick in the 1983 draft recalled in a story for the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame how he got the news of his call-up to St. Louis.

“I remember (Louisville manager) Jim Fregosi called me into his office and sat me down, and he was shaking his head,” Van Slyke said, laughing. “He said, ‘I can’t believe it. For some reason, they want a .370 hitter in the big leagues.’”

A solid hitter in St. Louis, the man known as “Slick” became even more known for his accurate arm. In 1985 and 1986, he became a defensive force, throwing out 13 and 12 baserunners, respectively, trying to advance.

A native of Utica, New York, Van Slyke hit his first two career home runs at Shea Stadium in New York against his boyhood idol Tom Seaver. Van Slyke remains a fan favorite both in St. Louis and Pittsburgh, where he helped the Pirates to three straight National League East titles.

Right Field
Enos “Country” Slaughter

Slaughter’s mad dash from first that captured the 1946 World Series title immortalized him in baseball lore and embedded him in the hearts of Cardinals fans. His brash style of play helped him become an All-Star 10 times in 13 seasons with St. Louis.

Enos Slaughter’s Mad Dash

After three years of military service (1942-1945), he returned to lead the National League in games played (156) and RBI (130). Two years later, he hit a career high .321 and still finished 55 points behind Stan Musial, who won the title with a .376 average. A year later, Slaughter led the National League in triples.

For his career as a Redbird, the Roxville, North Carolina native hit .305 and grounded into just 115 double plays in more than 7,000 plate appearances. Number 9 was buried in his replica St. Louis uniform 11 years after the Cardinals retired his number forever. Slaughter was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985.

First Base
Bill White

Bill White

A pioneer who never planned to make baseball a career spent 51 seasons around the game including eight with the Cardinals. Arriving in 1959 to a city that was last in integrating seating at Busch Stadium and already with three first basemen, White appeared to be in a winless proposition. Instead, he moved to left field and was selected to his first All-Star Game.

By 1961, White was the Cardinals’ everyday first baseman, a position from which he would win six Gold Glove Awards. The Lakeland, Florida native was part of the all-Cardinal 1963 All-Star Game starting infield. Off the field following a 16-year career, White became the first African-American to broadcast Major League Baseball working for the New Yor Yankees. He also became the first president of the National League who also happened to be black. White was named to the Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2020.

Third Base
Joe Torre

Joe Torre

Has there been a better hot corner player for the Cardinals than Joe Torre? Defensively, probably but offensively not many could match him swing for swing. The Brooklyn born Torre offensively ranks in the top 10 best all-time players according to stats kept by MLB.com. His career WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 216 is tied with Willie Stargell. Before you question that placement, remember as of the end of the 2021 season, 19,969 players have appeared in at least one major league game. This makes Torre (who later had a Hall of Fame managerial career) better than 99 percent of anyone who has been a major leaguer.

Torre finished his career with nearly half of his 2,342 hits coming in six seasons with the Redbirds. His 1971 season was one of the finest in baseball history. Not only did he win the MVP award,  the Cardinals’ cleanup hitter led the National League in nearly every offensive category including batting average, hits, RBI and total bases. As prolific as he was with the bat, the nine-time All-Star was just as durable in the field missing just five games from 1969 through the 1971 season.

Torre later managed the Cardinals during some difficult times (1990-1993) for the club and joined the team Hall of Fame in 2016, two years after he entered Cooperstown.

Second Base
Frankie Frisch

Frankie Frisch

The “Fordham Flash,” also known as Frank Francis Frisch, was just the second position player to make the jump from college to the majors when he signed with the New York Giants in 1919. According to a 1980 article written by Sabr.org author Ted Ditullio, Frisch remained just one of eight position players who enjoyed at least a 10-year career without a day in the minors between 1900 and 1980. The slick fielding infielder from the Bronx went hitless in his first 10 plate appearances before stroking the first of his 2,880 hits against the Cincinnati Reds on August 14, 1919.

The Giants traded Frisch to St. Louis seven years later for Rogers Hornsby and Jimmy Ring, ironically the pitcher who gave up Frisch’s first big league hit. Frisch fit right in. Becoming player-manager in 1933, Frisch continued his sensational career in the field and then on the bench. His Cardinals won 458 games along with the 1934 World Series title. As a Cardinal, the 1947 Hall of Fame inductee amassed nearly 1600 hits, more than 280 doubles and his .312 batting average is eighth on the all-time Cardinals list.

Catcher
Ivey Wingo

Ivey Wingo

This may be the one person in the lineups that has you scratching your head and saying, “Who?” Wingo was at the beginning of a long line of great Cardinals backstops. Ironically enough, he was known as much for his bat as he was for his prowess behind the plate.

The Norcross, Georgia native joined the Cardinals in 1910 for the salary of $50 a month. Wingo became the Cardinals regular behind the dish in 1912, hitting a solid .265 but it was his strong arm that made people sit up and take notice. In 1913, the left-handed throwing backstop gunned down 92 baserunners in 98 games. For the 1914 Redbirds, he hit an even .300 for the only time in the majors.

By the end of his 17-year career with the Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds, Wingo had played more games behind home plate than anyone in baseball history and had thrown out 46% of would be base stealers.

Left-handed Pitcher
Steve Carlton

Steve Carlton

At 6-foot-4 and 201 pounds, future Hall of Fame pitcher Steve Carlton was perhaps as intimidating from the left side as his teammate Bob Gibson was from the right side. Together they formed a duo that helped the Cardinals to back-to-back World Series appearances in 1967 and 1968. “Lefty” was a three-time All-Star pitcher in his seven seasons with the Redbirds. Over that time, the Lakeland, Florida native won 10-plus games a year and struck out nearly 1,000 in the 1265 1/3 innings he logged for St. Louis.

Although his best years came with the Phillies after he left St. Louis due to a salary dispute, Carlton struck out a record setting 19 Mets on September 15, 1969 in a losing effort. That record stood for 17 years. Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson is the only other left-hander in baseball history to strike out 19 or more in a nine-inning game.

Right-handed Pitcher
Matt Morris

Matt Morris (Getty Images)

From 1997 to 2005, Matt Morris was the ace of the Cardinals pitching staff. Over that eight-year span, the Middletown, New York native won 101 of 206 starts with 62 losses and 44 no decisions. In 2001, Morris had a career high 22 wins, tying Arizona’s Curt Schilling for the most in MLB that year. For his efforts, the right-hander finished third in the Cy Young Award voting behind Schilling and his teammate Randy Johnson.

In postseason play, Morris wasn’t quite as effective, going just 2-6 with two no decisions in 10 starts. Morris pitched in the 2004 World Series coming up short in Game 2 against the Red Sox, who avenged their loss 37 years earlier to St. Louis and erased the “Curse of the Bambino“ from 1918.

Morris retired to Montana after 12 big league seasons and ranks 11th on the Cardinals all-time win list and sixth in strikeouts. In 2021 he coached the Belgrade Bandits All-Star team to the 12U Montana state Championship.

Next up: The Midwest All-time Cardinals Lineup

Prior article in this series

Top St. Louis Cardinals All-Time Lineup by State – Texas


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TCN 2022 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #8 – Michael McGreevy


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Top St. Louis Cardinals All-Time Lineup by State – Texas

photo: David Freese (USA TODAY Sports Images)

This is the first of a series highlighting the best St. Louis Cardinals lineups of all-time hailing from different parts of the country, starting with the State of Texas.

To date, Texas has produced 1,092 major league baseball players, 15 of whom are enshrined in Cooperstown, according to Baseball-Reference.com. Although the Cardinals made many draft picks of Texans, a relative few have made it to the majors with the club. This lineup, however, is focused on players who were born in Texas and eventually played with the Cardinals regardless of how they arrived into the organization.

Here are the Cardinals’ Texas best by position.

Lance Berkman (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Left Field
Lance Berkman

In the winter of 2010, the Cardinals made a surprise move with the addition of Lance Berkman. Some thought the signing of the 34-year-old Waco, TX native to fill a starting outfield spot was downright crazy. One reason why it was questioned was that Berkman had not played an inning in the outfield since 2004 and he came with two bad knees.

Many also thought the switch hitter was on the decline after he hit just .171 from the right side with one home run the previous year while moving from his long-time home in Houston to the Yankees. In 480-plus plate appearances, he batted a combined .248 with one home run and 14 RBI.

So what were the Cardinals thinking? Simply speaking, they had a guy who when healthy could hit for average and with good pop in his bat, not to mention another veteran to add to a contending roster. And they were right.

In 2011, Berkman hit .301, crushed 31 home runs, drove home 94 runs and was huge in the postseason, helping the Cardinals to the World Series title. Though his second campaign with St. Louis in 2012 was injury-plagued, Berkman’s contributions were crucial to the 2011 championship.

Jerry Mumphrey

Right Field
Jerry Mumphrey

Mumphrey was the fourth-round pick of the Cardinals in 1971. It took the Tyler, Texas native just three short years to make it to the big leagues. The fleet-footed outfielder made his major league debut the same night that Lou Brock broke the single season stolen base record, on September 10, 1974.

Originally a left fielder, Mumphrey was not going to replace the future Hall of Famer Brock, but he found another route to regular time. In 1976, due Bake McBride’s injuries, he became a fixture in center sandwiched between Brock and Willie Crawford. In his six seasons at Busch Stadium, Mumphrey hit a respectable .276 before being traded to Cleveland along with John Denny for Bobby Bonds.

Curt Flood

Center Field
Curt Flood

One of the most unheralded players to ever patrol center field, Flood is more remembered for his off-field stance that led to modern day free agency. Originally signed out of high school by the then Cincinnati Redlegs, he made his big-league debut on September 9, 1956 against the same club to which he would be traded in December 1958, St. Louis.

The Houston, Texas native spent 12 seasons with the Cardinals, helping lead them to three World Series, including wins in 1964 and 1967. Flood received seven Gold Gloves, earned three All-Star nods and batted over .300 six times. He is 13th on the all-time Cardinals batting average list at .293 for players with a 1,000 plus games in a St. Louis uniform.

Paul Goldschmidt

First Base
Paul Goldschmidt

Another December acquisition, this time in 2018, Goldschmidt arrived in St. Louis via a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Although it was well-known that Arizona was interested in dealing Goldschmidt, most thought he would end up in the Bronx as a New York Yankee or in Houston with his home-state Astros.

Dubbed “America’s First Baseman” because of both his character and his prowess on the baseball field, The Woodlands, Texas native has lived up to the billing in St. Louis. His arrival gave the Cardinals a truly consistent power hitting corner infield regular for the first time since Albert Pujols left.

Not counting the shortened the 2020 season, Goldschmidt has crushed 30 plus home runs and averaged 98 RBI since his arrival. He was the offensive catalyst if the franchise setting win streak in September. During the 17-game streak, he logged a .391 batting average, seven homers, eight doubles, 16 RBI, nine multi-hit games and an OPS of 1.317. The more Goldschmidt produces, the more he etches himself into Cardinals lore.

David Freese (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Third Base
David Freese

This may be the one guy that some would question as a true Texas native because he spent most of his life growing up in Wildwood, Missouri, just outside St. Louis. Freese, though, was born in Corpus Christi, Texas and thus for the intents of this article qualifies as a Texas native.

There is no doubt that Freese grew up a Cardinals fan and broke the hearts of Lone Star State fans in the 2011 World Series. Freese stole the spotlight when he hit his legendary two strike, two out triple in the bottom of the ninth to tie Game 6 and the walk-off with two strikes for the win.

His walk-off put him the Cardinals record book as one of just two Cardinals to hit a postseason walk-off in extra innings. Jim Edmonds was the other and coincidentally Freese was traded from San Diego to St. Louis for Edmonds. He became only the fifth player in Major League baseball to hit a walk-off in extra innings with his team facing post season elimination. He also set the MLB RBI postseason RBI record (21) in the bottom of the first in Game 7. During his five plus years with St. Louis, Freese hit a solid .286 with a .960 fielding percentage.

Rogers Hornsby

Second Base
Rogers Hornsby

One day, the number “4” will hang among the retired numbers at Busch Stadium, but the name under it won’t be arguably the greatest right-handed hitter in baseball history. Tempestuous and fiery infielder Rogers Hornsby won seven batting titles (six consecutive) and batted over .400 three times. Born in Winters, Texas, “The Rajah” was one of the youngest players in baseball history when he broke in with the Cardinals at the age of 19. Despite going hitless in his first six at bats, Hornsby went on to post a lifetime average of .358, second only all-time to Ty Cobb.

