My Top Ten Cardinals of All-Time:Intro and Last 7 Out

I am a Cardinal fan born and bred. Period. No denying it. No apologies.

I have followed my beloved Redbirds since 1978 and the last years of Lou Brock, through the ups-and-downs of the Whitey Herzog era of the 1980s, amidst the less-than-stellar Joe Torre tenure of the early 90s, and of course during the current Tony LaRussa regime which began in the mid-to-late 1990s.

I’ve also been a student of the franchise – researching and reading about the Cardinal players past and present. As a result of that research and my love of the Cardinals, I present MY Top 10 List of All-Time St. Louis Cardinal Players. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll present 1 post each day or so revealing the next player on my list with a brief bio, some links to various sites, and my thoughts on the player.

I am basing my criteria primarily on statistics AS A CARDINAL PLAYER. I did not take into consideration any stats accumulated while a member of another franchise (i.e. you will NOT see pitching great Steve Carlton on this list for example).

I also factored in things like All-Star game appearances, gold gloves, years of service with the Cardinals, post-season play, and historic moments.

Before I get on to the main post, let me mention 7 players who didn’t quite make the list. These are 7 Cardinal players who I am particularly fond of, many of whom I watched play. They are great players. 3 of them are current Hall of Famers. Arguments could be made that the other 4 deserve to be in Cooperstown as well. In no particular order, here are the top 7 players who didn’t make the cut:

1. Mark McGwire
Mark McGwire
If it wasn’t for his link to performance enhancing substances, Big Mac would have been a lock for my Top 10. He helped revive baseball after the strike of 1994-95 with his pursuit of the Roger Maris’ single season HR record – ultimately breaking the record in 1998 by hitting 70 HR that season. I vividly remember watching him hit #62 on TV – a line drive bullet shot that barely cleared the left field wall. Too bad all of this was tainted by his use of performance enhancers.

2. Bruce Sutter
Bruce Sutter
I have to admit that I didn’t give pitchers much love on my list – and closers even less. Yet, Engine #42 was one of my favorites. What’s not to like about a stringy haired, bushy bearded imposing figure who saved 127 games over his 4 years as a Cardinal? And if that wasn’t enough, he invented a new pitch (or at least is credited for perfecting it): the split finger fastball. He was also a workhorse, averaging just under 1.6 innnings pitched per game played – in other words, Sutter was not your typical one inning closer. If that wasn’t enough, he’s a Hall of Famer.

3. Lee Smith
Lee Smith
Possibly the 2nd most intimidating pitcher ever to play for the Cardinals. Large. Imposing. Impressive. Smith is 2nd all-time on the Cardinals save list, amassing 160 saves over a 4 year period between 1990 and 1993. I had the opportunity to meet Lee Smith and get his autograph several years back. He is just as large and imposing in person as he is on the mound. He SHOULD be in Cooperstown.

4. Dizzy Dean
Dizzy Dean
I know. I know. How in the world can you NOT put Dizzy Dean on your top 10 list of all-time Cardinals? Well, it was tough. In his 7 year career as a Cardinal, Jay Hanna “Dizzy” Dean had a 134-75 record, placing him 6th all-time in Cardinal wins. His 1095 strikeouts are 2nd among Cardinal history. He’s a Hall of Famer, had a sub 3.00 ERA, and had 30 saves to boot. He was also that last Cardinal to win 30 games doing do in 1934 with a 30-7 record enroute to his only MVP award. He also went 2-1 leading the Cardinals to the 1934 World Series title.

5. Ted Simmons
Ted Simmons
Ted Simmons was the greatest Cardinal catcher of all-time: 6 times an All-Star as a Cardinal; in the Cardinals Top 10 in both HR and RBI. From 1972 through 1980, Simmons ranked 3rd in the NL or better in SB allowed as a catcher – leading the NL 4 of those years.

6. Red Schoendienst
Red Schoendienst
This was another one that was hard to leave off my list. Hall of Famer. 9-time All-Star. Cardinals Top 10 in Runs, Hits, and Doubles. Managed the Cardinals for 12 full seasons and parts of 2 others, compiling a 1041-955 record with an NL Championship in 1968 and a World Series Championship in 1967. The 2nd greatest 2B in Cardinal history only behind the great Rogers Hornsby.

7. Jim Edmonds
Jim Edmonds
This was probably the hardest one to leave of my list for a variety of reasons – not the least of which is personal in that Jim Edmonds and I were born on the exact same date: June 27, 1970. My “evil twin”, as I’ve grown to call him, was probably the best defensive CF I ever saw play the game – noting that the All-Time greats in CF like Tris Speaker, Willie Mays, Joe Dimaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Ty Cobb, had long since stopped playing by the time I got interested in baseball. Edmonds is 4th in HR and 12th in RBI on the Cardinals All-Time lists. He went to 3 All-Star games as a Cardinal and helped lead the team to its 2006 World Series Championship.

