National League Central Preview

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Things have been heating up lately in the National League Central and every team in the division has a chance to be above average for the first time in a long time. Now that this division will be competitive from top to bottom, it is going to be very interesting to see how offseason acquisitions will influence the chances of each team making it to the playoffs next year. Here’s how the Cardsblog team thinks the National League Central will stack up at the conclusion of the 2015 season.

1. St. Louis Cardinals
2014: 90-72, + 16 run differential, lost NLCS
2015 FanGraphs projection: 88-74, + 58 run differential

FanGraphs predicts that the Cardinals will only win 88 games in 2015, but personally I think they will win over 90. While the National League Central has gotten stronger as a whole, the Cardinals are still the favorites and have only solidified their roster with the acquisitions of Jason Heyward, Mark Reynolds, Jordan Walden and Matt Belisle. Carlos Martinez should get a crack at the starting rotation and stick, while Stephen Piscotty could become a great right-handed bat and platoon player off the bench as well, if he is called up. The Cards will have one of the most balanced line-ups in the National League next season and if their pitchers stay relatively healthy this team has the talent to win 95-100 games.

Bold Prediction: Jason Heyward posts a triple slash line of .290/.375/.500 to accompany 25 homeruns, 20 steals and Gold Glove caliber defense, solidifying him as an MVP candidate. Kolten Wong develops into one of the premier second basemen in the National League and the starting rotation stays relatively healthy. The Cardinals make it back to the World Series for the third time this decade.

2. Chicago Cubs
2014: 73-89, – 93 run differential
2015 FanGraphs projection: 83-79, + 16 run differential

Once again I think FanGraphs is being a little bit stubborn concerning the potential this Chicago Cubs team has for next season. No, they have no shot at making the World Series, sorry ESPN your 12-1 odds are absurd. However, they have been the most active team during the offseason in the National League Central, and maybe even the whole MLB, acquiring Jon Lester, Jason Hammel, Miguel Montero and other solid players as well. This team is also going to be potent offensively with Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant each having the ability to hit thirty homeruns next season. Hopefully Baez will adjust to Major League pitching in 2015 and the Cubs can get one more quality outfielder to complement a finally healthy Chris Coghlan and the inexperienced 22 year-old Soler. To round it out, Jon Lester will be leading a pitching staff that has three above average starters in himself, Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel, while new coach Joe Maddon has a smart baseball mind and has always been great at motivating his players while utilizing them at any position he sees fit.

Bold Prediction: Jon Lester turns in a CY Young caliber season, while the Cubs lead the National League in home runs and total runs scored. The team wins 88-90 games, takes the wild-card spot, and makes the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

3. Pittsburgh Pirates
2014: 88-74, + 51 run differential, lost wild-card game
2015 FanGraphs projection: 87-75, +48 run differential

It was tough for me to rank the Pirates as the third-best team in this division, but I cannot see them having a better year than they had last season. Losing Russell Martin to the Blue Jays was huge for this team and in my opinion he was their most valuable player after Andrew McCutchen last season and McCutchen is arguably the best player in the National League. Yes, on the offensive end Russell definitely exceeded his usual quota, but he is supreb defensively and has always gotten on base (he has a career .354 OBP). His replacement, Francisco Cervelli, is a fantastic back-up catcher, but he has never had more than 266 at bats in a season so it is impossible to predict how good he will be. I am also interested in how Cervelli will handle a pitching staff that can be erratic at times with the likes of Francisco Liriano, Vance Worley and the always entertaining A.J. Burnett. There is no doubt that the Pirates have potentially one of the best lineups in the National League, especially if Pedro Alvarez returns to form and Gregory Polanco adjusts to Major League pitching. However, in my opinion, besides Gerrit Cole there is no starter in their projected rotation who is a lock to have a good season.