Hornsby’s first Triple Crown in 1922 showcased his hitting prowess. His .401 batting average was almost 50 percentage points higher than the second-place finisher; his 42 home runs were 16 more than anyone else; his 152 RBI led the league by 20; his 250 hits topped the league by 35; his 450 total bases were 136 more than any other; and his .722 slugging percentage led the league by 150 points. As a player-manager, Hornsby led the Cardinals to their first and his only World Series title in 1926.

In fairness, Hornsby has already received retired number recognition by the Cardinals, but because players in his era did not regularly wear uniform numbers, no specific digit is associated with his recognition.

Garry Templeton

Shortstop
Garry Templeton

Templeton, selected by the Cardinals in the first round of the 1974 draft, seemed destined for greatness. After turning down a football scholarship offer from UCLA, the Lockney, Texas native followed his dream based upon advice from his father who had played in the Negro Leagues.

The Cardinals decided the natural right-handed hitter with exceptional speed should become a switch hitter. It was a move that would put Templeton into the major league records book in 1979 when he became the first player to collect 100 hits from both sides of the dish.

His irascible behavior led to him being traded after the 1981 season for future Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith. Templeton left St. Louis with a .305 batting average through six seasons, stealing 138 bases and scoring 443 runs. Ironically, these two of the best shortstops to wear a Cardinals uniform both wore number 1.

Gus Mancuso

Catcher
Gus Mancuso

A traveling back-up catcher for many years, Mancuso caught five Hall of Fame pitchers throughout his career including St. Louis pitchers Dizzy Dean and Grover Cleveland Alexander. The Galveston native began his professional career by signing with a St. Louis farm team, the Houston Buffaloes in 1924.

Perhaps Mancuso’s best season came in 1930 when he hit .366 with an OPS of .965 filling in for the Cardinals starting catcher Jimmie Wilson helping them reach the 1929 World Series. It was the first of five World Series in which he would play. Mancuso garnered the Cardinals first hit of the series and scored their first run as he caught the opening two games before Wilson returned. Philadelphia won the 1930 title but Mancuso and the Cardinals returned and won the 1931 series over the A’s. Mancuso left St. Louis after the 1932 season. Nine seasons later, he returned to the Cardinals as a backup, capping six years in a Redbirds uniform out of a 17-year big league career. Mancuso spent 36 years in baseball as player, coach and minor league manager.

In 1951, he joined legendary Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Caray in the Cardinals broadcast booth. After the Budweiser bought the Cardinals in 1954, Mancuso was replaced by future Hall of Famer broadcasters Jack Buck and Milo Hamilton. Mancuso returned to his native Texas and scouted for the Cardinals and the Colt .45’s.

Matt Carpenter (Jasen Vinlove/Imagn)

Bench
Matt Carpenter

Carpenter, the 13th round pick by the Cardinals in 2009, wore number 13 for 11 big league campaigns. It took just two minor league seasons for Carpenter to find his way to the big leagues. A natural third baseman, Carpenter learned to play second base and first with the same adeptness.

In 2013 as the Cardinals starting second baseman, Carpenter put together his finest season in St. Louis, hitting .318 and slugging 55 doubles, a franchise record for left-handed hitters. His total surpassed Cardinal great Stan Musial, who hit 53 in 1953. The Galveston, Texas native also led the majors with 63 multi-hit games, recorded a league high 126 runs scored and tied for the league lead in hits (199). His effort earned him a Silver Slugger Award, the first ever by a Cardinals second baseman.

Woody Williams (Getty Images)

Starting Pitcher
Woody Williams

Some may have done a double take when they read that best pitcher from Texas to ever throw for the Cardinals was Houston native Woody Williams. The right-hander was acquired in a surprise waiver wire deal in 2001 for fan favorite Ray Lankford. His arrival at Busch Stadium was circumspect at best considering he was 8-8 with a 4.97 ERA.

Pitching coach Dave Duncan though was able to work wonders with the 34-year-old as Williams went 7-1 with a 2.28 ERA, leading St. Louis to a second half record of 38-16 and a berth in the 2001 postseason. Williams four- year run in St. Louis was the best period of his career. The Cardinals hurler finished 45-22, 23 games over .500 with a respectable 3.53 ERA. In 2003, he posted a career best 18-9 earning the only All-Star appearance of his 15-year career.

Jordan Hicks (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

Bullpen
Jordan Hicks

Although many pitchers have come from Texas and pitched for the Cardinals, none have been more electric than Jordan Hicks. Able to consistently hit 100 mph-plus on the radar gun, the Houston native was sidelined by Tommy John surgery in 2019 and opted out of the 2020 season.

Hicks’ comeback in 2021 was limited to just 10 innings. The right-hander’s pick to be on this list is based more on potential than performance. Primarily a starter until he arrived at the big-league level, Hicks has averaged nearly a strikeout per inning in his relatively brief career.


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TCN 2022 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #16 – Luken Baker


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A St. Louis Cardinals Wish List for 2022

photo: Carlos Correa (Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports)

A month into the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) stalemate, Major League Baseball teams like the St. Louis Cardinals may be wondering when the 2022 baseball season will begin – but more importantly when teams will be able to resume their offseason roster moves.

For each club, the winter regenerates new hope in a successful upcoming campaign. For the Cardinals, the questions abound more with the pitching staff/rotation than anything else and even there the problems are not of a desperation mode. For perennially successful clubs like St. Louis, the wish list for each season is relatively short.

Here is one I have put together for the team as we close in on the end of 2021.

First and foremost, the team needs a healthy starting rotation. Can they count on Dakota Hudson, Miles Mikolas and Jack Flaherty becoming and staying healthy enough to put together a solid season in 2022? Can Adam Wainwright defy Father Time once again, and newly acquired Steven Matz pitch to his level in consecutive seasons? If the answer is yes, then there is no reason the Cardinals will not be at the top of the Central Division.

Since impressing in 2019, Flaherty, Hudson and Mikolas have combined for 42 starts and 211 innings pitched over the last two seasons. Before all three were bit by the injury bug, they had combined for 97 starts in 2019 alone, 555 innings worked, and almost a 3:1 ratio of strikeouts to walks.

Matz needs to continue his magic. The 30-year-old lefty has pitched 150 plus innings in three of the last four seasons bolstered by an average of 30 starts each year and a consistent strikeout to walk ratio of 3:1. He also just happens to be one the best groundball pitchers in the major leagues and with five Gold Glove winners on the Cardinal defense, he should only get better.

Steven Matz

Then there is Adam Wainwright, the ageless wonder who led St. Louis through their historic 17 game winning streak last September. He doesn’t throw the hardest or the fastest but like the legendary Greg Maddux he knows how to throw strikes. Can he do it one more time at age 40?

If these questions are answered in 2022 with a resounding yes, opponents will find the St. Louis rotation tough to deal with day in and day out.

If a healthy rotation is in place, the bullpen becomes Oliver Marmol’s next big worry. The new Cardinals skipper will have to determine how to teach Genesis Cabrera, Alex Reyes, Ryan Helsley and Jordan Hicks to pitch and not just throw. The first three have wickedly blazing arms that deal consistently in the 96 plus mile per hour range while Hicks can top 102. It’s a nice problem to have if they learn to consistently throw first pitch strikes and get a nice chase rate but to date they have not been unable to do that. In 2021, they were all outside the MLB average in both categories. This makes the second item on the wish list very obvious; a bullpen that can pitch with both speed and control.

Finally, the Cardinals need to address the number six position on the infield. After putting together a phenomenal 2018 season, shortstop Paul DeJong has not been able to get it together again. His downward slide has been almost as precipitous as former St. Louis star Matt Carpenter.

Trevor Story (USA TODAY Sports Images)

After DeJong hit less than .200 and was replaced by Edmundo Sosa in the latter stages of 2021, it stands to reason that Cardinals have seen enough to take the lineup in a different direction. Sosa’s versatility makes him the next Jose Oquendo to wear a Cardinals uniform but not the next starting shortstop, with free agents Trevor Story and Carlos Correa still out there. With the Cardinals having money to spend, both are worth every penny and would allow the Cardinals to be set at least for the next five seasons – not just at shortstop but as World Series contenders. In addition, the opportunity would still be there financially to lock up a young player like Tyler O’Neill without breaking the bank.

The St. Louis Cardinals are unlike many of the top tier teams in baseball. They don’t make a lot of big splashes but when they do, it turns out pretty well. A great example is the deal that brought first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to Busch Stadium. With him rumored to be going to the Houston Astros or the New York Yankees, the baseball world was surprised when the Cardinals pulled off the deal. Shortly thereafter, the perennial all-star signed a contract extension.

This example exemplifies how methodical the Cardinals are and why their wish list is never very long. The same holds true in preparation for the 2022 season. The list may be short and the run of excellence should continue.


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What all Cardinals Fans Should be Thankful for

photo: Bill DeWitt Jr. via Zoom (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

With the December 1 deadline nearing and a work stoppage looming on the horizon for Major League Baseball, there are plenty of reasons to be thankful for the baseball season that was. For St. Louis Cardinals baseball fans, that thankfulness should start with the organization’s ownership.

The Cardinals are arguably the most stable franchise in baseball because of its ownership. Throughout the last 68 years, the team has had just two ownership groups. Overlooked by many, strong, consistent and smart ownership is the foundation of success. Nowhere in baseball is there owners who have lived and breathed baseball from childhood.  Nowhere in baseball is there an ownership group that remembers what is to be a fan and how they savor the thrill of victory like in St. Louis. Nowhere is there an ownership group in baseball that lauds character more over winning and because of it the organization is a winner.

The William DeWitt Jr. family, as principal owners. have continued a winning tradition in St. Louis. Preceded by Gussie Busch, the Cardinals have had just two primary owners since 1953. Under that leadership, the Cardinals have enjoyed not just stability but some of the winningest baseball in the history of America’s pastime. Under their guidance, the Cardinals have won 5,762 games, second only to the New York Yankees.

The ownership under DeWitt Jr. has employed just four managers since 1996. Those managers’ teams have produced 12 division titles in 25 years and another six second place finishes with a total of 16 playoff appearances. Twelve times they have made it to the National League Championship Series and ultimately played in four World Series, winning two.  Add in the years under Busch and in 68 seasons the Cardinals have finished first or second 31 times. It is a record few can match.

Steady guidance and a sound plan have resulted in the Cardinals ability to obtain and maintain players of not just Hall of Fame caliber but of dedication and commitment to the organization and the city.

Matt Carpenter (Jasen Vinlove/Imagn)

Matt Carpenter, who announced his retirement just days ago, is the latest in a long line of players who have loved wearing the Cardinals uniform.  Although I have been critical of the team extending his contract, as a human being Carpenter has been a standout. His farewell to Cardinals fans was just an inkling of not only what baseball means to St. Louis but maybe more importantly what it means to be a player wearing the Birds on the Bat.

Carpenter is all over the record books offensively and even though his last couple of years were nothing to write home about, this is a person you would want to bring home to your parents. St. Louis seems to consistently find these kinds of men and gets rid of the ones who are not of the character and mold of what it means to be a Cardinal.

Finally, without this ownership, there would not have been the streak of 2021. Just as much as McGwire and Sosa caught baseball’s attention in 1998 so did the Cardinals 17-game winning streak. Not only did the run of winning baseball turn a left-for-dead team in early August into a playoff club but it reminded St. Louis fans of the history and legacy that is Cardinals baseball.  The longest streak in franchise history and nearly baseball history brought back memories of the 1964 season when St. Louis tracked down the Philadelphia Phillies to win the pennant and eventually the World Series. Dreams of that danced once more in St. Louis fans heads and turned the baseball world upside down.

The streak also reminds us of the 2011 World Series win over the Texas Rangers by a team that should have never been there but took advantage of a door opened by postseason expansion. Coincidentally, the 2011 Cardinals won as many games as this 2021 team and also finished second to Milwaukee.

2021 brought a complete organizational effort that created history. Without the in-season additions of unheralded pitchers Luis Garcia, T.J. McFarland, Wade LeBlanc, J.A. Happ, Jon Lester, where would the Cardinals have finished? Without the age defying play of Adam Wainwright and his catcher Yadier Molina, where would the Cardinals have ended?

Outfielder Tyler O’Neill crushed 11 home runs during the streak, second only to McGwire’s three September streaks of 1997 (15), 1998 (15) and 1999 (12). Another outfielder getting it done during the streak was Harrison Bader with 13 runs, 24 hits, 13 extra-base hits and 12 RBI. Those 17 consecutive wins gave the fans one more reason to love the 2021 Redbirds.

