St. Louis Cardinals All-Star Moments: The Scott Cooper Effect

Scott Cooper is on a refrigerator magnet on our garage refrigerator. He is a two-time All-Star third baseman with a career line of .265/.337/.386 who never once finished with an OPS+ over 100; just once played more than 130 games in a season; and was released after his age-27 season, one year removed from his second consecutive appearance as representative of the Boston Red Sox, a team that also had Mo Vaughn and Roger Clemens on it. 

In 1993 Cooper was hitting .350 at the end of April, then .315 at the end of May, then .298 at the end of June, and by then, why, everybody's voted already. In 1994 he was hitting .342 at the end of April, and remember that time he was hitting .350 at the end of April? And he was an All-Star once already! 

It's one thing to be a fluke All-Star because your team needs a representative—Lance Carter?—or you're having an outstanding start to the season—Ryan VogelsongKen Harvey? But Cooper, whose hometown Cardinals acquired him after All-Star season number two in exchange for decent young pitcher and future near-premium LOOGY Rheal Cormier and Hard Hittin' Mark Whiten, is like an All-Star echo-chamber: Everything he accomplished based on his nicely arranged achievements seems to feed the next thing, until he's got as many ASG appearances as he does seasons as an adequate baseball player.

Each season, round voting time, you could make a case for Cooper as an All-Star—and it was even easier when he was an All-Star the year before who'd only cooled off after such a hot start. And none of it shows up in his encyclopedia entry. 

I've been trying to find a homegrown equivalent to Cooper among the Cardinals' All-Star rolls, but it's a tough one to get a handle on. Perhaps Royce Clayton 1997, whose numbers are devoid of all the context that made him a vaguely national figure at the time—the bungled Ozzie Smith handover, the flashy defensive reputation, the fact of taking over for a legendary player.

He was neither having a brilliant start nor the only reasonable choice for the Cardinals' representative—Ray Lankford, who also made the team, was hitting a cool .333/.427/.646 at the time, with 22 doubles, 17 home runs, and 15 stolen bases. But he was around, and people had heard about him, and sometimes that's all it takes. 

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