Bold Prediction: Although the Pirates will have one of the most efficient offenses in the National League and McCutchen will once again be an MVP candidate, they will only win 80-85 games due to inconsistent starting pitching and lack of depth at catcher. The Pirates won’t make the playoffs, but look for the trio of Marte, McCutchen and Polanco to emerge as the best starting outfield in the MLB for years to come.

4. Cincinnati Reds
2014: 76-86, -17 run differential
2015 FanGraphs projection: 76-86 -44 run differential

The interesting thing about the Reds is they have a lot of great individual players, but based on their recent trades of Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon for prospects they are looking at 2015 as more of a rebuilding year. As far as pitching goes, Johnny Cueto was dominant last season and will be leading what still appears to be a solid, young rotation (Homer Bailey, Mike Leake, Tony Cingrani etc.) entering 2015, Aroldis Chapman will anchor what should be a strong bullpen as well. Looking at the offensive end of the spectrum, if Joey Votto can stay healthy for a full season, if Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips can have bounce back years, if Devin Mesoraco can build on his breakout 2014 campaign and if Billy Hamilton can emerge as an offensive force the Reds could have a fantastic lineup in 2015. But that is a lot of “ifs”. There’s not a single player in their lineup at this point who can guarantee consistent production, besides Votto if he remains healthy, and I think this will be the Reds last year to make the playoffs with their current core of Votto, Phillips and Bruce.

Bold Prediction: The pitching staff is above average and Votto stays healthy for the full year, but either Bruce or Phillips is traded by the deadline and Hamilton does improve offensively regardless of the fact that he will lead the MLB in steals. The team will finish with 80-82 wins and further their rebuilding process heading into the 2016 season.

5. Milwaukee Brewers
2014: 82-80, -7 run differential
2015 FanGraphs projection: 78-84, -29 run differential

Boy has Ryan Braun been a different player these last few seasons. Ever since his steroid scandal Braun has been a pretty average outfielder and the Brewers have been a pretty average team, winning 83 games in 2012, 74 in 2013 and 82 in 2014. I think the Brewers will be average again next season and Braun will continue to produce at his post steroid level of play along with the rest of the team. The Brewers did acquire Adam Lind this offseason to help them with their first base woes, (Brewers first basemen posted a triple slash of .207/.286/.357 last year) but it will not be enough to fill the shoes of Prince Fielder. Jean Segura is also not the answer at shortstop, as indicated by the .614 OPS he posted last season, and Aramis Ramirez is four years past his prime. The starting rotation is average at best because the staff has no true ace, sorry Yovani Gallardo, and Jonathan Broxton is too inconsistent to be a top-tier closer.

Bold Prediction: Jonathan Lucroy, Scooter Gennet and Carlos Gomez are the real deal, but Braun hits .250 with 15-20 home runs and the pitching staff is not consistent enough to be effective. The Brew Crew wins 70-75 games and starts to enter rebuilding mode while contemplating dealing Braun for prospects at the deadline.

All in all, the National League Central is without a doubt becoming more competitive, but the Cardinals are still the front-runners and should not have a problem making a postseason appearance for the twelfth time in the past fifteen seasons.

Cardinals Sign Mark Reynolds

According to John Heyman of CBSSports.com the Cardinals have agreed to a deal with 1B/3B Mark Reynolds pending a physical. The 31-year-old Reynolds has hit 224 home runs over his 8 year career and can give first baseman Matt Adams a break against tough lefties while providing power off the bench as well. Reynolds has posted a solid .809 OPS versus left-handed pitching throughout his career and will prove to be a quality signing by the Cards in 2015.

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Jake Wesley Talks Cards 2015 Pitching Staff and Other Potential Offseason Moves

I recently spoke with MLB insider Jake Wesley who writes for stadiumsportsnews.com and broke the story about Hanley Ramirez signing with the Red sox this offseason. Here’s his take on the Cardinals pitching staff and more.

Gus Passov: What do you think about the Cardinals signing of relief pitcher Matt Belisle?