When you’re watching and waiting for the Cardinals to do something profound this offseason, just be thankful that strong, steady and smart ownership is at the helm. It is the key to a continued winning legacy.


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TCN 2022 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #47 – Freddy Pacheco


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Which Free Agent Shortstop Should the Cardinals Pursue?

photo: Carlos Correa (Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports)

Financial considerations aside, which free agent shortstop may be the best fit for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2022 and beyond?



The 2021-2022 Major League Baseball offseason with its plethora of free agent shortstops will provide baseball fans with a scintillating winter. A possible work stoppage notwithstanding, four of the most dynamic players to stand in the number six spot on the diamond should each garner a massive payday. Colorado’s Trevor Story, New York’s Javier Baez, Houston’s Carlos Correa and the Dodgers’ Corey Seager are waiting for the suitors to come calling.

Which one should the St. Louis Cardinals chase – if money was no consideration?

The Cardinals have employed their fair share of competent shortstops but have not had a great one since “The Wizard” (Ozzie Smith) called Busch Stadium home. Before that, one must go back to the heyday of the 1940’s with Marty “Mr. Shortstop” Marion to find the organization’s last true franchise shortstop.

The Cardinals thought they had developed the next big thing when they signed current shortstop Paul DeJong to a big contract extension in 2019. However, the incumbent has not lived up to his billing so the team must consider those on the market.

In a perfect world, the next shortstop in St. Louis would be a slick fielding, power hitting, high average, solid base stealing threat. Each of the available four have some but not all of the aforementioned traits. Here is the argument for each including my choice for the Cardinals infield.

Trevor Story

Trevor Story (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Since breaking into the majors in stunning fashion, Story has been one the bedrocks of the Colorado lineup (along with current Cardinal Nolan Arenado). And therein lies one of the arguments against Story. He plays in Colorado where the air is thin and the ball travels faster than a speeding bullet.

How would he perform away from Coors Field? Well, if Matt Holliday and Larry Walker are any indication, Story would hit quite well. The soon to be 29-year-old (Nov. 15) leads in nearly every offensive category of the four shortstops over the span of 2016-2021.

Following Fernando Tatis Jr., Story is the next best thing on the left side of the infield, leading the National League in double plays. His 14 errors could be a bit troubling to potential suitors. As for Cardinals fans, they have been intrigued with the possibility of reuniting third baseman Arenado with his former Colorado colleague. Although never confirmed, it was rumored at the trade deadline that Story was a deal pursued but did not work out for Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak.

Javier Baez

Javier Baez (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Mention Javy Baez and the words “inconsistently spectacular” come to mind. For a while, it was thought “El Mago” (The Magician) would be the cornerstone of the Chicago Cubs infield for years to come but that all changed with a slump followed by a midsummer trade in 2021.

Now Baez is a free agent of the New York Mets and the question is whether the Cardinals should be entertaining the thought of signing him as their long term answer in the middle infield.

One thing in his favor – okay two things – are his versatility and the pop in his bat. Baez can play second and third in addition to shortstop and is adept at all three. A strong .271 batting average coupled with nearly 30 home runs and 61 extra base hits almost makes you forget his downside. Troubling are his rate of errors and strikeout percentage. He was at the top of the list in miscues in 2021 with 24 errors offsetting his incredible range and powerful arm. His career WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is the second worst of the four free agents. Only Seager was worse and he played almost 30 fewer games then Baez. His proclivity to strike out at a 28 percent rate is the highest of the four.

If the Cardinals were to sign Baez, he would look good at the top of the lineup, but one has to wonder if the cost offsets the liabilities.

Corey Seager

Corey Seager (USA TODAY Sports Images)

The Dodgers shortstop might be better off staying right where he is – in Los Angeles. Having recently changed agents to join the Scott Boras Group, Seager’s numbers are strong in comparison to the other three top shortstop free agents. The best attributes of Seager are his fielding and his bat. Although his game appearances were limited to 95 in 2021, he still posted the second-best error to chances ratio of the four, ahead of both Baez and Story.

His batting average over the last five seasons is 19 points higher than Carlos Correa’s .276. Seager offers his next club an average of 20 home runs, 69 RBI and 53 extra base hits a season. His durability is the sticking point, as he played in less than 100 games in three of the last four seasons. Seager may be the cheapest of the four.

Carlos Correa

Carlos Correa (USA TODAY Sports Images)

This brings us to Carlos Correa. Arguably the most complete ballplayer of the four free agents, the Houston Astros would be foolish to let Correa walk. Correa led all shortstops with a defensive WAR of 7.2 in 2021 and third of all major leaguers including pitchers. In the history of baseball, his career defensive WAR of 11.1 ranks him 194th and climbing. Only Andrelton Simmons ranks higher on the list of active shortstops.

Correa’s 11 errors were the fewest of any of the four free agents though he handed the most chances. Over the past five seasons among the four, he ranks first in WAR and walks. With almost 400 fewer plate appearances, he still ranks second of the four in batting average, lowest strikeout percentage, and Runs Created.

The one knock against the 27-year-old is his durability. Prior to 2021, when Correa missed just 14 games, he had not played in more than 110 regular season games in each of the previous three campaigns. His range, arm strength, plate discipline and power should remind Cardinals fans of another great shortstop known simply as “The Wizard.” Oh, and by the way, Ozzie Smith is all-time leader in defensive WAR at 44.4.

The day Correa arrived on the major league scene in 2015 and having watched him ever since, I believe there is really nothing he cannot do. He has all the tools and the “It” factor when it comes to big moments. New manager Oliver Marmol’s job would be so much easier penciling the name “Correa” on a St. Louis lineup card every day.

Conclusion

It’s unfortunate that dollar signs have become so ridiculously extravagant, but that is the world in which baseball dwells in the 21st Century. If I am the Cardinals brass, I start my chase for a new shortstop with Carlos Correa. Technically speaking, he would be worth every penny a team offers and could become the franchise face much like Albert Pujols years ago.

In the right situation, the Cardinals are not averse to giving out big contracts and this is one contract (unlike Albert) in which most of the payoff would be in the player’s prime years. Offer Correa Francisco Lindor-type money – and the city, the fans and the team will reap the benefits for years to come.

As for the others, they are not in the same park.


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TCN’s 2021 Cardinals Minors Emerging Pitcher of the Year


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Cardinals Shouldn’t Forget Old-School in their Managerial Search

photo: Jose Oquendo and Tony La Russa (Scott Rovak/USA TODAY Sports)

With all the recent focus on the St. Louis Cardinals seeking a new manager who will align with the organization’s philosophical direction, Lou Roesch reminds us that the new man would be well served by some old school skills, too.

The St. Louis Cardinals are in the midst of a managerial search, a process both uncommon and stressful for diehard fans. By accounts, the list may be narrowed down to four or five candidates, with several current Cardinals coaches possibly in the lead.

Mike Shildt (USA TODAY Sports Images)

The new manager clearly needs to better align with the organization’s philosophical direction than did ousted skipper Mike Shildt. However, along with the new wave of managerial tools that must be in his box, the next manager would also be well served if he utilizes time-tested skills developed by a quartet of successful old school managers.

One thing about the Cardinals about which fans can rest easy is that the front office is diligent and thorough. There is no rush to hire which explains why managers in the organization exceed the average lifespan of most Major League managers. MLB managers as a whole come and go more often than not in less time than it takes to develop a player in the minor leagues. The longevity of a manager in Major League Baseball is currently 3.7 years, also very close to Shildt’s tenure.

Over the last 25 years, the Cardinals have been the exception to the rule, hiring just three managers. They seem to have a sense of hiring the right person at the right time. Prior to Shildt’s three plus seasons was Mike Matheny 5 ½ seasons at the helm. Tony La Russa was in the chair for 16 seasons.

In fact, since Whitey Herzog arrived at Busch Stadium in 1980, the Cardinals have had just seven managers and only Mike Jorgensen, who finished out the 1995 season for Joe Torre, lasted less than three seasons.

Compare that to the Pittsburgh Pirates. They have held managerial searches six times in the last 20 years alone. There seems little doubt that with their track record, the Cardinals front office will uncover another long-term manager. Rather than try to guess who St.  Louis might hire by name, the better question might be this: “What characteristics should the next manager have in his arsenal?”

Here is my wish list.

Whitey Herzog

First, I would like him to have the genius of Whitey Herzog. “Whitey Ball” as it was known was really a throwback to the Deadball Era of baseball. Before the longball became the thing that “chicks dig,” the strategy of baseball was to be fundamentally sound. You had to be able to run, throw and hit ’em where they ain’t. Herzog had the uncanny ability to not only accentuate his player’s strengths but to know the opportune moment to use those skills. His Cardinals teams were known for their ability to hit the ball into the gaps, excellence on the basepaths and clean fielding. That kind of approach is needed in the next manager.

Second, I want the combined brilliance of Earl Weaver and Sparky Anderson. Both were minds who knew how to create advantages both in the batter’s box and on the mound.

Earl Weaver as a Cardinal minor leaguer

Weaver, a St. Louis native and seven-year Cardinals minor leaguer, is credited with bringing pitching match-ups to the forefront of baseball. Prior to this, starters hurled nine innings on a regular basis. Seldom was there a call to the bullpen back in the day. It was pitch and pitch well or pitch and get knocked around. The mindset of a strong bullpen and the beginning of sabermetrics began with Weaver. The legendary Orioles manager had cards on every pitcher on his team and what they did against certain hitters as well as how his players performed against opposing pitchers. It was the beginning of the way we know modern baseball. He is also credited with the use of the radar gun to determine if his pitchers were beginning to lose it. Like Weaver, the next manager needs the foresight to find the next edge, whatever it may be.

Sparky Anderson (St. Petersburg, 1966)

The future Cardinals manager should also have Anderson’s uncanny ability to pull a pitcher at just the right moment. Though Sparky’s success began with Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine, he interned as a manager in the Cardinals farm system. Not many will remember “Captain Hook” removing a pitcher one pitch too late. After all, with relievers like Rob Dibble, Norm Charlton and Randy Myers in the bullpen, the decisions weren’t as difficult to make.

Like the current Cardinals, Anderson did not have great starting pitching. There wasn’t a Bob Gibson or a Sandy Koufax or a Randy Johnson in the Big Red Machine’s rotation that he could count on. Although today’s Cardinals hurlers include some good arms, they have no GREAT ones. However, they do have some pretty good options in the pen. The next manager needs to have the finesse of Sparky when it comes to managing a pitching staff.

Tony La Russa and George Kissell (AP photo)

Finally, I want the next Cardinals skipper to have the strategizing ability of Tony La Russa – relentless and intellectually risky. La Russa had these talents and its why his legacy can be measured in the Win column. Few are willing to take the risk of being different. For example, who thought it was a smart, tactical move to bat the pitcher eighth instead of the traditional ninth spot? La Russa did. Whoever thought that Dennis Eckersley would go from being a pretty good starter to being a lights out Hall of Fame closer? La Russa did. The next head man in the dugout in St. Louis needs to able to make these kinds of decisions.

Whoever John Mozeliak and his search team settle upon, he must be smart and intellectually risky in addition to being able to motivate, inspire and get the most out of each player. La Russa had some great players in St. Louis, and he melded those personalities into a single mission; Win and win now. Like La Russa, the next St. Louis manager has some great players to work with and it is time to create that “win and win now” attitude one more time.

La Russa wasn’t afraid to take a chance on a player. Albert Pujols was one  – having been drafted in the middle rounds and with limited minor league experience. But Albert did everything in 2001 spring training that La Russa asked and then some, allowing the Cardinals manager to take a chance. The calculated risk paid off in the emergence of one of the greatest players to ever wear the Birds on the Bat. The next manager needs to be willing to do the same – provide the moment for a younger player to take the place of an aging veteran without a second thought.

It’s never easy trying to locate the right man for the right job at the right moment, but the Cardinals are one of the teams that consistently are able to do just that. Finding a manager who checks all the boxes on this old-school wish list while possessing the new tools the organization desires won’t be easy, but if anyone can do it, it’s the St. Louis Cardinals.


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Appreciating Adam Wainwright

Cardinals Nation is in mourning. With one swing of the bat, Chris Taylor ended a frustrating and agonizing Wednesday night for the St. Louis Cardinals. The two-out walk-off on a two ball, one strike count provided the dramatic finish to secure a spot in baseball history.

