:: Saturday, October 01, 2005 ::

Introducing the St. Louis Cardinals' All-Busch Stadium Team
In pre-game ceremonies today, the St. Louis Cardinals unveiled their All-Busch Stadium Team, as voted on by the fans, in recognition of 40 great years of baseball at Busch Stadium. Sunday will be the final regular-season game in old Busch Stadium, which opened in 1966, but it won't be the final game there, as the Cardinals are headed to the NL playoffs yet again. Next spring, the Cardinals will open in a new ballpark, also to be named Busch Stadium.

The fans' picks for the All-Busch Stadium Team was fairly predictable, but not very well balanced. Three members of the current team made it to the team, but in my opinion, only one deserved such an honor.

Here are the picks, by position, and my informed commentary:
All Busch-Stadium Team -- the fans' picks, and mine

  • Catcher -- Ted Simmons. A star for the Cardinals in the 1970s, and one of the best hitting catchers of the era, Simba was overshadowed by Johnny Bench, but clearly hit for power and for average. Simmons won out over another Cards great, Tim McCarver, who was behind the plate for the '64 and '67 World Series Champions and catching the likes of Bob Gibson, Ray Washburn, Steve Carlton and Jerry Reuss. Both Simmons and McCarver were strong defensive catchers and gutsy players (name a catcher who isn't -- other than Gary Carter, I mean), but I too give Simmons the nod, as he was the superior hitter. Too bad he never got to play in the World Series.

  • First Base -- Albert Pujols, the team's current third baseman. On Friday, Phat Albert hit his 200th home run. This is his fifth season in the majors, folks. Only two other players have reached 200 HRs faster than Pujols. If he continues on this trajectory, he's going to be one of the game's greatest hitters, right up there with Dimaggio, Mays and Clemente. The Redbirds have had some great first basemen over the past forty years -- Orlando Cepeda, Keith Hernandez and Mark McGwire -- but Pujols, in just five years, has proven himself many times over. So far, I and the fans are two for two.

  • Second Base -- Tom Herr. Herr was a fixture for the great teams of the Whitey Herzog era. He anchored second for the '82 champions and the '85 and '87 teams that won the NL championship. Herr had a fantastic offensive year in '82, when he drove in 110 runs batting second and hitting just eight home runs. But my vote goes for Julian Javier, a great defensive second baseman for those great 1960s teams who continued into the '70s. He and shortstop Dal Maxvill could turn double plays quicker than anyone in their day, and Javier was also a decent hitter who was especially hard on lefties.

  • Third Base -- Scott Rolen. Undeserved. Rolen, when healthy, is as good as they come at the hot corner. He can hit for power and average and is by far the best defensive third-baseman in the game today. When he's healthy. And that's the problem I have with Rolen. He hasn't been dependable for the Cards -- this year or the end of last. My vote goes for Joe Torre, who played third for the Cards from 1969 through the mid-70s. In 1971, he won the NL batting title with a .363 average. A .363 average! That's Tony Gwynn/Ken Brett territory. And keep in mind that Torre, a converted catcher, wasn't too swift afoot. He didn't beat out ground balls for infield hits. He worked hard for every point in that average. He also hit 24 home runs and drove in 137 that year.

  • Shortstop -- Ozzie Smith. No argument there. The Wizard was the best shortstop to play at Busch. He wasn't a great hitter, but his defense saved many a game for the Cardinals during the Whiteyball era, when the team manufactured runs with bunts, steals and hit-and-run plays. He also delivered some key hits, including a game- and series-winning home run in the 1985 NL playoffs.

  • Left Field -- Lou Brock. Brock played for St. Louis from 1964 through 1979, anchoring left field for those great teams of the 1960s. A Hall of Famer with 3,000-plus hits to his credit, Brock was a superb baserunner and base stealer. He's a no-brainer for left field.

  • Center Field -- Jim Edmonds. Edmonds is the current center fielder and is a great one. He makes highlight-reel-worthy plays in center field almost nightly, and when he's hot he's one of the most dangerous hitters around. When he's hot. Edmonds is too streaky for my tastes. I prefer another hero from those 1960s teams, Curt Flood. With Brock, Flood provided thrills, speed and superb hitting for the Cardinals in the 1960s.

  • Right Field -- Roger Maris. Maris didn't play very long for the Cardinals, but in all fairness the choices for right field were weak. Maris won out over George Hendrick, Brian Jordan and Andy Van Slyke. I would give Van Slyke the edge here because of his defensive abilities and speed on the basepaths.

  • Utility Player -- Jose Oquendo. Oquendo was tagged "the secret weapon" for St. Louis when he played in the '80s and early '90s. He could play any position, though he was used mostly in the middle infield. He pitched a few games as well, and was a good pinch hitter and clutch player. He's now St. Louis' third-base coach.

  • Starting Pitcher -- Bob Gibson. Another no-brainer, like fellow Hall of Famers Ozzie and Brock. Gibson literally changed the game of baseball when he pitched an incredible 1.12 ERA in 1968. As a result, Major League Baseball lowered the pitcher's mound to try to level the playing field.

  • Relief Pitcher -- Bruce Sutter. Sutter only pitched for the Cardinals for four years, but was on the mound the last time the Cards won it all, in 1982. But for my money, there was no better closer than Todd Worrell, who pitched for Whitey Herzog's teams.

  • Manager -- Whitey Herzog. St. Louis' manager from 1980-1990, Herzog led the teams to the World Series three times and won it once. He did it with a style of play dubbed "Whiteyball" that relied on speed and defense. It's hard to argue with this choice, but I give current manager Tony LaRussa the edge, even though he's yet to win the World Series. LaRussa is not flashy, nor is he as earthy as Herzog (he's a lawyer and a vegetarian who plays the averages more than his gut), but what LaRussa has done with this year's team, a team plagued by injuries, is amazing. If he takes them to the World Series this time, then he surely deserves this designation. I'm putting my faith in him to do so.

  • , ,

    :: Andrew 19:13 + ::

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