Jake Wesley: Well I think that the Cardinals want him to take on the role Pat Neshek had last year and he is a low risk high reward type of player as well. The past couple years his ERA has been in the 4′s, but the Cardinals believe that he can potentially take over Carlos Martinez’s role in the bullpen and this can give Martinez the opportunity to slide into the starting rotation too. Hopefully after working with pitching coach Derek Lilliquist this offseason Belisle can become a successful Major League reliever once again.

GP: Do you think Martinez or Marco Gonzalez will fit better in the Cardinals starting rotation?

JW: First off, you still can’t out jaime Garcia. He’s still due a lot of money and the team really wants him to be the fifth starter. They are not really confident in him right now because he’s always hurt, but between Marco Gonzalez and Martinez I would love to see Marco have a shot because they don’t have a left-handed starter in the rotation if Jaime isn’t in there. Martinez is a proven reliever and Gonzalez is a proven starter so I think it makes more sense for Marco to move into the starting rotation.

Starting pitcher Jaime Garcia, who will be competing for the fifth spot in the rotation this spring.

Starting pitcher Jaime Garcia, who will be competing for the fifth spot in the rotation this spring.

GP: What do you think the chances are that Michael Wacha and jaime Garcia can stay healthy for a full season?

JW: Well I think Wacha was really disappointed about his finish this year, especially after not pitching for weeks and then being the last Cards pitcher to pitch in the playoffs. He will definitely train hard during the offseason and have a great year in 2015. On the other hand, Jaime Garcia has been constantly hurt the past three seasons or so and I don’t think he’ll have a very successful season once again next year.

GP: What do you think the Cards rotation is going to look like on opening day next season?

JW: I think the Cards are showing a lot of interest in Max Scherzer. I don’t think they will sign him, but it would make sense. He’s from Saint Louis and Wainright has an innings cap of 200 for next year so he might not even be able to be the bona-fide ace. All in all, the rotation is probably as of now Wainright, Lynn, Lackey, Wacha as locks and I think Marco Gonzalez will end up rounding out the rotation.

GP: Do you think the Cardinals are going to go after a frontline starter like Scherzer or Jon Lester or maybe another proven reliever such as Pat Neshek?

JW: If they go after a reliever I would be very surprised, I mean they have confidence in closer Trevor Rosenthal, personally I’m not a big fan of him, but if they go for a reliever it would be via the trade market for a closer. Also, I don’t think they are in the market for Lester. He doesn’t make much sense, other than the fact that he is left-handed, and he will demand just as much money as Scherzer, although Scherzer is in my opinion in a much more proven pitcher. Scherzer is from Saint louis too, so there is a possibility he would be willing to take a hometown discount.

GP: Lastly, do you think with their roster the Cards have a shot to contend for the World Series next season?

JW: Oh absolutely, even with the loss of Shelby Miller they have definitely gotten better with the acquisition of Jason Heyward. I think he’s going to provide a big spark and flourish at Busch Stadium as well. Hopefully they will re-sign him if he has a good year this year although, if they do re-sign him his future with the team is as a center fielder. This would also allow one of the Cards current outfield prospects, maybe Stephen Piscotty for example, to contend for the right field position. So that’s what I think will happen there because I don’t think Jon Jay is the long-term option, but yes, I do think the Cardinals are a World Series caliber team as of now.

To follow jake on twitter click here.

The Case For Martinez

Even with the loss of Shelby Miller the Cardinals still have a solid rotation of starting pitchers, in Adam Wainright, Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn, John Lackey and Jaime Garcia, but they cannot assume that their projected starting five will all stay healthy throughout the course of the 2015 season. Garcia has not started more than 30 games since 2011 and Michael Wacha started only 19 games last year due to shoulder problems. So, what does this mean? Well, an initial instinct of most general managers would be to check out the free agent market and see if there are any veteran pitchers available. Currently, free agents Jason Hammel and Brandon McCarthy are proven big league pitchers and would mesh well with the Cardinals staff, but although signing a free agent may seem like a good investment, I believe that the Cards already have a player on their roster who can step up to the challenge. His name is Carlos Martinez.