For years to come, the National League version of the Bucky Dent home run will be etched in St. Louis memories. Given less then a two percent chance to make the playoffs back in early August, the Cardinals surged into a franchise record-setting finish to set-up what may be in hindsight the biggest moment in the 2021 postseason.

For all the nail biting and handwringing that came with the Dodgers/Cardinals Wild Card Game match-up, none of it would have been possible without the right arm of Adam Wainwright. His ability to take the ball and deliver down the stretch of the season set the tone for this Redbirds team. A look inside the numbers reveals just how dominating the 40-year-old was throughout the season.

Adam Wainwright

Wainwright arrived on the major league baseball scene on September 11, 2005. Never a hard thrower like some, his best fastball topped out in the 91 mile per hour range and even today rarely tops 90. The ace of the Cardinals staff is proud to be known as a pitcher and not just a thrower.

It is why in 2021, batters who hit .227 against him the first time through the order struggled to hit .188 against him the second and third times. He did it again in the Wild Card game against the Dodgers capping a 1-2-3 fifth with just 10 pitches.

Commenting on the game for The Athletic, Pittsburgh Pirates beat writer Rob Biertempfel may have summed up Wainwright’s performance the best.

“As Max Scherzer watched from the dugout, Adam Wainwright chugged along with a 1-2-3 fifth inning,” Biertempfel wrote. “Wainwright led the majors with three complete games this season and two last year. The biggest reason, of course, is that the dude flat-out knows how to pitch and often gets better as the game goes on.

“But some of it also is due to his status as a 16-year veteran and his mound savvy, which have earned him the trust of his manager and the right to work his way out of jams and deeper into games.

“What about tonight? With the score knotted at 1 and Wainwright at 83 pitches, manager Mike Shildt let his pitcher hit with a runner on first and two outs in the top of the sixth. Onward.”

It is what Wainwright has done best when his team needed him the most. Standing at 10-6 entering his start against the Pirates on August 11th and his team struggling to keep its head above water, Wainwright showed why he is the ace. The righty twired a complete game two-hit shutout and his team never looked back, closing the season winning 34 of their last 50 outings to make the playoffs.

The 40-year-old was nothing short of spectacular. Like a Greg Maddux of yesteryear, he won six of his last seven starts with two no decisions averaging seven plus innings per outing. He allowed a minuscule 16 earned runs for an ERA of 1.85. In the month of September alone, he was 4-0 with two no decisions going six innings in every start but one. His ERA stood at 2.73 and a WHIP of 1.18.

And before you say one month does not make a season, let’s look at those numbers as well. Wainwright finished 2021 with the third highest innings pitched in the majors at 206 1/3. In seven of the pitching categories tracked by Major League Baseball, he finished in the top 10. He was either first or second in games started, complete games, innings pitched and wins. His season ERA was 3.05 just one one-hundredth of a point out of the top ten. Not bad for a 40-year-old whom most thought was on the downhill side just a couple of years ago.

Cardinals fans may be mourning the Wild Card loss but joy comes in the morning. Wainwright will be back on the hill for St. Louis for a 17th season in 2022, looking to help create another memorable and magical season. And who knows? He just might have the Cy Young Award tucked in his back pocket.


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Cardinals 17-Game Win Streak Elicits Memories of 1964

Here in the final week of the 2021 baseball season, the St. Louis Cardinals completed the unthinkable. In eliminating the final contender for the second Wild Card spot, the Cincinnati Reds, the Cardinals reached the 2021 baseball playoffs after continuing to make franchise history with their 17th consecutive win, the clincher, on Tuesday.

No one except possibly the most diehard Cardinals fan might have thought that this was a real possibility on August 10th when the team was 56-56. Yet they are playing with the spirit of the 1964 Cardinals, leading some to wonder if this is the greatest playoff run in St. Louis history.

So how does this team compare to that World Champion?

In 1964, St. louis was counted out. Sitting in seventh place on July 24th with a record of 47-47, the Cardinals began their march to the pennant. On October 4th, the comeback was complete as they won 46 of their last 68 games.

On August 10th, the 2021 Cardinals were 8.5 games out of the second wild card spot. Their chances of making the playoffs were assessed to be 1.4% – not exactly hopeful. Since then, they have gone 32-14 with four games to play.

Streaks

After losing 9-1 at Philadelphia on July 24th to fall a game under .500, the 1964 Cardinals went on a six-game win streak to begin the chase. Ten games back of the National League leading Phillies, St. Louis won 19 of their next 29 to move eight games over .500 a month later. At the end of the season, they had gone 46-21 closing out, including winning eight of the last ten to finishing a game ahead of both the Phillies and the Cincinnati Reds.

If nothing else, the St. Louis Cardinals of 2021 are history makers, winning 17 in a row, which no other Cardinals team had ever done. What makes this more remarkable is the fact that on September 7th, they were 14.5 games out of first, one game over .500 and 3.5 games off the pace of the second wild card playoff spot.

Now on September 29th after a franchise record 17 consecutive wins, the Cardinals have the fourth best record in the National League. Much like the 1964 club, this team has climbed over the Phillies, Reds, Braves and Padres, all of which were ahead of them just 21 days ago.

Lineups

Curt Flood (AP photo)

The 1964 Cardinals, with an average age of 27, included a strong mix of veterans of and youngsters alike. Not only did they make one of the steals of all time in the Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio multi-player deal, but they had a young outfielder named Curt Flood, a young catcher named Tim McCarver and a couple of top veterans in Ken Boyer and Bill White – and that doesn’t even include the pitching staff.

The lineup produced a plus 63 in runs, hitting .281 over the final third of the season. Not a power-laden lineup, they hit just 48 home runs over the last 67 games. These Cardinals played Whiteyball before Whiteyball was a thing.

Don’t believe it? Look at the numbers. They hit .281 as a team over the last 60 plus games, were successful in 66% of their steal attempts, and blasted just 48 home runs in the run to the pennant. They made the most of their hits including a .301 average with runners in scoring position down the stretch.

In 2021, the Cardinals are also a solid collection of veterans and young players coming into their own. Not only do Nolan Arenado, Yadier Molina, and Paul Goldschmidt lead the way, but they have the emerging outfield of Tyler O’Neill, Dylan Carlson and Harrison Bader.

Carlson is the baby of the group and has delivered day in and day out. Offensively, he ranks in the top five in every category from games played to home runs and RBI. Every starter has hit at least 10 home runs this season. Three have hit 30 plus bombs.

One big difference between the Cardinals of 1964 and this 2021 edition is the latter’s use of every player. The 1964 team primarily featured the same lineup every day. Manager Mike Shildt utilizes everyone and young players like Edmundo Sosa and Lars Nootbaar are making the most of opportunities. Everyone is answering the call, especially over the last 17 games.

Pitching

Bob Gibson (AP photo)

Pitching is where the 1964 Cardinals shone brightest with three big horses in future Hall of Famer Bob Gibson, the youngster Ray Sadecki and the old warhorse Curt Simmons. Together they went 31-7 from July 24th to October 4th with 10 no decisions and 15 complete games. The bullpen was steady as can be, saving 21 of 26 opportunities, led by Barney Schultz with 12 saves.

Mike Maddux, pitching coach of the 2021 Cardinals, has worked magic with his team’s arms. Losing starters Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas and Dakota Hudson, Maddux has piecemealed a staff led by 40-year-old Adam Wainwright. The ageless right-hander at 17-7 with a 3.05 ERA is in the Cy Young Award discussion.

Trade deadline acquisitions Jon Lester and J.A. Happ who even this writer thought was not much of a pickup have helped steady the staff.  Lester has pitched five plus innings in nine of his 10 Cardinals starts. The lefty has allowed two runs or fewer in seven of those starts and the team has won six teams behind him. The first month after the Happ arrived in St. Louis, he had an ERA of 2.22, making Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak look like a trade genius.

The bullpen is where Maddux and Shildt have looked the best. The brain trust has not been afraid to make moves like taking then closer Alex Reyes with 27 saves and moving him to setup and turning over the reins to Giovanny Gallegos. It has worked wonders, much like a young Adam Wainwright did for the 83-win 2006 World Series champions when he moved into the closer role for injured Jason Isringhausen. Could history be about to repeat?

Game changers

Lou Brock

The game changer of the 1964 Cardinals occurred on June 16 when St. Louis general manager Bing Devine traded 18-game winner Ernie Broglio to the Chicago Cubs for outfielder Lou Brock. The 25-year-old with one year of minor league season under his belt came to the Cardinals hitting .251. The future Hall of Famer became the catalyst for a Cardinals team that went from 28-31 upon his arrival to 93-69 and World Series champion. Brock credits manager Johnny Keane with giving him the confidence to be himself.

Upon his reporting to St. Louis, Brock says Keane walked him out to left field and said; “It’s a big one and it’s all yours. If you can do what I think you can do, you ought to be able to play out here the rest of your life.”

Brock opened with his new team going 2-for-3 with two walks, a triple and a stolen base, the precursor to him hitting .348 and stealing 33 bases, giving the Cardinals the lift they needed.

If there is a game changer in 2021, it might just be right-handed pitcher Miles Mikolas. In his last two starts, Mikolas has gone 12 2/3 innings, surrendering just two runs on seven hits and two walks. Although those numbers are nice, the righty in his last outing versus Milwaukee got 13 of 21 outs via the grounder. With Mikolas in the playoff rotation, St.  Louis’ pitching staff is becoming scarier by the start.

Miles Mikolas

Final Analysis

Although I was only eight years old when the 1964 Cardinals team did the unthinkable, it’s the 2021 Cardinals that have now overshadowed that performance. Not only have they become hot offensively at the right time, the makeshift pitching staff stabilized and the bullpen has been lights out.

With Tuesday’s three home runs, the Cardinals have hit 50 (franchise record) dingers in September, two more than the 1964 team hit between July 24th and October 4th. It has been 134 years since the only other team in baseball history won their final 11 road games of the season. Now add the St. Louis Cardinals to that list as they join the 1887 Philadelphia Quakers in reaching that milestone.

It is no coincidence that this team has gone from a 1.4% chance of making the playoffs two months ago to now having a shot of winning their 12th World Series title. Not only are they historic, but they’re also good – very, very good.


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The Greatest Cardinals Lineup That Never Was

photo: Paul Molitor

For more than a half century, Major League Baseball has been holding its annual draft. Although you never know how players are going to pan out down the road, especially high schoolers, draft potential and develop potential. Enjoy the success it brings.

With the conclusion of the 2021 draft, pundits alike will be analyzing the class for years to come. Instead of joining the crowd, let’s take a look at the best players drafted and unsigned or passed on by St. Louis over the years and see what kind of starting lineup they could have fielded fantasy style. For the purpose of this article, I have chosen nine position players and, a left-handed and right-handed starter as well as a reliever. Here Is what an all-time greatest Cardinals lineup that never was might have looked like if these players across the last five decades had signed and worn the Birds on the Bat.

The corner positions on the infield are two of the most difficult to fill on a consistent basis. Maybe because the Cardinals have done so well at the corners, you can understand overlooking Frank Thomas “The Big Hurt” in the 1998 draft. The Cardinals passed on Thomas, choosing outfielder Paul Coleman with the fifth pick while the future Hall of Famer went to the White Sox as the very next selection.

Career: BA: .301, Hits: 2468, HR: 521, RBI: 1704, OPS: .974

Bill Madlock

At the hot corner, the Cardinals had a shot at four-time National League batting champion Bill Madlock in 1969. Nicknamed “Mad Dog,” he was as ferocious of a hitter as ever there was one. His four batting titles are second in the National League to Tony Gwynn’s eight since 1970. Picked out of Eisenhower High School in Decatur, Illinois, Madlock chose to not sign with the Cardinals and eventually became the property of the Washington Senators in June 1970 as a fifth-round pick. Imagine the protection he might have provided for Keith Hernandez in the lineup.

Career: BA: .305, Hits: 2008, HR: 163, RBI: 860, OBP: .365

Now for the double play combination. The Cardinals have featured some sick fielding duos at second base and shortstop but in our look at the Greatest Cardinals that never were Paul Molitor at second base and Bucky Dent at shortstop would have been a pretty good one-two punch up the middle.

Paul Molitor

Along with fellow Hall of Famer Robin Yount, Molitor saved the Brewers franchise in the 1980’s, turning the perennial cellar dwellers into a World Series competitor against the Cardinals in 1982. Appropriately nicknamed “The Ignitor”, the seven-time All-Star and 1993 World Series MVP owns the seventh longest all-time hit streak at 39 and at the age of 37 became the oldest player to record his first 100 RBI season.

The difference between the Cardinals signing Molitor, a 28th round pick in 1974, and the Milwaukee Brewers’ first round pick in 1977 was $6,000. The St. Paul, Minnesota native went to college and the Cardinals cashed out on a player who went on to earn more then $40 million dollars in his career

Career: BA: .306, Hits: 3319, RBI:1307, Runs Scored: 1782, Stolen Bases: 504

Bucky Dent

Dent was another one who got away. Drafted not once but twice by the Cardinals in a six-month window, the Georgia native opted instead to go to college. Had Dent signed with St. Louis, it is possible that Garry Templeton and Ozzie Smith – who like Dent has his own heroic playoff home run -might never have been Cardinals either.

Dent finished second in the 1974 American League Rookie of the Year voting as a member of the Chicago White Sox before being shipped to the New York Yankees three seasons later. The 1978 World Series MVP would eventually wear a St. Louis uniform albeit as the first base coach for Joe Torre from 1991 through 1994.

Career: BA: .247, Hits: 1114, OPS:  .618

The outfielders were a little harder to differentiate whom to choose and whom to leave off the list.

Lenny Randle

Missouri native Lenny Randle was the 10th round pick of the Cardinals in 1967. The outfielder chose instead to win a national title with the Arizona State Sun Devils before being drafted by the Washington Senators with the 10th overall pick in 1970. Although Randle was more of an infielder then an outfielder, it’s hard to overlook a career stained by one moment in time – the 1977 assault on his manager Frank Lucchesi. The blemish does not change the success he had a as a major leaguer, and the first to play professionally in Italy. If that wasn’t enough; how many players can claim to have been managed by four Hall of Famers and one in Billy Martin who may make it one day?

Career: BA: .257, Hits: 1016, HR: 27, OPS: .626

Greg Vaughn (Getty Images)

Greg Vaughn is one of those rare players whose name is called more than once as a draft selection. For the record, he was drafted five times between January 1984 when the Cardinals made him their fifth-round pick and June 1986 when he finally signed as a first-round pick with the Milwaukee Brewers on their second try. The leftfielder fashioned a 15-year career that included nearly 1500 hits, over 350 home runs and more than 1,000 RBI. He appeared in the 1998 World Series against the New York Yankees hitting just .133. A nice middle of the order bat, he averaged 23 home runs and 71 RBI a season.

In a little known fact, the then 38-year-old Vaughn came the closest in this group to actually play in the regular season for St. Louis. The outfielder finished his career in a failed attempt to make the 2004 Cardinals in spring training as a non-roster invitee and retired.

Career: BA: .242, Hits: 1475, HR: 355, RBI: 1072, OPS: .807

We round out the outfield with a player probably more familiar to today’s readers – Xavier Nady. The Cardinals made the North Carolina High School Player of the Year their fourth-round selection in the 1997 draft, but he chose to go west instead. Nady attended Cal Berkeley where he set the all-time Golden Bears and PAC-10 slugging percentage mark (.729) before the San Diego Padres claimed him with the 49th pick in the 2000 draft. He became the 18th player in baseball history to go straight to the big leagues without a day in the minors. Over his 12-year career, Nady played for 11 different teams.

Career: BA: .268, Hits: 797, HR: 104

The final position player to be named is catcher. Because of the Cardinals success at the backstop position, it was difficult to find one who they drafted and did not sign or passed on. The selection is a real stretch because he never spent a day catching in the major leagues.

The Cardinals selected six catchers in the 1970 draft but passed on a young one out of Cincinnati, Ohio named Dave Parker. “The Cobra” as he was affectionately known threw out 72 baserunners in his career as a right fielder. He was as lethal with his bat as he was with his arm, clubbing more than 300 career home runs and collecting over 2,700 hits in his career. Parker starred for the Pittsburgh Pirates for most of career becoming the first player in baseball history to average a million dollars a season by signing a $5 million, five-year contract in 1979.  The accolades are endless. Parker was a seven-time All-Star, a National League RBI King, two-time batting champion, National League MVP and two-time World Series champion. He eventually wore a Cardinals uniform albeit after his playing days were over, serving as hitting coach for Tony La Russa’s 1998 Redbirds.

Pitching staff:

Max Scherzer

Right-hander – What can you say about Max Scherzer that has not been said? He is arguably one of the best pitchers over the last 14 years, with his success culminating in a World Series title in 2019. A native of St. Louis and a graduate of the University of Missouri, the Cardinals chose him with pick number 1291 in round 43 of the 2003 draft.

The author of two no-hitters, three Cy Young Awards and two-time All-Star Game starter, Scherzer is an example of the Cardinals’ ability to find young talent before it has been fully developed. The newest Los Angeles Dodger may never wear “The Birds on the Bat” but is quickly writing his legacy for enshrinement in Cooperstown.

Career: Games Started: 387, W/L: 183-97, Innings Pitched: 2468.1, ERA: 3.19, WHIP: 1.09, K’s: 2931

Dan Plesac (MLB Network)

The left-hander spot on this list belongs to Crown Point High School Indiana graduate Dan Plesac.  The lefty began his career as a starter with a mid-90’s fastball and a slider to go with it before the Brewers converted him to a closer. Plesac averaged nearly a strikeout per inning pitched over his 18-year career. He was the last Phillies pitcher to take the mound at old Veterans Stadium, closing the park with a strikeout of Ryan Langerhaus on September 28, 2003. The three-time All-Star was as durable as they come, never having spent a day on the disabled list in his nearly two decades of major league baseball.

Career: Games: 1,064, W/L:  65-71, Innings Pitched: 1,071, ERA: 3.64, K’s: 1041, Saves: 158

Closer – Rob Dibble. One of the most feared pitchers coming out of the Cincinnati Reds bullpen, Dibble could have been the second coming of the “Mad Hungarian” had the 11th round pick of the 1982 draft signed with the Cardinals out of high school. The right-hander is just one of 94 pitchers in modern baseball history to record an immaculate inning – recording three strikeouts on nine pitches. He recorded 500 strikeouts in fewer innings (386) then anyone before him, a feat later broken by new Chicago White Sox closer Craig Kimbrel.

Career: Games: 385, W/L:  27-25, ERA: 2.98, WHIP: 1.19, K’s: 645, Saves: 89

Two other right-handers could be added to this list in Bryn Smith and Rick Aguilera. Both were high school draft picks by the Cardinals and did not sign but went on to impressive major league careers.

Lineup Pitching Staff
Lenny Randle – CF RHP – Max Scherzer
Paul Molitor – 2B LHP – Dan Plesac
Bill Madlock –  3B Closer – Rob Dibble
Frank Thomas – 1B
Dave Parker –  C
Greg Vaughn –  LF
Xavier Nady –  RF
Bucky Dent – SS

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Cardinals Historic Bloodlines Run Deeply

photo: Branch Rickey

Over time, multiple members of many families have been members of the St. Louis Cardinals organization. Lou Roesch recalls multiples.

The St. Louis Cardinals are a storied franchise – and like any other they have a legacy of players – some great and some not so great who passed through their annals of history. Over the decades, the Cardinals have employed some of the finest players to ever wear a uniform competing on the ball diamonds in and around St. Louis. More than 2,000 players have suited up for the organization since its inception in 1882 as the St. Louis Brown Stockings. Records for the early years are sketchy at best and as such we will pick up where the Cardinals began to flourish under the guidance of then-owner Sam Breadon and general manager Branch Rickey in the mid 1920’s. This article will provide insight into the assertion that baseball truly is a family sport by highlighting a variety of Cardinals’ players and their bloodlines in baseball.

Branch Rickey

Rickey’s legacy has now transcended generations. His son Branch Jr. spent many years as his father’s right-hand man and his grandson Branch Rickey III was the last president of the Pacific Coast League that ceased operation for 2021. Under his grandfather’s tutelage, the team gained three players in outfielders Wally Roettger and Chick Hafey and infielder Billy Southworth who had some pretty good baseball bloodlines.

Roettger spent the years 1927 through 1929 and again in 1931 with the Redbirds. Over that span, he hit .293 with more than half his 200 hits going for extra bases. The youngest of three brothers, the right-handed hitting Roettger had the first hit and scored the first run of the 1931 World Series.

The St. Louis native had two brothers involved with professional baseball. Roettger’s older brother Harold (Hal) was an executive assistant to Rickey for more then 20 years until his death in 1955. Oscar, the oldest of the three, appeared in 37 major league games for three different teams including the 1927 New York Yankees. He became more well known as the chief sales executive for Rawlings working into the mid 1980’s.

Chick Hafey

Baseball and Cardinals Hall of Famer Chick Hafey became the first player to wear glasses primarily due to double vision. For six of his seven years, he was a main figure in the St. Louis lineup. Rickey once said,” I always thought that if Hafey had been blessed with normal eyesight, he might have been the best right-handed hitter baseball had ever known. Hafey was selected to the National League’s first All-Star Game in 1933 and collected the first hit.

Hafey’s brother Albert and cousins Tom and Bud all played professional baseball. Albert never made it to the big show, but Tom and Bud did. Bud spent 12 years among four different teams even including a brief stint in the Cardinals minor league organization in 1936. Tom spent parts of two seasons in the majors debuting with the New York Giants in 1939.

Billy Southworth

The last of this trio, Billy Southworth, came to the Cardinals in 1926. A pretty darn good hitter, the infielder hit .345 in the 1926 World Series playing in all seven games. St. Louis saw Southworth as more then just a good ballplayer. They liked his leadership skills and eventually gave him the opportunity to manage the team. His first managing stint didn’t end well but the second time around his teams won three pennants and two World Series titles from 1940-1945. Southworth was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008 and is in the Cardinals Hall as well.

Southworth’s son Billy Jr. also played professionally as did cousin Bill Southworth. Although Billy Jr. did not make it to the majors like his father, he was a decorated bomber pilot during World War II. After playing at Webster Groves High School, cousin Bill reached the majors as a third baseman for the Milwaukee Braves in 1964. A right-handed hitter like the rest of the Southworth clan, he went 2 for 7 in his brief career with his one of his hits a two-run home run in his final game on October 4, 1964. At the age of 18, he was the youngest to homer in Braves history.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s, the Cardinals had at least three different baseball families run through the organization with strong baseball genes.

Hector Cruz

The Cruz family is possibly the most well-known of the three. Jose Cruz Sr., an undrafted free agent signed straight out of high school, reached the big leagues in 1970 with the Cardinals. Three years later, his brother Hector ascended to the Cardinals as well. Although in a limited capacity, brother Tommy also came to the bigs with the 1973 Cardinals, giving St. Louis all three Cruz brothers on the roster at the same time. Together the three brothers combined for 28 plus years of major league baseball experience. The Cruz lineage does not stop there as Jose Cruz Jr., son of the elder Cruz, enjoyed a 12-year major league career before becoming the head coach at Rice University in Houston, Texas. At Rice, Cruz coached his son Trei, who was selected in the third round of the 2020 MLB Draft.

Vic Davallio, known more to older Cardinals’ fans, was the epitome of premier pinch hitters. The outfielder arrived via trade in 1969 and instantly made his presence felt. In his first at-bat as a Cardinal, Davallio hit a three-run home run. Almost a month to the day of that home run, the native Venezuelan launched a grand slam to key another Cardinals win. After a solid 1969 season with the Cardinals, Davallio hit .310 as a pinch hitter, going 23-for-74, setting the record for pinch hits in a season. His older brother Pompeyo preceded him to the majors with the then-Cincinnati Redlegs.

Ed Spezio is another Cardinals ballplayer to have another generation follow him into professional baseball. Known as the “Joliet Jolter,” Spezio hit .205 during his five years with the Cardinals and earned World Series rings 1964 and 1967 as a spot player. On a side note after being traded to the expansion San Diego Padres, the third baseman had the first hit, first home run, and first run scored in team history.

Scott Spiezio (USA TODAY Sports)

Ed’s son Scott had a 12-year major league career primarily as a reserve player and pinch hitter. In 2006, Spezio signed a free agent minor league contract with the Cardinals and earned a roster spot coming out of spring training. Scott’s arrival in St. Louis gave the Cardinals their third father-son duo in team history.

In 2007, when the Cardinals presented their World Series rings, Ed was there to hand Scott his. They became the first father-son to earn a World Series ring with the same team.

The late 1970’s brought two more family bloodlines to the Cardinals in the person of Dane Iorg and Tommy Herr. Iorg came to the Cardinals in a trade that sent 1974 Rookie of the Year Bake McBride to the Philadelphia Phillies. Iorg played all four corner positions and was a valuable pinch-hitter for Whitey Herzog’s small-ball Redbirds. Iorg led the Cardinals in hits (9) and extra base-hits (5) in just 17 at bats in the 1982 World Series.

