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25-year roster

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ah, blessed off-day. the sunday bats did their work, and the cards won a series from the cubs. hallelujah, amen.

i don't know about you, but i could use a break. so rather than dissect a game that truly speaks for itself --- the wind blew out, a buncha runs scored, our team scored more --- i'm gonna just goof around with this exercise somebody unveiled at the new MLB Trade Rumors Reader Blog. i'll let the author speak for himself:

I went through the last 25 years of Mets history - 1983 through 2006, inclusive -- and put together a team. A starter at each position. A backup catcher, middle infielder, and outfielder. An extra bat off the bench. A defensive replacement-type. Five starters, 1 closer, and five relievers.

Easy? Sure, except:

  • I took only one player per year.
  • Once I used a player, he couldn't be used again (e.g. only one Dwight Gooden)
  • The player really needed to have the position he's in -- so I couldn't put Todd Hundley as a backup catcher or use John Olerud off the bench.
  • Your rotation's order has to be reasonable. That's not really hard, but whatever.
i'm really not sure what that last guideline means, so i'm just gonna ignore it. i'll also correct this person's math: a 25-year inclusive team would stretch back to 1982, not 1983; his roster only has 24 players on it. and since a 1982 through 2006 stretch is bracketed by st louis world series winners, that's the span i'm going to use. i'll add an extra hitter for the bench, because my starting rotation will be so strong a 12th reliever would never get into the game.

before i dive in, let me note that a VEB community member already has posted his own 25-year cardinal team over at MLBTRRB, which you'll find here. lotta overlap between his roster and mine; some of these calls are no-brainers. i started building my team with the two no-brainiest seasons of all, the cardinals' single best pitching and hitting seasons of the period:

  • tudor 1985. the 6th-best single-season era in franchise history --- and one of only two sub-2.00 marks (along with gibson's 1.12 in 1968) since world war II. since you can only take one player from each year, tudor knocks an mvp (willie mcgee) out of the running.
  • mcgwire 1998. maybe he cheated a little, but you could disqualify a quarter of his homers and he'd still hold the franchise single-season record for home runs. since you can only have one 1st baseman, mcgwire's selection at 1st base removes from contention the only other cardinal mvp of the last 25 years: pujols 2005. after just two choices, both mvps are out.
with half of pujols' career wiped out, we'd better get him onto the team now, before other selections bump him entirely off the roster:
  • pujols 2003. arguably his best season anyway: career highs in batting average, on-base percentage, doubles, runs scored, and ops+. he played left field --- adios lonnie smith, vince coleman, ron gant, and latter-day ray lankford. this choice also bumps out edgar renteria's 2003 campaign, the best season by any cardinal shortstop of this era: 100 rbis, gold glove, averages of .330 / .394 / .480.
now let's head back to the rotation, where outstanding years are more rare than outstanding offensive seasons. aside from tudor, here are the obvious candidates for inclusion in the rotation:
  • carpenter 2005. the only cy young season of the entire 25-year span. he's in.
  • morris 2001. franchise's highest win total of the last 25 years, finished 3d in the cy young, and had two memorable duels with curt schilling in the nlds. that was the postseason that made schilling a star; if morris had just made a better pitch to reggie sanders in game 5, we might have been spared the whole cult of curt. . . . . by the way, morris's rookie season (1997) is nearly identical to '01 in every respect except the win total. this selection trumps one of our best available 2b seasons, fernando vina's .303 / .357 / .418 line (plus gold glove). other worthy 2001 seasons lost are steve kline's extraordinary LOOGY year (240 era+), darryl kile's last season, and jd drew's 1.027 OPS, the best in franchise history for any right fielder not named musial.
  • tewksbury 1992. fourth-best era since WWII, second-best of the last 25 years; also the 2d-best strikeout/walk ratio of the period (tewksie trumped himself the following year). this pick knocks out a pretty good candidate for the bench, geronimo pena (.305 / .386 / .478 in part-time duty) and two phenomenal setup-man seasons, mike perez (9-3, 1.84 era in 93 innings) and todd worrell (2.11 era, .198 opponent avg).
there are a lot of ways we could go with that last rotation slot; let's hold off on it and return now to the lineup. both edmonds and rolen gotta be on this team, and there aren't many years left to choose from for these guys. so let's go with:
  • rolen 2004. both rolen and edmonds had their best year in 2004, so this is quite the tug of war. edmonds had more homers and far better rate-stat figures, and he played a more demanding defensive position, but rolen wins in a backhanded way: the dropoff to his 2d-best season is much steeper than the dropoff to edmonds' 2d best. he's a worthy selection: this is the only 1.000+ OPS season in franchise history by anybody who didn't play outfield or first base.
  • edmonds 2000. he had a higher OPS+ in 2002, but i chose this year for a few reasons: 1) it's one of the two best single-season hr totals by a left-handed hitter in franchise history (edmonds tied his own record in 2004); 2) jim's 129 runs rank as the franchise's 5th-highest total since world war II; and 3) there's another guy from 2002 who i want on the team.
and no, it's not edgar renteria --- although that is mighty tempting. edgar's 2002 has got to be the 2d-best offensive year of any cardinal shortstop in history --- only his 2003 season was better, unless i'm missing somebody. and he won a gold glove that year; how can you leave this guy off the team? and you know the answer:
  • ozzie 1987. you can't have two starting shortstops; it's either edgar or ozzie. smith never had a year as good as renteria's 2002, but his 1987 is arguably the best hitting season in franchise history by any non-renteria shortstop. his OPS that year (.775) is one that we'd kill to have out of our right-fielder in 2007. ozzie finished 2d in the mvp polling and won the gold glove (of course). i'll freely admit that this is not the best shortstop season available, but i don't care; you can't have an all-cardinal team of the last 25 years that doesn't include ozzie smith.
ok, so we're still looking for a right-fielder, a 2bman, and a catcher. click "read more" to see the rest of the team . . . . .

very quickly:

  • jordan 1996. there aren't many good right-field seasons to choose from, and i've already disqualified the best ones (most notably jd drew's 2001 season). george hendrick had a year similar to this one for the 1982 world titlists, but jordan had more power, better speed, and a better glove.
  • porter 1983. cards haven't had a good-hitting catcher since simmons.
  • delino deshields 1997. not so hot with the glove, but the guy could hit --- 51 extra-base hits and 55 steals. how on earth did he fail to score 100 runs?
that takes care of my 8 regulars. i'd line 'em up this way:
  1. deshields 2b: .295 / .357 / .448, 55 sb
  2. pujols lf: .359 / .439 / .667
  3. edmonds cf: .295 / .411 / .583, 129 runs
  4. mcgwire 1b: .299 / .470 / .752
  5. rolen 3b: .314 / .409 / .598
  6. jordan rf: .310 / .349 / .483, 104 rbi
  7. porter c: .262 / .363 / .431, 15 hr
  8. ozzie ss: .303 / .392 / .383, 43 sb
a lot of people would take edmonds' 2002 season, leaving 2000 open for j.d. drew in right field (.295 / .401 / .479); or they'd leave morris off the team, replace him with joe magrane or somebody, and put drew 2001 in right field; that would make sense if you only look at rate stats. but i think counting stats matter --- even in discredited categories such as wins. since morris '01 and edmonds '00 both represent significant counting-stat achievements, they're on my team.

let me quickly fill out the rest of the team. my fifth starter is

  • andujar 1982. since gibson, only 1 pitcher has thrown more innings than whacky jack's 268.2 in '82 (tudor threw 275 in '85). andujar's 2.47 era is the 4th-lowest post-gibson figure (bested by tudor, tewksbury, and joe magrane in 1988), and his adjusted era+ (147) was nearly as good as carpenter's in his cy young year (151). plus, he went 3-0 in the postseason, including a victory in the championship-clinching game.
now here's my bullpen, beginning with the closer:
  • sutter 1984. he threw 122.2 innings --- about twice what a modern-day closer throws, and three-fourths of the way to qualifying for the era title --- with a 1.54 era. plus 45 saves.
  • horton 1986. 2.24 era in 100+ innings.
  • perez 1993. he was better in 1992, but tewksbury's got that year; '93 will do (7-2, 2.48 era, 7 svs).
  • fossas 1995. gotta have someone from '95.
  • dayley 1989. not necessarily his best season, but the '89 team had no standouts; he'll serve.
  • terry 1991. subtract out his ibb's (14 of them !) and he had a 3:1 k/w ratio.
i'll admit it, beyond sutter that ain't much of a pen. but when your starting pitchers are gonna throw more than 1000 innings, and your closer is gonna throw 125, there aren't many innings left for the setup men. these guys are mostly just filler, but that's all they have to be.

finally, here's my bench:

  • oquendo 1988. not really a bench player --- he got over 500 plate appearances --- so i'm probably breaking the rules. but oquendo was the ultimate utility player that year. he didn't play more than 69 games at any one position but appeared at all 9 positions, even pitched 4 innings in a marathon game and should have become the first position player to earn a win since . . . . i don't know the hell who. he took the loss instead.
  • marrero 2002. 18 homers and a .778 ops --- can't do much better than this for a backup catcher. eli started 15 games behind the plate and appeared in 44 games there, caught over 10 percent of the cardinals' innings.
  • spiezio 2006. clutch player; unique season. best facial hair since hrabosky.
  • lankford 1990. came up for the last month and a half, hit .286 / .353 / .452.
  • dunston 1999. played everywhere on the diamond, put up nearly .800 ops in 150+ plate appearances.
  • perry 1994. never liked him, but he hit .325 / .435 / .532 in nearly 100 plate appearances.
if you made it to the end of this post, congratulations; i almost didn't make it, and i wrote the damn thing. feel free to edit my roster or construct your own . . . . above all, enjoy a day away from the nutty 2007 team.