The 22-year-old Martinez has already spent the majority of two seasons on the Major League roster and he has the numbers to back his case. Although Martinez has been used mostly as a reliever during his time with the Cardinals, he has had a good amount of major league experience for someone his age and has only allowed 5 home runs over 117.2 innings pitched in the majors while posting a ground-ball to fly-ball ratio of 55/45%. Martinez also has a very low career FIP of 3.15. This suggests that his career ERA of 4.28 is inflated and is likely to be more in line with his FIP in the years to come. Martinez was also used exclusively as a starter during his minor league career so the switch from reliever to starter should not affect him whatsoever mentally.

What makes Martinez a valuable asset to the Cards bullpen is his live arm, his ability to strike people out and his tendency to keep the ball in the ballpark, but now that Jordan Walden and Matt Belisle are part of the pen it would be inefficient for Martinez to occupy the same role that he did last season. Regardless of a soft innings cap on Martinez next season (probably around 140-150 innings) it makes more sense for the Cardinals to use Martinez exclusively as a starter instead of as a reliever.

Martinez in action this past season.

Martinez in action this past season.

Cardinals Sign Righty Reliever

The Cardinals signed thirty-four year old right-handed relief pitcher Matt Belisle to a one year deal this afternoon for the moderate price of 3.5 million dollars. Belisle has displayed excellent command throughout his career, walking only 2.2 batters per 9 innings pitched, and he has proven to be durable as well, making 70 or more relief appearances in four of the past five seasons. Belisle is also second in all of baseball in games pitched since 2010 with 367 and has accumulated 91 holds over that time span as well, which is good for tenth in all of baseball.

Belisle joins recent acquisition Jordan Walden in what is now a revamped Cards bullpen and he will prove to be a great veteran presence for all of the young pitching talent on the major league squad. This was a smart signing by the Cardinals and it will surely pay off next season.

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Coach Matheny’s Kind Gesture

When it comes to jersey numbers most athletes feel a very strong attachment. Usually whatever number an athlete wears has some sort of sentimental value, or it defines them in some type of way. Throughout both of their respective careers, Cardinals new right fielder Jason Heyward and Cards coach Mike Matheny have worn the number 22. This number has represented more than just baseball for both of these men and it has played an integral component in both of their lives.

Heyward wears the number 22 in honor of his friend and high school teammate, Andrew Wilmot, who died in an automobile accident in 2007. He has also been wearing 22 since the outset of his Major League career. Matheny wore the number 22 throughout his thirteen year Major League career and has continued to wear it as a manager. He created a foundation called “Catch Twenty-Two“, which has built handicap accessible baseball fields in multiple Saint Louis area cities and is based off of his position and number. When Matheny offered the number 22 to Heyward this past week it spoke to his character as well as his leadership qualities. There was no better way to make Jason Heyward feel welcomed and cared about by the Cardinal’s community than Matheny’s donning of the symbolic number. It was great to see “The Toughest Man Alive” (Matheny’s nickname in his playing days) make a sacrifice for what he knows is the greater good. When asked about why he decided to give up his precious number for Heyward, Matheny responded with the sincere statement, “knowing the reason why Jason uses that number, it’s really easy for me”.

Matheny at a World Series post game press conference

Matheny at a World Series post game press conference

Teddy Drucker’s Take on The Cardinals Blockbuster

Last week I spoke with sports radio show host Teddy Drucker about the Cardinals recent trade of Shelby Miller/Tyrell Jenkins for Jason Heyward/Jordan Walden, and how it is going to influence the team this upcoming season. Here is what Ted had to say.

Gus Passov: Do you think this was a good trade for the cardinals?