Iorg’s brother Garth also enjoyed a major league career and his other brother Lee reached the AAA level with the New York Mets. All three of Iorg’s sons played minor league baseball as well.

Ton Herr

Herr debuted with the Cardinals on August 13, 1979. The second baseman reached the 100 RBI plateau and was a National League All-Star in 1985. He played in three Fall Classics, winning it all in 1982. His sons Jordan and Aaron played minor league ball. Aaron competed one year for the Cardinals AA affiliate Springfield hitting .298. Jordan was chosen by the Chicago Cubs in the 41st round in the 2007 draft. Tommy was voted into the Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2020.

This article began with one of baseball’s most famous names in Branch Rickey and ends with one of the greatest Cardinals of them all – Red Schoendienst. The Germantown native spent 67 of his 76 years in baseball with St. Louis. His five brothers all played professional baseball, although none attained the Hall of Fame status of the “Old Redhead.” Red’s son Kevin played two seasons in the Chicago Cubs organization.

The names highlighted in the article are just a sample of those that have passed through St. Louis. Names like Schofield, Molina, Boyer, Drew, Tatis and even the DeWitt family who currently own the Cardinals, could have been included, among others. No matter who you root for, it is always exciting to remember when and where you first heard a name, especially when it brings back memories of years gone by.


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Cardinals Have a Buying and Selling History at the Deadline

photo: Matt Holliday (Scott Kane/USA TODAY Sports)

Over time, the St. Louis Cardinals have made a number of impactful trades at the deadline, sometimes as a buyer and other times as a seller.

With Major League Baseball’s trade deadline just three weeks away, fans and teams alike are trying to determine if their teams are pretenders or contenders. Should they buy all in or sell and begin preparing for next year is the big question. If they are all in, will it be a big splash or deal of lesser proportion?

The MLB trade deadline has been in effect since 1917, however most of us only know it in its latest form. Here is a quick history lesson before we review the St. Louis Cardinals history of wheeling and dealing at the deadline.

The initial 1917 deadline was put into place to try and curb the activities of two particular clubs; the vaunted New York Yankees and the then New York Giants. The idea was that the deadline would limit the financial advantage these two clubs had on smaller market teams especially as seasons came to a close. Ironically enough, the sale of Babe Ruth by the Red Sox to the Yankees for peanuts was the impetus behind the trade deadline initiative. The deadline became August 1st – the point from which no American League player could be traded until the end of the World Series.

The National League came onboard in 1923 and June 15th was set as the deadline date. This remained in effect until the end of the 1985 season when the Basic Agreement set the new date as July 31st. It also established a waiver system whereby a player could still be traded during the month of August. This Waiver Trade Clause was eliminated in 2019. Because of the shortened pandemic season in 2020, the deadline date was temporarily moved to August 31st to fit the shortened season.

As the trade deadline looms in 2021, I thought it might be interesting to revisit how the Cardinals have fared over the years with their maneuvering at this key moment.

Billy Southworth

Delving into the history books, the first deal I found that appears to mark the beginning of historic mid-season trades by the organization occurred in 1926. That year, Billy Southworth was enjoying his most productive season as a member of the New York Giants. However, Southworth’s style clashed with disciplinarian John McGraw so the manager sent “Billy The Kid” packing to St. Louis for outfielder Heinie Mueller.

As Southworth’s playing career waned in the late 1920’s, the Cardinals made him the manager of their Triple-A affiliate and two years later he became the player-manager of the Cardinals. That stint did not end well as personal travails sidelined him for a number of years. The organization gave him another shot at Triple-A before promoting to the bigs again as their skipper in 1940. From 1941 through 1945, the Cardinals never won fewer than 95 games under his leadership adding three National League pennants and two World Series titles to St. Louis’ baseball legacy.

At the 1930 trade deadline, the Cardinals acquired Burleigh Grimes from the Boston Braves. The trade proved crucial to their World Series title in 1931 as Grimes, the last of the spitballers, hurled 8 1/3 innings in Game 7 with a dislocated vertebrae to secure St. Louis’ second World Series title.

Wally Roettger arrived from the Cincinnati Reds at the 1931 trade deadline. Although primarily a platoon player, the outfielder hit .286 in the three games in which he appeared in the Fall Classic before the Reds repurchased him from the Cardinals in December of 1931.

Red Schoendienst

For the next 25 years, the Cardinals made relatively small deals here and there but in 1956 all that changed. General manager Frank “Trader” Lane dealt away one of their best and fan favorite players in Red Schoendienst in a nine-player deal with the San Francisco Giants. Al Dark, the big name coming the other way, hit .289 over three seasons but never lived up to what St. Louis expected when they sent the “Old Redhead” to the Giants.

Eight years after the Dark for Schoendienst deal, the Cardinals struck paydirt at the deadline in what is one of the most famous deals in baseball history – future Hall of Famer Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio in 1964. Although there were four other players involved in the deal, the two were the cornerstones.

Over the next decade plus, the Cardinals did not make much of a splash as wheelers and dealers at the trade deadline. Their most notable moves over that span sent outfielder Reggie Smith to the Dodgers in 1976 for three players and 1974 Rookie of the Year Bake McBride to the Phillies in 1977.

Four years later, in 1981, the Cardinals sent outfielder Tony Scott to the Houston Astros for right-hander Joaquin Andujar. The trade immediately paid dividends for the Redbirds as the “one tough Dominican” won Games 3 and 7 of the 1982 World Series over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Keith Hernandez (Getty Images)

The 1983 and 1984 trade deadline moves by the Cardinals sent away two cornerstones of the 1982 World Series club. First to go was first baseman and future Cardinals Hall of Famer Keith Hernandez to the New York Mets, followed by third baseman Ken Oberkfell to the Atlanta Braves the next July. None of the returning players panned out for the Cardinals organization.

Six years later, the Cardinals were selling again – another fan favorite in Willie McGee. Although the trade with Oakland occurred after the 1990 deadline, it is included because it opened the door for McGee to become the first and only player in baseball history to win the National League batting title while playing in the American League.

Mark McGwire (Getty Images)

It was seven more years before St. Louis made another big splash at the trade deadline leading to more World Series appearances and titles. The first brought Oakland slugger Mark McGwire to St. Louis in 1997. Although few expected it at the time, “Big Mac” became a franchise fixture and not just a mid-season rental. Third baseman Fernando Tatis arrived the following year. Will Clark came in 2000, Woody Williams in 2001 and Scott Rolen in 2002 before a period of trade deadline stability.

The next big splash occurred in 2009 when Matt Holliday arrived from Oakland in exchange for three players. The outfielder became a fan favorite on and off the field as the Cardinals had their own version of Murderers Row with Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman and Holliday batting 3-4-5.

The final big splash came in an eight-player trade deadline deal in 2011 that solidified St. Louis’ run to its 11th World Series title. Although it did not appear to be major at the time, the arrival of pitchers Edwin Jackson, Marc Rzepczynski, and Octavio Dotel from the Toronto Blue Jays paid off handsomely.

Tyler O’Neill (Jasen Vinlove/Imagn)

Not much has happened since, however some lesser trades at the deadline in recent years are starting to work out. Tyler O’Neill came over from Seattle in 2017 in exchange for pitcher Marco Gonzales. O’Neill is now the Cardinals clean-up hitter with over half of his hits going for extra bases. Others to keep an eye on are outfielders Jhon Torres and Justin Williams along with pitchers Genesis Cabrera and Seth Elledge.

Elledge arrived a year after O’Neill also coming from Seattle in 2018. The right-hander made his major league debut in 2020 with St. Louis and is working out of the bullpen intermittently again in 2021.

Torres is currently the leadoff hitter for High-A Peoria Chiefs hitting .271 with 15 doubles and 17 RBI. Acquired in a 2018 deadline deal with Cleveland, the 21-year-old is ranked no. 10 among the Cardinals top prospects according to The Cardinal Nation.

Williams and Cabrera, both part of the 2018 Tommy Pham deal with Tampa Bay, made the 2021 Opening Day roster. After an earlier trial with St. Louis, the outfielder is currently at Triple-A Memphis while Cabrera already has 40 appearances in 2021 as one of the top options out of the Cardinals’ pen.

With the trade deadline just weeks away, will the Cardinals be buyers or sellers? Will they make a big splash or engineer lesser trades that bring promise to the future? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure, the organization has not been afraid to pull the trigger when the right opportunity presents itself.


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Cardinals Draft Success in the 2000s

photo: Yadier Molina (Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports)

The foundation of the St. Louis Cardinals’ four World Series appearances this century came from their drafts.

With the addition of Albert Pujols in the 1999 draft, the St. Louis Cardinals had the first cornerstone piece in what became one of the most successful runs in the Major League Baseball history. No National League team won more games, appeared in more postseasons, had more consecutive League Championship appearances nor participated in more World Series between 2000 and 2020. Only two teams have won more Commissioner’s Trophies than the Redbirds since the turn of the century.

Yadier Molina joined the Cardinals organization as their fourth-round pick to begin the 2000’s.  The mainstay behind the plate has been a part of all four St. Louis World Series appearances since 2004.

Yadier Molina

Selected 72nd overall in the 2001 draft, Dan Haren arrived in time to pitch in the 2004 World Series. Utility man and a fan favorite Skip Schumaker was selected in 2001’s round five and spent eight seasons in a St. Louis uniform. He appeared in all seven games of the 2011 World Series.

Kyle McClellan, a St. Louis native, joined the Cardinals organization in 2002. His most successful season was 2011 when he was both a starter in place of the injured Adam Wainwright and then a reliever starting in August after the Cardinals acquired starter Edwin Jackson. In that latter role, McClellan logged more innings than any reliever in baseball while allowing just one run and helping the Cardinals into the postseason. A result of his career high in innings pitched, arm fatigue caused him to be left off the Divisional and World Series rosters.

In 2003, 11 of the Cardinals 47 picks made it to the majors -although not all with the hometown team. Chesterfield, Mo native Max Scherzer (currently one of MLB’s top pitchers) and Ian Kennedy were both selected by St. Louis but went on to college and were eventually drafted again by another organization. An anomaly also took place in 2003 as the Cardinals signed their first 10 picks with six making it to the big time, including three wearing the Birds on the Bat. Perhaps the most notable pick of 2003 was Iona College catcher Jason Motte in the 19th round. Later, Motte converted to pitching and he delivered a 42 save effort in 2012.

After an off year in 2004, the Cardinals added a stable of players in Colby Rasmus, Tyler Greene, Nick Stavinoha, Mitchell Boggs and Jaime Garcia in the 2005 draft.

A year later, right-handers Adam Ottavino and Chris Perez joined the mix along with Shane Robinson, John Jay, Allen Craig and high schooler Tommy Pham.

Matt Carpenter

The final three years of the opening decade of the 2000’s marked the addition of pitchers Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal. Add to that group Pete Kozma, Daniel Descalso, Matt Adams and Matt Carpenter, and the Cardinals built a foundation of players who provided key contributions in the success of the next decade of St. Louis baseball.

With that base in place, Cardinals scouts continued to deliver. They                 expanded and enhanced the franchise’s success over the next five years beginning with second baseman Kolten Wong in 2011. Over the next four years, the arms of Michael Wacha, Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty, Daniel Ponce de Leon, Jake Woodford and Jordan Hicks were added while the bats of Stephen Piscotty, Harrison Bader and Paul DeJong have all been integral to St. Louis’ continuing legacy.

Harrison Bader

Although not every player mentioned has had the same level of success at the major league level in the hometown uniform, the Cardinals have found ways to ways to bring out the best in each. They continue to grow a farm system that delivers time and again to a faithful following that knows when the Cardinals say, “Next man up,” it is going to be someone with talent and promise.


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Remembering Cardinals Drafts of the 1980’s and 1990’s

photo: Albert Pujols (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

The 1980’s and 1990’s were a couple of hit and miss decades for the St. Louis Cardinals. They made three World Series trips in the 1980’s yet registered only one playoff berth in the following decade. The drafts in those years took a decidedly different approach than the previous decade and a half. Whether that was reason for the rollercoaster ride or just the growing pains for the new century knocking at the door makes for interesting discussion.

Like most major league teams, the Cardinals changed their draft philosophy after 1980 and began building their teams of with more experienced and polished college players rather than the blue chip high school player who still needed raw talent development.

