Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ranking the 11 Cardinals Championship Teams

The Cardinals celebrated their 2011 championship season over the weekend and put up thier 11th World Series championship banner. The Cardinals are second alltime in World Series Championships, although its a distant second to the Yankees 27 championships. Their have also been some damn good Cardinal clubs that fell short of a championship, like the 2004, 1985, and 1968 versions. They also have never won back to back World Series despite all of the championships they've won and World Series they played in(18). In this post I'll attempt to rank the 11 championship clubs in Cardinals history.

11) 2006   Manager-Tony La Russa  Record:83-78
 Postseason Record and Opponents:11-5(Padres, Mets, Tigers)
 Top Players: Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, David Eckstein, Jeff Weaver

After winning 100 games back to back, the Cardinals barely made the playoffs in 2006. In fact 83 wins in the least ever for a World Series champion. For whatever reason it seems like Tony La Russa's teams faired better as an underdog than a favorite. Edmonds and Rolen suffered some injuries during the season and Mark Mulder and Jason Isringhausen missed the postseason. However, this club beat the Padres in 4 games and beat the Mets in an exciting 7 game series. You might remember Adam Wainwright freezing new Cardinal Carlos Beltran with a killer curve. In the World Series the Tigers were heavily favored, but played sloppy baseball on defense. The Cardinals beat them in 5 games to win their 10th championship.

10) 1926  Manager-Rogers Hornsby  Record:89-65
PS Record and Opponent:4-3(Yankees)
Top Players:Hornsby, Jim Bottomley, Grover Alexander, Jessie Haines, Bob O'Farrell, Chick Hafey, Les Bell, Bill Hallahan

The Cardinals won their first National League pennant in 1926 just beating out the Reds. They faced the New York Yankees who were led by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Grover Alexander was the pitching hero in the Series winning 2 starts and Game 7 in relief. After winning Game 6, Alexander partied down and was reportedly sleeping it off in the bullpen the next day. Hornsby called on Alexander in the 7th to get out of a jam and he came through. Game 7 ended with Babe Ruth getting thrown out trying to steal second.

9) 1944   Manager-Billy Southworth   Record:105-49
PS Record and Opponent:4-2(Browns)
Top Players:Stan Musial, Walker Cooper, Mort Cooper, Whitey Kurowski, Marty Marion, Max Lanier, Harry Breechen, Ray Sanders

One might wonder why I would rank a 105 win team so low. The reason is because this happened in a weak league since alot of big leaguers were in military service in World War II. The Cardinals lost Enos Slaughter and Terry Moore to the military but still had a strong club. Musial himself would be drafted after the season. 1944 also marks the first and only all-St. Louis World Series, aka the Trolley Series. The Browns would move to Baltimore a decade later.

8) 1982   Manager-Whitey Herzog   Record:92-70
PS Record and Opponents:7-3(Braves, Brewers)
Top Players: Ozzie Smith, Bruce Sutter, Bob Forsch, Joaquin Andujar, Willie McGee, Keith Hernandez, Lonnie Smith, Tommy Herr

Herzog was in his second full season as manager and served as a GM before that and completely rebuilt the Cardinals. He emphasized speed, defense, and pitching and his style of play was coined as Whiteyball. After the 1981 season Herzog traded away All Star shortstop Garry Templeton(who had flipped the fans off late in the season) for defensive wizard and light hitting Ozzie Smith. Smith became a much better hitter in St. Louis and was a fixture at short for the next 15 years. The Cards battled the Brewers in the World Series, in what writers called the "Suds Series". The Cardinals won in 7 games and Bruce Sutter shut the door on the Brew Crew.

7) 2011  Manager-Tony La Russa  Record:90-72
PS Record and Opponents:11-7(Phillies, Brewers, Rangers)
Top Players:Chris Carpenter, Albert Pujols, David Freese, Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday, Rafeal Furcal, Yadier Molina, Jason Motte

The Cardinals were 10 games out in late August and it seemed highly unlikely for them to make a playoff run. But in September, the Cardinals caught fire and the Braves limped down the stretch. In the season's last game the Cardinals clinched the wild card. After getting clubbed in Game 1 of the NLDS, the Cardinals came back to beat the heavily favored Phillies in 5 games. Game 5 was a classic pitcher's duel featuring Carpenter and Roy Halladay, with the Cards winning 1-0. The Cards then faced their division rival Milwaukee in the NLCS. The Brewers talked up a big game, but the Cards beat them in 6. In the World Series they faced the Texas Rangers. Allen Craig and David Freese both came up with big hits throughout the Series. Game 6 was one of the best World Series games of alltime with multiple lead changes and 11 innings. The Rangers were a strike away from a championship twice, but the Cardinals came back to win. The Cardinals then went on to win Game 7 and the World Series. Freese had a postseason record 50 total bases and 21 RBIs.