Teddy Drucker: I think it was a great trade for the Cardinals. They got more talent than they gave away and exploited a Braves team that needed to part with Heyward. They also got another guy in Walden who has a plus arm out of the bullpen, which is something the Cardinals need very much.

GP: How do you think Heyward is going to fit in with this team?

TD: First off, I think the change of scenery is going to help Heyward dramatically. I look at him as kind of like a Paul O’neill type player. O’neill played for the reds for six years and they wanted him to be a lefty pull hitter that could hit 30-40 home runs, but he never really reached that expectation the organization set for him. Luckily once he became a Yankee they let him play his own way and guess what? He hit .311 his first year with the team and .359 the year after. I think Heyward has the same opportunity to do that in Saint Louis. Another thing I love about Heyward is that he can hit leadoff. This takes off all of the pressure for him to be a power hitter and at the same time gives them pop out of the leadoff spot. The Cardinals lacked a lot of power last season and this is going to have a fantastic impact on the team. He’s also only 25 and if you look at guys like Alex Gordon and Robinson Cano who were highly touted prospects and took a while to pan out it’s definitely possible to picture Heyward having a career path similar to theirs.

GP: Do you think this trade solidifies the Cardinals as the National Leagues best team?

TD: No, even though this trade was great for the Cardinals, the Dodgers are still the best team on paper and easily have the best pitching staff. But, I do believe the Cardinals should have one of the most entertaining and dynamic lineups next season, there are no holes.

GP: Are there any other moves you think the Cardinals should make this offseason?

TD: I think they need to bolster their pitching staff because of the loss of Miller. I’m not the biggest Miller fan and I don’t think the Cardinals need to break the bank on a guy like Lester, but someone such as Brandon McCarthy, for example, who won’t be an expensive guy to sign and has proven himself in the major leagues would be a great fit. The Cardinals are usually extremely reliant on their farm system to feed players to their major league team, but if they want to be World Series contenders next season, they don’t have the time to wait and see if a prospect is going to pan out.

GP: Do you think Walden is going to challenge Trevor Rosenthal for the role of closer?

TD: No, I think that Rosenthal is going to be closer from the outset, without a doubt, but Matheny will keep a tight leash on him and I would not be surprised if by mid-season Walden ended up taking over. Rosenthal was shaky at times last season and had a pretty high era for a closer, but I believe the pressure of knowing Walden could challenge him for his job will make him become a more consistent pitcher.

GP: Do you think the Cardinals are going to sign Heyward to a long-term deal?

TD: That’s a very intriguing question, his current contract is set to expire in 2016 and he will be an unrestricted free agent when that happens, but to be honest I think it’s in the Cardinals favor to sign him to a long-term contract. Let’s see how he does his first year, but my guess is that they will end up locking him in for 6-8 years because they know that he has the potential to develop into a franchise player and a team leader as well.

You can tune in to the getting ready with teddy show at 90.3 fm kwur. it airs from 7-8 on Wednesday evenings.

You can tune in to the “Getting Ready With Teddy Show” on 90.3 FM KWUR. it airs from 7-8 on Wednesday evenings.

Cardinals Make Blockbuster Deal

This morning the Cardinals agreed on a four player trade that will send starting pitchers Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for right fielder Jason Heyward and relief pitcher Jordan Walden. Heyward is a fantastic defensive outfielder and won a gold glove this past season while saving an astounding 32 runs. He is also a proven hitter with a respectable career slash line of .262/.352/.429. Not only will he fill the right field void for the Cardinals, but will take on the role of leadoff hitter as well due to his speed (twenty bags swiped last season) and his knack for getting on base. At the young age of 25, Heyward should be a staple of the Cardinals outfield for years to come.
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Walden is a hard-throwing 27 year-old right hander and has proven to be an effective set up man and closer throughout his career. He led the Braves with 20 holds last season while posting a solid 2.88 era and he will be a huge addition to a bullpen that struggled at times last season. Walden has also proven durable, appearing in 50 or more games in three of the past four seasons. An end of game bullpen combo of Walden and Card’s closer Trevor Rosenthal will leave hitters quivering at the plate.

