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I had a bit of a tough time coming up with a personal favorite team. After all, I have many favorite Cardinals, and since the team has existed in its current form since 1892 there are a lot of Cardinals to choose from. Just sticking with HOF players would make a very formidable team.
So I had to find a way to make the choices more manageable. Here's my idea: my Dad took me to my first Cardinal game on August 28, 1977, a most memorable day. So, my All-Star team will include only those players I've actually seen play. The good news is that lets me include my favorite childhood Cardinal on the team if I so choose (Lou Brock). The bad news is it excluded the 'patron saint' of this site. In everyone's life a little rain must fall. So, here we go:
First Baseman - Not as much of a no-brainer as I thought. Jack Clark was the power anchor of the mid-80s championship Cardinals teams. Pedro Guerrero was always a dangerous hitter, even at the end of his career. Mark McGwire was the heart of the order for years and a deft touch at first. But in the end, there can be only one. Pick: Albert Pujols. Do I need to explain why? Honorable Mention: Jack Clark, Mark McGwire.
Second Baseman - Given the current rotating door of guys playing the position (Adam Kennedy, if he is the opening day starter, will be the first guy since Vina to start at second two consecutive years), the field is sparse. So I went with an old favorite - a guy who was a leader in the clubhouse, an All-Star in 1985, one of the rare birds that drove in over 100 runs while hitting less than 10 home runs. Pick: Tommy Herr. Honorable Mention: None.
Shortstop - Another position with several good candidates (Renteria, Templeton, Eckstein). But one candidate stands out - 15 time all-star, 13 time gold glove winner, author of one of the most dramatic HR's you'll ever see. Pick: Ozzie Smith. Honorable Mention: Edgar Renteria, Garry Templeton, David Eckstein.
Third Baseman - I had a lot of trouble here. Terry Pendleton or Scott Rolen? Pendleton's won an MVP, Rolen hasn't; Pendleton won 3 gold gloves, Rolen has 7; Rolen was a feared power bat in his prime, Pendleton was one of Herzog's slap hitters with occasional power. In the end, Pendleton's best years were with the Braves. So that made the selection easier. Pick: Scott Rolen. Honorable Mention: Pendleton, Ken Oberkfell, Ken Reitz.
Catcher - Do you go with the overall package, a good hitter/no glove, or a great glove/weak hitter? It turns out the Cardinals haven't had a good hitting catcher for most of the time I've watched them. Remember Todd Zeile? Unless Brian Anderson becomes the next Mike Piazza, Zeile will remain the best hitting catcher the Cardinals have had in the last 25 years. And he spent most of his career at third base. No, not much to pick from. So I defaulted to the best overall catcher the club has seen in the last half-century; and the beauty is, based on my rules he's eligible. Pick: Ted Simmons. Honorable Mention: Tom Pagnozzi, Mike Matheny, Yadier Molina.
Left Field - When going over the options in my mind, I couldn't help but shudder remembering Ron Gant, Reggie Sanders, and Chris Duncan butchering plays in the outfield. So this selection was very easy for me. I'm indulging my inner child. The fact he's in the Hall doesn't hurt, either. Pick: Lou Brock. Honorable Mention: Vince Coleman.
Center Field - We've had a bunch of good ones. In fact, I can't think of a CF that I didn't like, or that wasn't a consumate professional, or that wasn't an all-star sometime during his tenure. I went back and looked at who I'd selected so far, and noticed I had a lot of right-handed power. Need to balance the order out a little. Since we've got 2 parts of MV3, why not complete the set? Pick: Jim Edmonds. Honorable Mention: Willie McGee, Ray Lankford, Andy Van Slyke.
Right Field - Larry Walker isn't eligible for consideration, for the same reason Pendleton didn't win at third - Walker's best years were in Colorado. So that leaves the field wide open. None of the guys that played right stood out to me. We've had some good ones (Van Slyke, Jordan) and some really bad ones (Mark Whiten, for example). So I decided to reach for a long shot - another guy who was really good at what he did, and was the power bat in the lineup before Jack Clark arrived. The fact my Dad really liked him also helped his case. Pick: George Hendrick. Honorable Mention: Brian Jordan.
