St. Louis Cardinals all-time team: Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina, Stan the Man and more


In an effort to avoid going stir crazy with MLB and every other major sports league shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, I’ve decided to take a look at the best of the best for each baseball franchise. We’ve created a 30-day series making an all-time team for each MLB club. We’re breaking down one team each day throughout April, continuing today in St. Louis.

As a (hopefully?) fun twist, I’m making a Baseball Stars team for each. That’s right, the old-school Nintendo video game “Baseball Stars,” which I still consider to be the best baseball video game ever. It allowed you to create teams and I used to make all-time lineups for prominent MLB franchises. There are the eight position players with four starting pitchers, one reliever and five bench position players on each Baseball Stars squads. 

The Cardinals are the most storied team in the National League and second-most in all of baseball. I expect what’s coming to be a stellar team. To the lineup.

Catcher

As noted, this is a storied franchise, so the Red Birds have had lots of good catchers. There are but two options here, though, with a large separation from anyone else. Ted Simmons vs. Yadier Molina. What a tough pick to start. 

Catcher stats are tough, because I firmly believe that Molina working so well with pitchers can’t be measured and he steals lots of calls for them, too. He’s got Simmons by a mile in defensive WAR (Molina’s 25 to Simmons’ 8.3). 

The gap is big on offense in the opposite direction, too. 

Molina: .282/.333/.405, 98 OPS+
Simmons: .298/.366/.459, 127 OPS+

Molina has had tons of big hits, but his postseason stats aren’t eye-popping or anything. He’s been to the playoffs a bunch and won two rings and four pennants. Simmons never played in the postseason for the Cardinals. 

Generally speaking I’d take the offense, but I don’t need the St. Louis populace to head to my house with a bunch of torches and I have a feeling they all want Yadi. We’ll take him. 

First base

Sorry to Keith Hernandez, Mark McGwire and Hall of Famer Johnny Mize, but this wasn’t really all that tough. It’s Albert Pujols. Even leaving when he did, he’s all over the Cardinals’ all-time leaderboards and is third in WAR behind two inner-circle legends. 

Second base

Speaking of which, we have another easy one. Second in WAR is the legendary Rogers Hornsby. No further discussion required.

Shortstop

We don’t really need to go beyond Ozzie Smith, do we? 

Third base

It was tempting to bump Pujols over here and get more thump at first base, but ultimately, Ken Boyer has to be the pick. He’s as good as a player can get and not be in the Hall of Fame and he keeps coming up on veteran committee ballots. He won the 1964 MVP and was an 11-time All-Star. He’s fifth in Cardinals’ WAR. Shoutouts to Scott Rolen and Joe Torre here. If we did bump Pujols here, Mize would be the pick at first. Would that make it better? You make the call. 

Left field

The best player in franchise history mostly played left field, but also spent a lot of time in the other corner, so we’re going with Lou Brock here. Brock led the league in steals eight times! 

Center field

In only eight years, Jim Edmonds provided so much value on both offense and defense that he rose all the way to 13th all-time in Cardinals WAR. Given how much good history this ballclub has, that’s a ridiculous run. He deserved a harder look for the Hall of Fame. 

Right field

Check out the top four in Cardinals WAR and note the gap from one to two and also one to four for the second-greatest franchise in MLB history. 

  1. Stan Musial, 128.3
  2. Rogers Hornsby, 91.4
  3. Albert Pujols, 86.6
  4. Ozzie Smith, 66

Ridiculous. Stan the Man was The Man. Go check out his baseball-reference.com page and note bold means led the league and italics means led the majors. It’s all over the place in nearly every category! 

Enos Slaughter and Joe “Ducky” Medwick miss the cut in the loaded outfield. Also should mention Curt Flood, Ray Lankford, Willie McGee and Matt Holliday. 

Starting pitchers

OK, so the ace is incredibly easy. Bob Gibson is on the short list in the conversation for best pitcher of all-time. 

John Tudor had a short run with the Cardinals — parts of five seasons — but he’s getting the nod here. He’s second in franchise history in ERA and first in both WHIP and ERA+. He would have won the Cy Young in 1985 if he was in the other league, but he was up against an all-time great season from Dwight Gooden. Tudor had 10 shutouts that season. 

The Gashouse Gang needs a rep, don’t they? I’ve got one. Dizzy Dean won the MVP in 1934 and was runner up in each of the next two seasons. 

The contemporary Cardinals could also use a rep, so we’re going with Adam Wainwright. He’s fourth in career WAR among Cardinals pitchers with Gibson and Dean being the top two. 

Apologies to Harry Brecheen, Chris Carpenter, Bob Forsch and so many others. Maybe Jack Flaherty is starting his voyage to be in this conversation. 

Reliever

Lee Smith is actually second in saves for the franchise, Trevor Rosenthal had a good run and The Mad Hungarian Al Hrabosky was also great. I boiled it down to three names, though. 

Jason Isringhausen is the franchise leader in saves and had a 2.98 ERA (143 ERA+) in his seven seasons. He was worth 6.8 WAR (1.2 per 162 games). He was on some great teams but missed the 2006 World Series run due to injury. 

Todd Worrell in six years — two of which were pennant-winners for the Cardinals — had a 2.56 ERA (145 ERA+) and 9.4 WAR (1.9 per 162 games). It’s possible he closed down the 1985 World Series if they had replay reviews back then. 

And then there’s the Hall of Famer, Bruce Sutter. He was actually only there four years, but he closed down the 1982 World Series. In his four years there, he had a 2.72 ERA, 132 ERA+ and 6.3 WAR (1.8 WAR/162). 

Very tough choice, but I’m going Sutter. Any of these three would do, really. 

The Lineup

Baseball Stars uses six characters for each name. What follows is the Baseball Stars lineup. 

  1. Brock, LF
  2. Stan, RF
  3. Albert, 1B
  4. Rogers, 2B
  5. Jim E., CF
  6. Boyer, 3B
  7. Ozzie, SS
  8. Yadi, C

SP: Gibson, Waino, Dizzy, Tudor
RP: Sutter

For the bench, let’s go with Ted (Simmons), (Johnny) Mize, Ducky (Joe Medwick), Vince (Coleman, for a pinch runner!) and Curt (Flood). 

Loaded top half of the order, and let’s point out that this looks like it would be the best defense in baseball, possibly by a wide margin. When Gibson was pitching it would be damn near impossible to score. 





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