The beginning of the overall change in attitude concerning high school athletes in Major League Baseball began after high school draft picks peaked at 88 percent in the late 1960’s. By the mid-1980’s, high school draftees fell to about 30 percent. Once the Cardinals got onboard with this trend, the change of heart was even more drastic, ranging from the 1980 draft that consisted of 23 of 37 draft choices (62%) being high schoolers to just three of the 26 picks (12%) coming from the prep ranks in the 1984 draft. The subsequent four drafts stayed true to that form as St. Louis selected just 21 high school players from 1985 through 1988. Ironically enough, the organization closed out the decade with the same number of high school picks in 1989 at 23 as they began in the decade’s first draft.

Despite the drop in high school draft choices, the Cardinals remained consistent in finding late round diamond gems. In this two-decade span, 19 of the 58 players who were drafted, signed and made it to the major leagues came in the 10th round or later. They included right-handed pitcher Rick Aguilera, who was the Cardinals’ final pick in the 1980 draft at no. 804 in round 37 and a high schooler to boot. Interestingly enough, most of those picks were also pitchers, including right hander Danny Cox at pick number 319 in the 1981 draft, one year before they found outfielder and future team Hall of Famer Vince Coleman in round 10. The Cardinals also drafted future Nasty Boy Rob Dibble straight out of high school and Kevin Ward later in the same draft. Neither would sign with St. Louis; rather they re-entered the draft and were chosen again by different organizations before making it to the big leagues.

Vince Coleman, 1983 Macon Redbirds

In the 1983 and 1984 drafts, the Cardinals were at it again, finding John Costello in the 24th round of the former and a trio of players in 1984 beginning with lefty Greg Matthews in round 10, utility player Craig Wilson in round 20 and Jeff Fassero, in round 22. Although Fassero eventually pitched for St. Louis, it was a circuitous route taken as the White Sox plucked him from the Cardinals farm system in December 1989. He made it back to the Redbirds via a trade with the Chicago Cubs 13 years later.

Mike Perez showed up in round 12 of the 1986 draft and spent five years in a Redbirds uniform recording 20 saves out of the bullpen. Catcher Mike Difelice arrived in round 11 of the 1991 draft just ahead of right-handed pitcher John Frascatore at pick 623 in round 24. The very next year, “Lil Mac” Joe McEwing entered the Cardinals farm system as the 28th round pick. His subsequent arrival at the big-league level nearly coincided with “Big Mac,” Mark McGwire. For the 1999 season, Busch Stadium had Big Mac Land in the upper deck of left field for McGwire’s monumental blasts while McEwing had his own “Lil Mac Land” in the lower decks.

Randy Flores (St. Louis Cardinals)

A few years later brought the addition of high schooler Ryan Freel in round 13 and utilityman Placido Polanco in round 19 in 1994. Kerry Robinson, a St. Louis native and current Cardinals scout, came via the 34 round of the 1995 draft and current Director of Scouting left-hander Randy Flores arrived a year later in 1996. That same draft also produced current Cardinals base coach Stubby Clapp 15 rounds after Flores. Nothing much came of the late rounds in the 1997 and 1998 drafts, but in 1999 the Cardinals drafted the iconic Albert Pujols, who cemented himself in Cardinals history with a three home run performance in Game 3 of the 2011 World Series.

As successful as the Cardinals were with their late round picks, the 1980’s and 1990’s also produced a plethora of players before the 10th round that St. Louis fans remember far and wide. Names like Rickey Horton, Terry Pendleton, Todd Worrell, Tom Pagnozzi, Joe Magrane, Luis Alicea, Todd Zeile, Ray Lankford, John Mabry, Donovan Osborne, Dmitri Young, Alan Benes, Braden Looper, Rick Ankiel, J.D. Drew and Chris Duncan.

Albert Pujols (Peoria Chiefs)

A handful – including Flores and Pujols – were instrumental in the Cardinals reaching the World Series four times in the first 13 years of the 2000’s.

Regardless of the Cardinals draft philosophy, the scouts have done their job throughout the decades finding key players who could make a difference and become part of the Cardinals lore. In our final installment coming soon, we will take a look at St. Louis’ drafts in the 21st Century.


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Cardinals Scouting Paved the Way for First-Round Success

photo: Ted Simmons (Orlando Ramirez/Imagn)

Over the last half century plus, the St. Louis Cardinals have proven to be one of the most adept at finding players who rise to become key major leaguers, and in most instances do it with the Birds on the Bat logo emblazoned across their chest. In this series of articles, we will explore the Cardinals picks from each of the decades since Major League Baseball began their current draft process in 1965.

Finding potential is the easy part of the draft but turning that draft pick into a major leaguer is another case in and of itself. We begin this series by examining the Cardinals success at having done just that. with their first pick of nearly every draft over the last 56 years.

Before sabermetrics became in vogue in the early 2000’s, Major League Baseball teams had a legion of scouts across the nation looking for that one player who could make a difference at the highest level. It was an inexact science done in person without the benefit of technology. This is what helps make the Cardinals success so astounding since Major League Baseball first introduced the draft in 1965.

With the exception of two seasons, St. Louis has had least one draft pick in every opening round and in some cases multiple picks in the first round. Since it generally takes a first round pick an average of 4-6 years to reach the big show, we stopped our look with the 2017 draft. Although we won’t name every first-round pick, we will highlight the success the Cardinals have generated with first round picks over the years and a few of the less successful yet interesting choices.

Not every first rounder who makes it became known for his accomplishments.

In 1965, the Cardinals made Joe Difabio of Delta State University their first ever draft pick. Difabio had some iconic sports connections. His high school baseball coach was none other than Hubie Brown, the future NBA Hall of Fame basketball coach. In college, his pitching career reached new heights under the tutelage of “Boo” Ferriss.” For 2 1/2 seasons, Ferriss was one of the most dominant pitchers in the American League and in 1946 he beat Difabio’s future Cardinals team in Game 3 of the World Series. Despite all this, due to injury, Difabio would never pitch in a major league  game.

The Cardinals may have struck out on Difabio but they didn’t strike out on many future picks. In 1966, they drafted Leron Lee out of Grant High School in Sacramento, CA. Within three years, Lee made it to the outfield grass of Busch Stadium where he would begin fashioning an eight-year major league career with four different teams.

Ted Simmons

In 1967, the Cardinals made Ted Simmons their top pick. By the following September, he made his major league debut and in 1971 became the Cardinals regular backstop, a role would continue for more than a decade. Simmons became the first Cardinals draftee to make it to the Halls of Cooperstown with the Class of 2020.

Ed Kurpiel, the Cardinals’ first pick in the 1971 draft, made it to the majors for a brief stint with the 1974 Redbirds. His first night on the roster, “Fast Eddy” watched as St. Louis speedster Lou Brock stole his 105th base of the season, breaking the MLB single season stolen base record previously held by Maury Wills.

A first round pedigree does not necessarily mean the path to the top is any easier than for any other player. In 1973, the Cardinals chose third baseman Joe Edelen.  Edelen toiled in the minors for eight years before making his St. Louis debut on April 18, 1981.

Garry Templeton

In 1974, the Cardinals drafted a player who would be remembered more for his trade than for his bat and glove. Garry Templeton was the 13th overall selection and within two years, he had played his way onto St. Louis’ roster. By 1981, the shortstop became highest paid player in Redbirds history to that point and a year later, he was dealt to the San Diego Padres for “The Wizard” Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith.

Cardinals scouts continued to come through, as three of the final five draft choices to close out the decade of the 1970’s reached the big leagues. Leon Durham, Terry Kennedy and fan favorite Andy Van Slyke all made an opening day with St. Louis.

Of the 12 players drafted by the organization in the opening round during the 1980’s, six went on to enjoy big league careers that started with Redbirds while three others made their debuts in another uniform. More importantly for the Cardinals, all six including Cris Carpenter, Joe Magrane, Luis Alicea, Brian Jordan, Jim Lindeman and closer Todd Worrell would be key to the Cardinals future success.

With hindsight being 20-20, with a do over in the 1989 draft the Cards surely would have taken the “Big Hurt” Frank Thomas with the sixth pick and let their actual pick Paul Coleman drop to seventh and the Chicago White Sox.

Marty Keough (St. Louis Cardinals)

Not many teams can compete with the Cardinals first round draft success of the 1980’s but in the 1990’s they erased any doubt to how good the scouting department really was. Led by legends Marty Keough, Mike Roberts, and Fred McAlister, their hard work and attention to detail paid off as the team drafted one major leaguer after another, beginning with pitcher Donovan Osborne in 1990.

Over the next 19 picks in the decade, they added Aaron Holbert, Dmitri Young, Allen Watson, Brian Barber, Sean Lowe, Alan Benes, Matt Morris, Braeden Looper, Adam Kennedy, J.D. Drew, and Chris Duncan, all of whom reached the big-league roster. Pitcher Ben Diggins, selected 32nd in the 1998 draft made it to the bigs with Milwaukee and ironically his last outing in the majors was a loss to the very team that drafted him.

In total, 70 percent of the Cardinals first round picks in the 1990’s made it to the pinnacle of success for a ball player. That is higher than the major league average that lies somewhere between 60 and 65 percent depending on who you ask.

Lance Lynn (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Turning the page into a new century, draft picks proved how fickle potential can be. Following the success of the 1990’s, three straight number ones failed to make it to the big time at the beginning of the 2000’s. Eventually the tables turned, and the Cardinals ran off an impressive streak of 11 straight top draft choices ascending to the majors. Eight of them did not in a St. Louis uniform, including stalwarts Colby Rasmus, Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller.

As the second decade of the 2000’s began, Cardinals scouts continued to scour the fields of amateur play uncovering 11 more diamond gems between 2010 and 2017. Gone now may be the likes of Kolten Wong, Stephen Piscotty and Michael Wacha, but the Cardinals draft legacy continues to shine behind the bat of 2021 National League Rookie of the Year candidate Dylan Carlson and the pitching Jack Flaherty and Jake Woodford, among others.

Analytics will continue to refine the way scouts find and score prospects but the success of Cardinals scouts has proven them to consistently be some of the best in the business regardless of the method or measuring stick used. Since 1965, the Cardinals have selected and developed 51 of their 78 first round picks into productive major league players.

Of the 51 who made it, an amazing 84% debuted in a Cardinals uniform. Out of those 43 who reached MLB as a Cardinal, 17 called Busch Stadium home for five or more seasons. Simmons spent the most time of any Cardinals first rounder, logging 13 years behind the dish. 15 of the 51 enjoyed an MLB career that spanned a decade or more.

Today, the Cardinals have three of their former first round picks on their current 26-man roster. 11 of the 189 first round picks currently playing in the majors began as members of the St. Louis Cardinals big league club.

With scouting and developmental success like this, is it any wonder that the St. Louis Cardinals have remained one of the best all-time?

Next up: Cardinals Second Round Analysis


Exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation

Peoria Chiefs Notebook – 2021 Week 1


2021 Prospect Guide now available!

Now available, The Cardinal Nation 2021 Prospect Guide is back for a fourth year. It includes over 250 pages of in-depth commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of color photos.

TCN’s 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide – Now Available!


Not yet a member?

Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

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© 2021 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Cardinals Remain on the Path Branch Rickey Blazed

photo: Branch Rickey 

With Major League Baseball clubs having broken camp and moved north for the 2021 season, minor league baseball now prepares for its 2021 season. The minors, thanks in large part to the ingenuity, perseverance and diligence of Branch Rickey, are the usual pathway to a big-league career.

Baseball represents one of the hardest sports to progress from high school to the spotlight of success. Just one half of one percent of high schoolers drafted – or one out of every 200 – make it to The Show. A very few can accomplish it without a trip through the minor leagues.

The St. Louis Cardinals are a storied organization dating back to when baseball was played barehanded. Along the way, the franchise has evolved and morphed into a 21st Century leader on and off the diamond.  Between the lines, they consistently are a marquee attraction in part because of a great farm system – but did you know that they were the first to start the baseball farm system as we know it today?

Branch Rickey

Baseball has always had lower levels and teams independent of the major leagues. In the process that evolved through the late 1800’s and into the 20th Century, major league teams would sign a player, hope he develops, and then make a deal for him to play somewhere else.

In the early 1920’s, St. Louis Cardinals general manager Branch Rickey began implementing a plan that would change baseball history. Although Rickey had previously toyed with idea as the St. Louis Browns general manager, it was with the crosstown Cardinals where his idea came to life.  He believed the minors were the lifeline that smaller market teams needed to compete with the big clubs like the vaunted New York Yankees.