Starting Pitchers - For all the other positions I looked at their overall contributions as Cardinals. For pitchers, I allowed a single outstanding season to qualify for inclusion, if needed. Initially I didn't think I could come up with 5 quality starters for this rotation, and might have to incude a one season wonder like Bottenfeld; but that doesn't seem to be necessary. I also stated which season version of the pitcher I'd choose to take.
Ace: 2005 Chris Carpenter. As the only Cardinal pitcher besides Bob Gibson to win a Cy Young, a slam-dunk.
#2: 1985 John Tudor. Started 1-7, ended 20-1. An unbelieveable year, the greatest by a Cardinal pitcher that I've witnessed. How do you start 1-7 and end up with an ERA of 1.93? Ridiculous.
#3: 1982, 1984-1985 Joaquin Andujar. It's unfortunate most folks remember Andujar for his tantrum on the mound (and subsequent complete destruction of a toilet) during Game 7 of the 1985 World Series. They forget Andujar was the last Cardinal to win 20 games in consecutive seasons. In 1982 he went 10-0 down the stretch and won Game 7. 'One Tough Dominican' was just that; besides, his throws to first on comebackers were always filled with high drama.
#4: 2001 Matt Morris. Another forgotten year. Matt Morris was the best pitcher in the NL not wearing a Diamondbacks jersey. Remember the 2001 NLDS? He gave up 2 runs in two games; unfortuately for the Cardinals, he was matched against Curt Schilling at the peak of his powers in both. I will maintain the 2001 team was better than the 2000 and 2002 versions probably forever (and most likely in the face of any statistical evidence to the contrary). I won't digress into a diatribe on why they were great; suffice it to say if they could have gotten past the Diamondbacks in that NLDS (and they should have, but they gave away Game 3), they would have faced a Braves team they swept in the previous year's NLDS, and a legit chance to beat the Yankees.
#5: 1988-1989 Joe Magrane. 18-9 in 1989 for a team in the pennant race until Labor Day. The previous year, although he went 5-9, he had a 2.18 ERA. Put him in front of this lineup he wins 20 games.
Relief Pitchers. To keep it simple, I'm not picking a long man; rather, a left and right handed set up guy, and a closer.
Left-Handed Specialist: I had more options from the left side than the right. I reached back to another favorite, who was always ready to answer the call and even spot start if needed. Pick: Ken Dayley. Honorable Mention: Ricky Horton, Steve Kline.
Right-Handed Specialist: A lot less clear-cut. In fact, I had trouble remembering a good right-handed reliever out of the bullpen. But in the end, I went with a reasonable choice. Pick: Jeff Lahti. Honorable Mention: Brad Thompson, Ryan Franklin.
Closer. The Cardinals certainly have had a lot of good closers over the past 30 years. Who to pick? Bruce Sutter? Best years were with the Cubs; was great in 1982, but went to Atlanta in 1984 and was out of baseball a year later. Todd Worrell? No Friggin way. Anyone can throw hard, but when it's straight-as-a-string eventually you'll get hit (and he did). Lee Smith? Don't know much about him, to be honest. That leaves one obvious pick. Pick: Jason Isringhausen. Honorable Mention: Bruce Sutter, Lee Smith, Jeff Lahti.
Bench. I decided to put a bench together so as to give the team greater flexibility, and also to get a couple of guys on the roster that hadn't made it already. So, I created three positions: Power, 4th Outfielder, and Utility.
Power: Mark McGwire. I've been defending him for 2 years; how can I continue if I don't get him on my all-star team?
4th Outfielder: Willie McGee. Speed, defense, and class.
Utility: Jose Oquendo.
That leaves one slot:
Manager. Here are the Cardinals managers since 28 Aug 1977: Vern Rapp, Jack Krol (interim twice), Ken Boyer, Red Schoendienst (interim twice also), Whitey Herzog, Joe Torre, Mike Jorgensen, and Tony LaRussa. In terms of success, this is a battle between LaRussa and Herzog. But I'll leave that debate to someone else. For this collection of talent and ego, there's only one clear choice. Pick: Joe Torre. And yes, Herzog and LaRussa get honorable mention.
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