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All in all, this was a great trade for the Cardinals. Yes, they gave up young pitching which is usually a big no-no, but they filled two immediate needs in return. For a team whose goal is to win the World Series in 2015, this trade was necessary and will prove worthwhile in the long run.

Statement From John Mozeliak

Cardinal’s General Manager John Mozeliak confirmed today that although he has seen media reports regarding the tragic death of Oscar Taveras, the team is still waiting for more information from the Dominican Republic regarding the incident.

Dominican officials reported today that Taveras’ blood alcohol content was five times the legal limit when he lost control of his car and ran into a tree last month. It is a shame that this tragedy is now tainted, but unfortunately the past cannot be changed.

“We have seen the media reports regarding Oscar Taveras that have come out this afternoon, but have yet to receive any official notification from the Dominican. Until we have the opportunity to review the official report, we cannot confirm details. While we are still working to obtain the facts, it won’t change the fact that this is a terrible tragedy. We have an obligation to use this as an opportunity to educate our players that they must take responsibility for themselves both on and off the field.” – John Mozeliak

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Cardinals All-time Team

Since the Cardinals creation in 1882, some of the best baseball players in the history of the sport have conquered the diamond in a red birds uniform. Unfortunately, careers can only last so long and as the years go by we forget how good some of these players actually were. Although there’s a plethora of options at almost every position, these are the Cardinal’s greatest position players of all time listed in the batting order that would be used if this team were to actually exist.

Left Field: Lou Brock

Brock is undoubtedly one of the best base stealers in history, second all time to Rickey Henderson, and he accumulated 888 steals over his 2289 games played with the Cards, but many people forget about his miraculous post season play. Brock’s .391 World Series batting average is the highest ever for anyone that has played 20 World Series games or more and his 14 career steals in the World Series are a record as well. Brock was a key factor in the Cardinals 1964 and 1967 championships (re-read above) and is the perfect leadoff hitter for the all-time team.

Second Base: Rogers Hornsby

This was a trickier decision than Brock, but Hornsby narrowly edges out Red Schoendienst for the honor of the greatest Cardinals second basemen of all time. Hornsby is not only the Cardinals all time leader in practically every single offensive category at the second base position, but he was also an impeccable defender and clutch player. In 1926 he helped the Cardinals win their first pennant and their first World Series as well. The red birds defeated the Yankees in seven games and Hornsby tagged out the great Babe Ruth on a stolen base attempt to solidify the Cards as champions for the first time.

Right Field: Stan Musial

I realize that Musial technically played all outfield positions and was primarily a first baseman, but it makes the most sense for him to be the starting right fielder of the all-time team due the greatness of Lou Brock and Albert Pujols (see below). That being said, Musial is without a doubt the most celebrated Cardinal of all time. He played 22 seasons with the team and made an astonishing 20 all-star teams. More importantly, Stan the man was a three-time World Series champion, a seven time batting champion, and a three-time MVP. Musial also amassed 3,630 hits over his career, which is the fourth most in history, and posted a career WAR of 128.1, which is eleventh all time. These statistics make Musial a special player, but his true greatness stems from his image. He will not only forever be the face of the Cardinals, but the heart and soul of the city of Saint Louis as well. Thank you Stan.

First Base: Albert Pujols

Pujols is one of the most complete hitters in the history of the game and very rarely have players dominated the Major Leagues like Pujols did for the first ten years of his career (2001-2011). He is the only player in major league history to record a batting average of at least .300 with at least 30 home runs and 100 runs batted in his first ten seasons. It is simply one of those statistical anomalies that will probably never be broken. Moving forwards, Pujols also won two World Series in his eleven years with the Cardinals, three MVP awards, six silver sluggers, two gold gloves and, is a member of the prestigious 500 home run club. He was also a staple of the 2004 Cardinals team, which won 105 games, scored a remarkable 855 runs and is arguably one of the most complete teams to ever play the game, but I’ll save that story for another time.

