So, the United Cardinal Bloggers have decided to steal a page from St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Derrick Gould – we’re creating best of the decade teams. When I heard, I was thinking this would be easy; I was wrong.
I went easiest first and filled in the harder spots last.
So, I started with Albert Pujols. My question wasn’t whether he should be on the list, but where? He was a regular at third and left before he moved to first; he’s also seen a game at second (not that I’d have put him there). So, I looked at 3B and LF to see if there were better options than Tino Martinez or declining Mark McGwire; in the end, Scott Rolen and Matt Holliday were better options. Rolen was the top third baseman before his shoulder problems. Holliday, while only here for half a season, out produced most of the other left fielders we’ve used. Centerfield was just as easy, since 8 of the years had Jim Edmonds patroling center. He was hands down the second easiest player to identify. So, with Pujols, Edmonds, Rolen, and Holliday locked in, I could move on.
My second area to look was pitching. The rotation had some givens – Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, and Daryl Kile were locks in my opinion. The last 2 spots were fairly easy too; Matt Morris started the decade great and was in contention for the Cy Young. The final spot came down to Woody Williams and Andy Benes. Williams was the more consistant pitcher over him time with the Cardinals; Benes struggled a lot at times.
From there, I went to the bullpen. I wanted to construct it like we’ve seen over the years; a closer, 2 lefties, etc. So, closer was the easiest place to start – with the most reliable closer from the decade – Jason Isringhausen. He was almost to 300 saves when he began to faulter. He was better than Dave Veres, and Ryan Franklin is a better option for a set up guy. With Franklin part of the set up guys, I went to lefties. Steve Kline was a staple of the bullpen until he showed LaRussa who was number 1. The other spot goes to Randy Flores, since he started his Cardinal tenure well, before falling off at the end. With 3 spots remaining, I looked at performances. Julian Tavarez had the best years of his career setting up for Izzy; plus he had that great fight with the phone and the Pine Tar Ejection. Next was Cal Eldred, who not only pitched well, but resurrected his career after a few years off. The final spot went to Russ Springer, who, in his last stint with the team, was unhittable by righties.
Catcher had 2 options, and one was the starter and the other was the back up. I went with Mike Matheny, since he became the prototypical catcher for the end of the decade – all defense and no bat. He also had the season without an error, which is pretty impressive in itself. Yadier Molina has been almost as good defensively and better offensively, but his defense has declined a little over the last 2 years. Plus, I think Matheny works better with pitchers.
Now I got into the harder spots, specifically the corner outfield and middle infield (which also filled in most of the bench).
Second base and shortstop had a few decent candidates, but second also had a revolving door for a few years. Short came down to 2 players: David Eckstein and Edgar Renteria. Eck was an All Star and World Series MVP; he was the spark-plug for the team. Renteria was also an All Star, but I felt he was overrated, especially his defense. I went with Eck and used Renteria off the bench. For second, I went with stability and selected Fernando Vina. Vina was the second baseman for a few years, and since then they’ve been searching for a long term replacement. That replacement may have been found and made the bench as a back up at second and in the outfield – Skip Schumaker. I wanted 1 more infielder who could play a few spots. While he played mostly third for the Cardinals, Placido Polanco was a mainstay until he was traded for Rolen. He went on to play second for the Phillies and Tigers, so he could cover a couple of positions.
All that was left was right field and back up outfielders, and there were many candidates. For right, I considered J.D. Drew and Larry Walker; both had moments, but they also spent a lot of time on the DL. Instead, I went with Ryan Ludwick. He had a great season and a few good ones, plus he’s been healthy. For the last bench spot, I considered Drew and Walker, plus Reggie Sanders. In the end, I went with Chris Duncan. He wasn’t my favorite player, but he was big for the 2006 World Series team and looked like a legit power hitter before his back problems.
So, the final team looks like:
C – Mike Matheny
1B – Albert Pujols
2B – Fernando Vina
3B – Scott Rolen
SS – David Eckstein
LF – Matt Holliday
CF – Jim Edmonds
RF – Ryan Ludwick
Bench – Chris Duncan, Yadier Molina, Placido Polanco, Edgar Renteria, Skip Schumaker
SP – Chris Carpenter, Daryl Kile, Matt Morris, Adam Wainwright, Woody Williams
CL – Jason Isringhausen
RP – Cal Eldred, Randy Flores, Ryan Franklin, Steve Kline, Russ Springer, Julian Tavarez
Tags: Adam Wainwright, Albert Pujols, Baseball, Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals