On Friday night after the Cardinals were blown out by the Braves at home, I sat at a table on a bar patio with a few friends in the delightful late-spring air. The conversation spanned many topics, but as usual it turned to sports, specifically the Cardinals and then the Blues. We discussed the Blues being a good distraction for how terrible the Cardinals have been lately. My good friend and former VEB editor John Fleming wrote about this on his blog.
The next logical step in the conversation was comparing the current Blues team to the 2011 Cardinals. It is a fine comparison — both teams got hot at the end of the season to make the playoffs and go on run to the championship series; the Cardinals ultimately won and what happens with the Blues remains to be seen. I am not really a fan of that comp, though — I think we can do better. The 2011 Cardinals at the All Star Break were 49-43 and very much in the thick of things, constantly hovering just above mediocrity. The Blues at their All Star Break were 22-27, were in last place in the league weeks earlier and had just won the first game of what would end up being an eleven game win streak. In their games following the break the Blues went 23-10.
Is their a better Cardinals comp? I think there is, but before we get to that, here were my conditions:
The Cardinals team needed to make playoffs, with a preference at teams advancing to the World Series
The team needed to be below .500 at the All Star Break or as close to the break as possible
Bonus points if the team had a substantial winning streak or coaching change.
Those were the only conditions I really needed because there was only one Cardinals team that really made the cut. This Cardinals team was 39-40 at the All Star Break, going 59-24 (with an eight-game win streak beginning with eleven games left in the season) in the second half of the season to finish first in the National League, one game above Cincinnati and Philadelphia. (That Philadelphia team spent 132 days in first place before being passed on September 26.) This team had no breakout performance from any one player, but relied on consistency up and down the lineup with four players contributing 5.4 bWAR or more. Their first-place finish earned them a battle with the fearsome New York Yankees in the World Series. The series went to the maximum seven games with Bob Gibson pitching his third game of the series in a complete game effort to win game seven 7-5.
I think many of you have guessed it by now, but I am talking about none other than the 1964 Cardinals. Hopefully for the Blues they can pull out a similar ending!
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