Center Field: Jim Edmonds

Edmonds was one of the most fun Cardinals to watch play the game of baseball because of the passion and enthusiasm he brought to the diamond every day. Jimmy ballgame won five gold gloves as a member of the Cardinals and was one of the most fearless players in the game. Although Jim was a member of the Angels when he did this; it is one of the best catches in the history of baseball and epitomizes his playing style. Jim is also fourth in Cards history with 241 career homeruns as a Cardinal, and his walk off home run in-game six of the 2004 NLCS against the Houston Astros is one of the most memorable moments in Cardinals postseason history. On August 8th 2014 Edmonds was inducted into the St. Louis Cardinals hall of fame and was hired by Fox Sports Midwest in 2013 to be a member of their Cardinals broadcasting crew.

Third Base: Ken Boyer

Boyer was a remarkable player, who occasionally slips through the cracks when it comes to discussing the Card’s all time greats. He holds almost every offensive record at third base for the Cardinals and his 255 home runs are good for third all-time in team history. Boyer also won five gold gloves as well as the 1964 MVP award, while leading the team to a World Series victory during the same season. For how impressive Boyer’s play was, his leadership was equally impressive and he was the Cardinal’s captain from 1959-1965. Boyer also coached the Cardinals from 1978-80 and while those were not some of the best Cardinals teams, his loyalty to the organization is unparalleled.

Catcher: Yadier Molina

This was a tough decision due to the greatness of Card’s catcher Ted Simmons during the late 1960’s through the 1970’s, but Molina takes the cake as the best Cardinal catcher in history. Molina has won seven gold gloves, a silver slugger award, two World Series and he was just the third catcher in the history of professional baseball, after Yogi Berra and Johnny Bench, to play in two world series before his 25th birthday. Molina has also thrown out an astounding 45% of base runners over his career and is the active Major League leader with 52 career pickoffs. He is also a natural leader and is constantly pushing his teammates to compete at the highest level they can. Molina has already accomplished so much in his career and we hope that he continues his excellence for years to come.

Shortstop: Ozzie Smith

Ozzie is remembered today for his flash on the field and his amazing in-game backflips, but he is arguably the best defensive short stop of all time. He won an unbelievable 11 consecutive gold gloves with the Cardinals and the wizard has the most assists of all time with 8,375. Although Smith wasn’t an extremely polished offensive player, he was a very respectable hitter for a shortstop and won the silver slugger award in 1987. Ozzie also amassed 876 walks compared to only 423 strikeouts over his Card’s career while swiping an impressive 433 bags as well. Lastly, Smith won the Roberto Clemente award in 1995, which speaks to the quality of his character, sportsmanship and contributions on and off the field and he was a crucial member of the 1982 championship team.

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Starting Pitcher: Bob Gibson

This decision was one of the easiest to make because Bob Gibson is without a doubt the best Cardinal pitcher of all time. After turning down an opportunity to play with the Harlem Globetrotters, Gibson had a miraculous sixteen-season career with the Cards in which he won nine gold gloves, two Cy Young awards, one MVP award, two World Series MVP awards and the 1964 and 1967 World Series. On top of all these accomplishments, Gibson’s 1968 season is considered one of the best in the history of baseball. He shocked the country by pitching 304.1 innings and posting a miraculous 1.12 ERA over that span. There are rumors that Gibson’s dominance in 1968 prompted Major League Baseball to lower the pitcher’s mound from 15 inches to 10 inches and shrink the size of the strike zone as well.

The Cardinals have given all of these players the recognition they deserve, all retired players are members of the Cardinal’s Hall Of Fame and most have their numbers retired, but as fans it is always good to appreciate greatness too. Without these spectacular athletes, the game we adore so much would cease to exist.