So, who made the cut? Who is on my top 10? Stay tuned to see my Top 10 Cardinals. We start with #10…


So Long, Ryan Franklin.

June 29, 2011 – The St. Louis Cardinals released veteran pitcher and former closer Ryan Franklin. Franklin was signed in January 2007 and spent all of 2009 and 2010 as the Cardinals’ primary closer.

Ryan Franklin

I have mixed feelings about Franklin leaving. First, let me confess that I have dogged him and said many less than kind things about him this season. His pitching performance – especially the blown saves which literally cost “us” victories – really irked me.

However, I do wish things would have worked out better for him and for the Cardinals. Franklin was always known as a class-act, a top notch clubhouse guy, the kind of player you WANT on your team. He was know for placing the organization and the team first, and Ryan Franklin second. And then there’s what he did from 2007 – 2010, especially in 2009 and 2010.

Look at the top 2 stat lines – especially 2009-2010.

2007-2010 20 15 83 20 80.6 264 284.7 3.03 1.184 8.28 2.37 5.72 2.41 0.85
2009-2010 10 5 65 7 90.3 121 126.0 2.71 1.111 7.57 2.43 6.14 2.53 0.64
2011 1 4 1 4 20.0 21 27.7 8.46 1.843 14.30 2.27 5.52 2.43 2.92

From 2009-2010, 90.3% save percentage. Outstanding. That means 90.3% of the time when Franklin pitched, he was going to preserve the win. And a WHIP of 1.111. That means he allowed just barely over 1 base runner per inning pitched.

So what happened? Well, from 2009-2010 to 2011, a couple of things stood out to me. First, his H/9 (hits per 9 innings pitched) exploded from 7.57 to 14.30 – almost double. Second, his HR/9 (home runs per 9 innings pitched) ballooned from a miniscule 0.64 to a horrendous 2.92 – almost 5 times. As a result, his WHIP and ERA, consequently his blown saves, sky rocketed.

The question is why. Was he “hiding” an injury? Was there a flaw in his pitching mechanics? Was he tipping his pitches? I would be surprised if it was either of the latter two options. Pitching coach Dave Duncan is known for being sharp and on-the-ball. Historically, he has caught many of those flaws in other pitchers.

Did age simply catch up to him? Franklin is 38 – which is old for a major league pitcher. Hard to say – and I doubt we’ll ever really know for sure.

One thing I do know, the Cardinals would not have contended in 2007 – 2010 if not for the production of Ryan Franklin. He preserved wins in 83 games during that period – 65 in 2009-2010 alone.

My hope is that Cardinal fans can put aside this year and remember Ryan Franklin for the good things he brought to the team in his previous four seasons.

I wish you all the best Ryan Franklin. I hope your 2011 season – and the response of far too many highly vocal fans, like myself at times – will not have soured you on the St. Louis Cardinal organization and its fan base. My hope is that you figure out what is behind the aberration in your 2011 performance and find a team willing to give you a shot at turning your season and career around after 2011’s little hiccup.

Cardinal Game Day – April 14, 2010

April 14, 2010 – my 1st Cardinal game of 2010.

Joining me on this epic right of spring were my friends Kent Dunford, Dan Moisson, and Josh Wick (along with his son Drew).

Upon arriving at the stadium an hour before the gates opened, we walked around and viewed the statues to the former Cardinal greats. Below are several of my favorites:
Stan Musial
Stan “The Man” Musial – THE GREATEST Cardinal player of all-time. PERIOD. (Although, in another 10 years, that may change, but for now, Stan is still THE MAN.)

Ozzie Smith
“The Wizard” Ozzie Smith – MY favorite Cardinal player of all-time. (Although, in another 10 years, that may change too.)

Bob Gibson
Bob Gibson – THE most intimidating pitcher EVER. The plate was HIS, and he had no qualms about knocking you down or nailing you with a fastball. Baseball changed its rules because of Gibson – lowering the pitcher’s mound by 5 inches after his unfathomable 1968 season.

Lou Brock
“The Base Burglar” Lou Brock – speed, class, epitome of the Cardinal Way

Jack Buck
Jack Buck – as Cardinal announcers go, Jack was the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be.

Once inside, we wandered around, watched batting practice, then made it to our seats in the Cardinals Champion’s Club – an all-inclusive club area with food, drinks, and AWESOME indoor and outdoor seating. Check out the club itself and the food spread.
Champion's Club
Champion's Club Buffet

And not to be outdone, here is the view from our seats:
View From Our Seats
View From Our Seats

Add to that a 2-1 Cardinal victory and the night was an AWESOME success.

Field of Dreams Quote

One of the best movie quotes ever…

Ray, people will come Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won’t mind if you look around, you’ll say. It’s only $20 per person. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.