The idea for a developmental system was borne from the lack of honesty and integrity among independent minor league owners. They were more likely to sell a player to the highest bidder than to honor their deal with the team that originally had a player’s rights.

After his move to the Cardinals, Rickey received the go ahead from owner Sam Breadon to pursue his idea of a farm system to offset the advantage of bigger markets and to reduce the likelihood of losing potential stars.

The architect of the minors bought a 50 percent interest in the Fort Smith, Arkansas team, securing a spot for his first test case, Heinie Mueller, to begin his ascent to St. Louis. Shortly thereafter, the Cardinals brain trust added a minority interest in the Houston Buffaloes (eventually they would play a role in the Houston Colt-45’s and subsequent Houston Astros history.

With two rungs of the ladder complete, Rickey was set to add Memphis (which would come later) but unbeknownst to him, Breadon had struck a deal with the Syracuse owners and Memphis was scrapped for the moment.

The farm would eventually bring players like Dizzy Dean, Chick Hafey, and Joe Medwick among others to St. Louis, forming the cornerstone of the World Series-winning “Gashouse Gang.” Rickey’s creativity drew the wrath of commissioner Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis. Landis ruled with an iron fist and did not want to be upstaged by someone like the brash Branch Rickey.

Landis attempted to derail the plan but there was no stopping this train. By 1924, Rickey had gained controlling interest in both Houston and Syracuse. No longer did he need backroom handshakes and agreements.

Rickey’s innovation opened the door for stability and growth – not just for the Cardinals, but for major league baseball organizations as a whole. Without the minor leagues, St Louis may not have become synonymous with winning. Without the farm system there may never have been a Stan Musial, a Bob Gibson, a Steve Carlton, a Vince Coleman, an Albert Pujols or a Yadier Molina wearing the “Birds On The Bat” and most likely never 11 World Series titles, the second most in baseball history.

Branch Rickey

Rickey brought a pathway by which the Redbirds continue to grow and develop some of the best in baseball. Today the Cardinals have 263 players under contract including the 40-man roster. Of the 26-man active Cardinals roster, 14 are homegrown. That is 15, if you count Adam Wainwright, who was obtained in a deal while still a minor leaguer. It serves as a testimonial to Rickey’s vision of building a pipeline of development and success.

Even with baseball’s latest realignment of the minor leagues, the system created by Rickey continues paying dividends for the Cardinals, such as Dylan Carlson, a potential 2021 National League Rookie of the Year. Year in and year out, depending on who you ask, the Cardinals system ranks anywhere from the top 10 (as the pre-eminent deliberator Keith Law had them in 2020) to the bottom third where the website prospects1500.com has them in 2021. In The Cardinal Nation’s annual breakdown of how a half-dozen national analysts rank farm systems, St. Louis remains in the middle third. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the parameters by which they assess.

No matter how it is measured, Branch Rickey’s genius lives on.


Exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation

Cardinals Welcome 112 Players to Minor League Camp


2021 Prospect Guide now available!

Now available, The Cardinal Nation 2021 Prospect Guide is back for a fourth year. It includes over 250 pages of in-depth commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of color photos.

TCN’s 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide – Now Available!


Not yet a member?

Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

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© 2021 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhho

Are Matt Carpenter’s Cardinals Days Numbered?

photo: Matt Carpenter via Zoom (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Matt Carpenter’s time as member of the St. Louis Cardinals may be limited. His 2021 spring training camp has definitely not gone according to plan. If performance is the determining factor, the odds are not in his favor. This spring, Carpenter has not performed as he or the Cardinals expected. His productivity as an everyday regular and now as a role player off the bench appears to continuously trend downward.

Matt Carpenter

Over the course of the next week as the Cardinals prepare for their final cut to 26 players, they are going to have to make a tough decision. The organization must decide what is most important to this 2021 Cardinals team going forward. Is Matt Carpenter’s leadership and clubhouse presence more valuable or is his salary a bigger sticking point when it comes to the bottom line?

Here are four points to ponder.

Tommy Edman’s emergence

Edman has played well this spring. His performance at the plate has really made the decision of who mans the second base bag a fairly easy one for manager Mike Shildt. It had been thought that who covered the territory between first and second in the 2021 season might be up for grabs after Kolten Wong moved on to Milwaukee.

Tommy Edman

Carpenter, a former All-Star at second, came to camp hoping to show he still had what it takes to be an everyday player. He has not, but Edman has. The 25-year old switch hitter has nine more hits than Carpenter with only four more at bats. Among Cardinals this spring, Edman ranks in the top five in most offensive categories. He has shown, in limited action, an ability to finally hit right handed pitching with some consistency – something many thought might become the Cardinals’ primary reason for keeping Carpenter. It still might be.

Other bench options prevalent

Although Carpenter did not plan to come off the bench in 2021, it was presumed that if worse came to worse, he could be the left-handed bat off the bench – but an .041 spring batting average is not working in his favor.

Off-season signees Jose Rondon and Max Moroff have wielded healthy enough bats in the spring to help make Carpenter expendable. Combined, the duo is hitting .265 with six extra base hits, 10 walks and 10 RBI.

John Nogowski

If you thought Carpenter might do well enough to back up Paul Goldschmidt at first, think again. In fewer at bats then Carpenter, John Nogowski has a team leading 10 RBI and is in the top three of the club statistically in hits, walks and batting average. Plus, Nogowski may be able to play some outfield if need be.

Then throw into the mix two players who are out of options in Edmundo Sosa and Justin Williams. Out of options simply means that the team cannot assign them to the minors without them clearing waivers. Although being out of options is not a reason to make the club heading north, it can be an important tiebreaker. The risk and reward toward the youth and progress of these two may become a consideration for the Cardinals in light of Carpenter’s lack of performance.

Carpenter’s struggles

The Galveston, Texas native has been his own worst enemy this spring in terms of plate performance. In fact, his overall return since signing his most recent contract extension in April 2019 has been lacking. With a combined slash line over the last two seasons of .216/.332/.372 and his .041 average this spring, the question comes down to this – Is Matt Carpenter’s leadership and clubhouse presence worth $18.5 million if he isn’t producing on the field? There is no easy answer.

The former All-Star came to camp relishing the opportunity to prove he can do it again. When asked in late February about being a role player, Carpenter offered this reply;

“Well, I don’t know if it’s been established that I’m a part-time player just yet,” Carpenter said. “There is a lot of camp left. There’s a lot of season left. I’m going to go out and compete every day to be in our lineup. Who knows where that’s going to be? If I find a way in there, it could be at a different position. That’s my mentality this spring to go out and win a job.”

His willingness to play anywhere and do whatever has been asked of him has allowed the 399th pick of the 2009 MLB draft to have a fairly productive MLB career. That hasn’t changed. When Nolen Arenado was acquired by St. Louis last month, it meant Carpenter would no longer be in charge at the hot corner, where he had achieved All-Star honors previously. When Wong left, it opened the possibility for Carpenter to battle for the second base job with Edman. That battle never materialized. No one knows better than him how important his bat is to his future and the Cardinals success.

“That’s my mentality, take care of that first,” Carpenter said recently. “That’s my first and foremost mentality for this entire season. I know if I hit like I know I’m capable of, I’m going to help this team, plain and simple. I think we’re a better team if I’m swinging the bat like I know I can.”

The bat is not working for him this spring, as referenced by his 11 strikeouts in his 25 plate appearances. This makes the decision all the more difficult and painful. The expectation and hope has been that he would find the magic of 2018 when he crushed 36 home runs and earned that extension. His work in the offseason to return to his once characteristic control of the sticks and bat speed has not yet produced the desired results.

The final straw

Moving on from Carpenter and his $18.5 million 2021 salary makes financial sense. From a baseball standpoint, moving him out would open the door for a younger player. Carpenter, though, brings a depth of leadership like Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright that cannot be measured in dollars and cents. His presence brings a certain amount of respect to the game and doing things right.

Those two reasons alone make Carpenter a valuable commodity – one that just might be worth $18.5 million to a team expected to be in the hunt for another World Series title. However if the Cardinals choose to release Carpenter, they would still be on the hook for his 2021 salary minus the $570,500 (MLB minimum) another team would be required to pay if they picked him up. (There is also a $2 million 2022 buyout that will have to be paid regardless.)

Instead, the Cardinals could look to trade Carpenter, but there aren’t many clubs, if any, that would be willing to take on much of his salary. As a result, the Cardinals would likely be on the hook for a vast majority of his compensation – similar to the recent Dexter Fowler deal.

For an organization that has always treated its players like family, this presents an unenvious situation. Should he stay or should he go? That is the million dollar question – or 18 and a half million dollar question, if you will.

How can the Cardinals make the right decision for all concerned?


Exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation

Cardinals Drop 10 in Second Round of Spring Reductions


2021 Prospect Guide now available!

Now available, The Cardinal Nation 2021 Prospect Guide is back for a fourth year. It includes over 250 pages of in-depth commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of color photos.

TCN’s 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide – Now Available!


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Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

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© 2021 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Hicks “Feels Great” after First Outing Since 2019

photo: Jordan Hicks (Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports)

“I feel great!” (emphasis added). Three simple words made the day of St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Shildt the morning after reliever Jordan Hicks made his return to the mound on Sunday. One year, eight months and 17 days in the making, his first game appearance was nothing short of epic, but the fact he still felt good the day after was equally, if not more important.

Coming off recovery from Tommy John surgery, Hicks got in his one inning/25 pitches of scheduled work by facing just one batter during Sunday’s 7-5 loss to the New York Mets. The 22-pitch battle between Hicks and Mets infielder Luis Guillorme overshadowed everything else in baseball that afternoon. It was the stuff of which legends are created.

Shildt praised future Hall of Fame catcher Yadier Molina for coming out to the mound in the 13-14 pitch range to give the pitcher “a blow”. In doing so, it created a break as if between batters. The manager said Hicks’ outing “exceeded all expectations”.

Jordan Hicks

At 21 years of age, Hicks had made the jump from Class A to the Major Leagues in 2018 and struck out 70 in 77 2/3 innings as a rookie. In 2019, the right-hander dominated hitters with a 3.14 ERA and 14 saves, striking out 31 in 28 2/3 innings.

Then came the injury that sidelined the Houston, Texas native. Pitching to David Fletcher of the Angels on June 25, 2019, Jordan felt a twinge in his elbow. Originally diagnosed as triceps tendinitis, Hicks received a second and third opinion before finally succumbing to the knife.

Recovery for this type of surgery is usually in the range of 12-15 months but then came 2020 and Hicks’ decision to sit out the season. This decision was driven by Hicks’ Type 1 diabetes, increasing his COVID-19 risk.

The pandemic proved to be a blessing in disguise for the Cardinals and their hurler. The decision to sit out relieved the team and player of taking the risk to perhaps rush him back, a temptation to which many have fallen. It’s not the first time the organization has erred on the side of caution with their prized hurler. In 2015, just after drafting Hicks out of high school, the Cardinals shut him down for shoulder soreness and then again in 2016 so he could get a full Fall League experience. The moves paid off handsomely.

The future Cardinals closer hit the radar in the 100 mph range for the first time publicly during spring training 2018. Before the injury, Hicks became the first pitcher to reach 105 multiple times in the same game.

The flamethrower doused any doubts that he could again hit that range on Sunday with six pitches registering 100 plus. More impressive was his ability to throw all of his pitches effectively. You only had to watch what would have been a record setting battle had it occurred during the regular season to know that the converted minor league starter to prime time closer indeed appears to be back in fine form.

This is none too soon either for a Cardinals pitching staff that needs a pick me up. The Cardinals, with a team ERA of 5.40, a WHIP at 1.58 and rising, needed Sunday’s performance to jump start a spring that has been plagued with pitching adversity across the board.

Hicks is expected to be on a normal reliever schedule over the remainder of the spring, meaning we should expect an inning or so every three days with the time gap decreasing as the team draws closer to breaking camp.

Shildt said that closing opportunities to open the season may be spread among a group that includes Alex Reyes, Genesis Cabrera, Ryan Helsley, Giovanny Gallegos – and yes, Hicks seems ready to make his spots count, as well.


Exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation

Cardinals Make First Cuts of Spring 2021


2021 Prospect Guide now available!

Now available, The Cardinal Nation 2021 Prospect Guide is back for a fourth year. It includes over 250 pages of in-depth commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of color photos.

TCN’s 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide – Now Available!


Not yet a member?

Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

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© 2021 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.