6) 1964  Manager-Johnny Keane  Record:93-69
PS Record and Opponent:4-3(Yankees)
Top Players: Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Ken Boyer, Curt Flood, Curt Simmons, Tim McCarver, Julian Javier, Bill White

The Cardinals run in 1964 was eerily similar to their run in 2011. The Cards were 9 games back in mid September, but the Phillies were starting to collapse. The Cardinals also clinched the league championship in the season's last day. The Redbirds went on to face the Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris led Yankees and beat them in 7 games. That would be the last World Series the Yankees would make for 12 years and Cardinals manager Keane left St. Louis to manage the Yankees after the Series. Owner August Busch almost fired Keane in August and he refused to accept a one year deal after the season. Busch did fire GM Bing Devine in August despite making one of the best trades in Cardinals history, the Brock for Broglio trade.

5) 1934  Manager-Frankie Frisch   Record:95-58
PS Record and Opponent:4-3(Tigers)
Top Players:Dizzy Dean, Daffy Dean, Joe Medwick, Frisch, Ripper Collins, Pepper Martin, Leo Durocher, Bill Delancey

This team was known as the Gashouse Gang, probably because their uniforms were dirty most of the time. Dizzy Dean won 30 games and his brother Daffy won 19 games and they won all the games in the World Series. The Deans staged a holdout mid season to try to get more money from the club, but it failed. During a Cardinals blowout in Game 7, Medwick slid in hard on Tigers third baseman Marv Owen nearly causing a riot in Detroit. The commissioner had to eject Medwick from the game to keep the peace.

4) 1942  Manager-Billy Southworth   Record:105-49
PS Record and Opponent:4-1(Yankees)
Top Players:Enos Slaughter, Stan Musial, Terry Moore, Marty Marion, Walker Cooper, Mort Cooper, Ted Wilks, Whitey Kurowski

This would be the first of three straight National League pennants for the Redbirds. They beat the Yankees in 42 but lost to them the next year in a rematch. 1942 was also Musial's first full season in the big leagues. The Cardinals had the best farm system in the game during this period. They traded away Hall of Famers Joe Medwick and Johnny Mize in consecutive seasons and were still loaded.

3) 1931   Manager-Gabby Street   Record:101-53
PS Record and Opponent:4-3(Athletics)
Top Players: Jim Bottomley, Chick Hafey, Pepper Martin, Bill Hallahan, Burleigh Grimes, Frankie Frisch, Ernie Orsatti, Jimmie Wilson

The Cardinals lost the 1930 World Series to Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics and faced them again in 1931. The Athletics had won back to back championships and featured future Hall of Famers Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, Mickey Cochrane, and Lefty Grove. Rookie third baseman Pepper Martin had a monster Series going 12 for 24(.500) with 5 RBIs and 5 stolen bases. This would be the last hurrah for Mack's A's, he would soon sell off his top stars due to losing revenue because of the Great Depression.

2) 1946  Manager-Eddie Dyer   Record:98-58
PS Record and Opponent:4-3(Red Sox)
Top Players: Stan Musial, Enos Slaughter, Red Schoendienst, Harry Breechen, Howie Pollet, Del Rice, Marty Marion, Whitey Kurowski

This is one of the finest Cardinals clubs in history. Many of their stars had returned from the war as with the other teams in baseball. They battled the Red Sox and beat them in 7 games. Cardinals pitching limited Ted Williams to only five hits. Slaughter's mad dash home, going first to home scored the game winning run in Game 7. Harry Breechen also won 3 games during the Series. This would be the last championship team of the Musial era, though.

1) 1967 Manager-Red Schoendienst  Record:101-60
PS Record and Opponent:4-3(Red Sox)
Top Players: Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Orlando Cepeda, Curt Flood, Steve Carlton, Tim McCarver, Nellie Briles, Mike Shannon

This team was known as the El Birdos due to having a mixture of popular Hispanic and black players on the team. Cepeda won the NL MVP and the teams survived a broken leg injury to Gibson in midseason(a ball hit off Roberto Clemente). Gibson came back for the postseason and pitched brilliantly. He went 3-0, pitched 3 complete games, and only allowed 3 earned runs. Gibson would go on to have one of the best pitching seasons ever in 1968, recording a 1.12 ERA. The Cardinals would fall one game short of winning back to back championships in 68.

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