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tourney time

gads; we're still nearly a month away from the first spring training game, and nearly two months away from Opening Day. that's too long to wait for another box score.

for which reason, i'm thinking of conducting a baseball tournament over the next few weeks. it'd be a 24-team field, and each team would be made up of one great cardinal player. that's right, one player --- 9 times over. to show you what i mean, this might be the starting lineup for the Enos Slaughters:

  1. slaughter 1953
  2. slaughter 1948
  3. slaughter 1942
  4. slaughter 1949
  5. slaughter 1940
  6. slaughter 1941
  7. slaughter 1939
  8. slaughter 1946
  9. slaughter 1952
simple concept. after the field has been selected and seeded, i'd play it off using a simplified simulation program, with each matchup consisting of a 7-game series. the results would be posted ev'y few days until we have a champ.

before i go on, i gotta know --- am i the only person who'd be amused by this exercise? if so, i won't inflict it on the rest of you; speak up in the comments if you'd rather be spared. assuming that at least some of you would be interested, here's how i would propose to set up the tournament field --- subject to suggestions and modifications from the community.

first question: why 24 teams? couple reasons. there's the simple matter of timing: if we create a full 64-team bracket a la march madness, the tournament will drag on for weeks and weeks; i'll lose interest, and you probably will too. more to the point, i'm think the tournament should only be open to players who spent most or all of their careers with st louis. gregg jefferies and dick allen each had one incredible season for the cards, but neither wore the birds-on-bat for enough years to field an entire 9-man team. if we limit the field to players who logged 9 years (or almost 9) with the franchise, there aren't enough decent candidates to go beyond a 24-team field.

but here's another consideration: if we enforce a strict 9-years-with-the-franchise minimum, then some of the franchise's best players --- including edmonds and pujols --- are excluded. but if we take pujols' 6 years with the franchise and pair them with, say, jack clark's 3 cardinal seasons, we have a full 9-man team --- a damn good one. insofar as the absence of jed and pu would take a lot of the fun out of this exercise, i think we have to flex the 9-year rule as necessary. if you strongly disagree, state your objections in the comments.

i also think the field should have representatives from every position on the field. otherwise, we'll just end up with a bunch of outfielders and first basemen, plus a few infielders (boyer, hornsby, frisch) and one catcher (ted simmons). if we start with 2 players at 8 positions, that gives us 16 "automatic bids," with 8 at-large bids remaining to round out the field.

here's who i'd propose for the automatic bids:

simmons c mccarver
pujols (6)
clark (3)
1b mize (6)
mcgwire (3)
hornsby 2b frisch
boyer 3b kurowski (5)
rolen (4)
ozzie ss renteria (6)
groat (3)
musial lf brock
lankford cf edmonds (7)
moon (2)
slaughter rf medwick (7)
blades (2)

i nominate the above based on the following factors: years with the franchise; hitting ability; and association with championship teams. the ancillary players (ie, wally moon, ray blades, dick groat et al) were great hitters who clearly were not candidates for at-large bids, based on limited service time. these 16 teams include four players from the 1920s-30s, five from the 1940s-50s, five from the 1960s-70s, four from the 1980s-90s, and four from the current decade.

i'll entertain challenges to this list in the comments thread; if you think there's a more deserving player for one of these slots, make the case below. for now i'll proceed with these 16 teams, with the understanding that they are subject to change. the primary candidates for at-large bids to round out this field would then seem to include:

willie mcgee jim bottomley red schoendienst
chick hafey joe torre bill white
terry moore keith hernandez pepper martin
tip o'neill curt flood george hendrick
garry templeton vince coleman

most of the guys on this list fall short of 9 full years with the franchise and thus would need to add a partner to round out the lineup. a number of prominent longtime cardinals aren't listed here for a simple reason: they were terrible hitters. julian javier ranks 11th on the franchise list for games played and is the all-time franchise leader for games played at 2b --- but he only topped .700 in OPS twice in his career. the same goes for marty marion, who ranks 13th all-time in games and won an mvp award and 3 world titles in his 11 years with the cards. ken reitz, tom herr, del rice, tom pagnozzi, dal maxvill --- all rank in the franchise top 5 in games played at their respective positions, but what would be the point of entering them in this tournament? they'd be seeded low and get swept in the opening round by slaughter or lankford or simmons. waste of a bid.

largely for the same reason, the deadball era (ie, pre-1920) is nearly invisible here. in those low-scoring days, an .850 OPS might make you the mvp --- and the cardinal franchise didn't have many mvp candidates back then. nor did it have many long-term players. i've listed one deadball-days cardinal, tip o'neill, in the table of at-large possibilities; a few others (jesse burkett, ed konetchy) might make a suitable roster filler. but we've only got 8 bids to hand out, and the competition is tight; guys like charlie comiskey and miller huggins and patsy donovan just don't measure up.

i originally intended to post a poll listing all the at-large candidates, and then allowing everybody to vote for up to 8 players. but my software only allows me to list 10 options in the poll; i can't figure out how to increase that to 15. so let's make a few common-sense decisions. bottomley and hafey are simply too good as hitters to be excluded; they're in. o'neill is our lone deadball-era guy, so he's in as well. schoendienst ranks among the franchise's all-time top 10 in games, at-bats, hits, and runs. if i grant each of those 4 guys a provisional bid, that leaves 4 remaining slots and 10 candidates. so that'll be the poll. vote for up to 4 guys, and use the comments thread below to cast a write-in vote for any player who's not listed in the poll.

i'll leave the poll up through the weekend and unveil the field next week --- or, if you all tell me you're not even interested, i'll forget the whole exercise.

Update [2007-2-2 9:10:13 by lboros]: ok --- i can't seem to activate the mechanism that allows you to vote for multiple players in the poll. so we'll have to do it manually ---- post a comment listing your top at-large bids. let's go ahead and make it your top 8 --- i still think bottomley, hafey, o'neill, and schoendienst should get in, but since we're no longer bound by the limitations of the (@#!$%$!#$) poll utility, i'll revert to the original idea and let everybody vote for 8 at-larges. i'll just tally 'em up by hand.