Six division titles, seven playoff appearances, and two World Series appearances with one trophy in a highly unlikely year make the St. Louis Cardinals the best team of the decade. The franchise that boasts the second most World Series championships in baseball only to the New York Yankees also had the advantage of having the same manager throughout the decade and a lineup that features the best overall player on the planet.
(Guest written by former TSB contributor Jake McCormick)
Having said that, the Cardinals of the 2000s have reaped the benefits from having Gandalf as their pitching coach and a front office that is willing to spend but does so in a sensible and realistic manner, supporting their core strengths. If you’ve been a Cardinals fan over the past 10 years, you don’t really have much to complain about; just revel in the fact that the archrival Chicago Cubs stayed a good 10 steps behind you for most of the time.
C Yadier Molina
I was totally prepared to put him on here based solely off his two run home runs off Aaron Heilman in the ninth inning of the 2006 NLCS, but Molina has continually strengthened his case both offensively and defensively since that defining moment. His competition (Mike Matheny, Mike DiFelice) wasn’t too stiff either.
1B Albert Pujols
No explanation needed, unless you really, really like Tino Martinez.
2B Fernando Vina
The Cardinals have mostly employed the stereotypical second baseman: fast, average hitter, strong defender. Vina proved to be the most consistent and best of the lot. He hit over .300 twice in three full seasons in St. Louis and amassed 17 triples over that period of time. And he yes he took steroids, but I don’t take that into account with these rankings.
SS Edgar Renteria
Some people might put David Eckstein here because they like “gritty grinders that give it their all every time out.” Well in the real world, grinder is just a code word for “not naturally gifted enough, so every play is a fight for their life.” Renteria was a solid hitter for the Cardinals and has always been a good defender. I’d take Renteria in his prime over Eckstein any day of the week.
3B Scott Rolen
Rolen manned the hot corner for five years as a Cardinal, and turned in three seasons of quality production. He was instrumental in St. Louis’ 2004 and 2006 World Series seasons. No question Rolen gets this nod.
LF Ryan Ludwick
Ludwick has only started the past two years, but he put up better numbers than So Taguchi, Larry Walker, Juan Encarnacion, Reggie Sanders and every other journeyman the Cardinals threw into one of the corner spots. It’s hard not to consider a guy that hits 37 home runs and grows a 7th grade moustache with the best of them.
CF Jim Edmonds
He started eight years in center field for the Cardinals and made highlight catches throughout each of them. Edmonds posted 30 or more home runs in four of those seasons, and topped 40 twice. Probably the second biggest guarantee on this roster other than Pujols himself.
RF JD Drew
Drew was the only Cardinal to start two seasons in a row in right field in the 2000s. From 2000-2003, Drew hit .289, with 78 HR and 226 RBI; all are respectable numbers for a guy that has often been considered the JaMarcus Russell of baseball with his world class underachieving.
DH Troy Glaus
Glaus only played one full season for the Cardinals, but managed to hit 27 home runs and knock in 99 runs while batting .270, which was his best average since 2000.
SP Chris Carpenter
When he’s healthy, he’s one of the best there is. Carpenter provides a constant feel good story because he seems to always bounce back and defy any expectations after injuries. He won the Cy Young in 2005 and then, after pitching two games in two years, led the league in winning percentage and ERA, recording a 1.00 WHIP in 2009. Wow.
SP Matt Morris
Morris was Mr. Cardinal of the St. Louis staff in the early and mid-2000s. He was the only constant in a rotation that rarely featured the same five guys year to year. He led the league in wins in 2001 and recorded ERAs under 4.00 from 2001-03. He was a solid starter for most of his career, and was heavily embraced by the Cardinal faithful.
RP Jason Isringhausen
Minus Isringhausen’s Derrick Turnbow tendencies at the end of his tenure, he comfortably holds the Cardinals’ all time saves record and posted an ERA under 3.00 five out of seven seasons. He led the league in saves in 2004 and was the most successful of the Mets’ Big Three prospects (Paul Wilson/Bill Pulsipher/Izzy).
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