Worst Cardinal Team to Win the World Series?


Posted Jan 1, 2007


Jerry Modene looks back at the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals of 2006. Or, does he?

Consider, if you will, the following baseball team:

 

  • This team had not a single starting pitcher who won more than 15 games.
  • In addition, two of the guys who started the season in the rotation were replaced in said rotation by mid-season.
  • One of the three who survived all year in the rotation did not appear at all in the postseason… and was gone to Chicago soon thereafter.
  • The relief ace spent some time on the disabled list.
  • The left fielder, in his first full year with the club, was a pleasant surprise offensively, but was – shall we say – challenged defensively.
  • Fortunately, this team had multiple Gold Glove Award winners, some young players who came through when needed, some role players who overachieved in the postseason, a former 20-game winner on staff, and of course a Hall of Fame-caliber manager.

 

A familiar story indeed, as we enter a new year. 

 

Yes, those 2006 Cardinals were some kind of team – but I’m not talking about them.

 

I’m talking about the 1982 Cardinals, a 92-win team that also won a World Series that nobody really expected.


The rotation at the start of the year was:

Bob Forsch (the former 20-game winner and pictured above in the 1982 World Series)
Joaquin Andujar
Steve Mura
John Martin
Andy Rincon

Rincon went 2-3, with a 4.72 ERA in 11 games (six starts) before going onto the DL. He was replaced in the rotation by John Stuper, who went 9-7, 3.36.

Martin, who did manage to survive the entire season with the team, finished at 4-5, 4.23 but lost his spot in the rotation to Dave LaPoint, who went 9-3, 3.42.

Forsch and Andujar each won 15 games. Mura won 12 games but Whitey Herzog lost confidence in him by the end of the season (if I remember correctly, he was walking too many people early in games) and he didn't appear in a single postseason contest. He wound up going to
Chicago over the winter (selected as a free agent compensation pick by the White Sox).  Bruce Sutter did indeed spend time on the DL in mid-season, when Doug Bair stepped up with some key saves.

 

It was, in large part, the defense that carried the Cardinals (despite the presence of the defensively-challenged Lonnie Smith in left field), as they had multiple Gold Glove winners with Ozzie Smith and Keith Hernandez, as well as solid defensive work from George Hendrick, Ken Oberkfell, Tom Herr, and Willie McGee.  In addition, some young players – Herr, McGee, Stuper, LaPoint, and to a lesser extent David Green and Jeff Lahti, played key roles, and the bench players – especially Dane Iorg, who hit .519 in the World Series, overachieved.

This all sounds quite familiar, because it’s a story with which we were re-acquainted in 2006.

 

  • This team had not a single starting pitcher who won more than 15 games.
  • In addition, two of the guys who started the season in the rotation were replaced in said rotation by mid-season.
  • One of the three who survived all year in the rotation did not appear at all in the postseason… and was gone to Chicago soon thereafter.
  • The relief ace spent some time on the disabled list.
  • The left fielder, in his first full year with the club, was a pleasant surprise offensively, but was – shall we say – challenged defensively.
  • Fortunately, this team had multiple Gold Glove Award winners, some young players who came through when needed, some role players who overachieved in the postseason, a former 20-game winner on staff, and of course a Hall of Fame-caliber manager.


The rotation at the start of the year was:

Chris Carpenter (the former 20-game winner)
Mark Mulder
Jeff Suppan
Jason Marquis
Sidney Ponson

Mulder went onto the DL and was replaced by Jeff Weaver. Ponson was released and was replaced by Anthony Reyes. Tony La Russa lost confidence in Marquis and now he is in
Chicago. Carpenter won the 15 games, of course, and Suppan won 12.

The only real differences: Suppan is also gone, whereas Bob Forsch stuck around for a few more years before the Cardinals traded him to
Houston in 1988 for Denny Walling. And, while Rincon and Martin were both replaced by rookie callups, only Ponson was likewise replaced; Mulder was replaced by a veteran. And, of course, it was Rincon, the righty, who went on the DL in 1982, whereas it was the lefty Mulder who was disabled in 2006.

 

And, as in 1982, it was in large part the defense which carried the Cardinals, despite the presence of the defensively-challenged Chris Duncan in left field, as the club had multiple Gold Glove Award winners with Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen, as well as solid defensive work from Albert Pujols (who would win his first Gold Glove), David Eckstein, Yadier Molina, and in the postseason, Ronnie Belliard.  In addition, some young players – Molina, Josh Kinney, Josh Hancock, Brad Thompson, Adam Wainwright, Tyler Johnson, Chris Duncan and others, played key roles, and the bench players – especially Scott Spiezio and So Taguchi (two home runs in his first two postseason at-bats after having hit only two all season) overachieved.

 

Jason Isringhausen, of course, is the relief ace who went on the DL, although in his case it was at the end of the season – and it was Wainwright who got those key postseason saves in Izzy’s absence.  And there’s another difference; nobody ever suggested Bair should replace Sutter as the ace, the way some people feel (even before Izzy went on the DL) that Wainwright should replace Isringhausen as the closer.

Overall, the similarities between the 1982 and 2006 teams, especially the way the rotations worked out, were fascinating (to coin a phrase), especially since both rotations wound up winning World Championships that nobody really thought they could – yes, the 1982 Cardinals were underdogs going into the postseason, against both the “America’s Team” Braves of Joe Torre and Dale Murphy, and the “Harvey’s Wallbangers” edition of the Milwaukee Brewers.

To make it easier, think of the 1982 and 2006 rotations this way:

Andujar: Carpenter
Forsch: Suppan
Mura: Marquis
Rincon: Mulder
Martin: Ponson
Stuper: Reyes
LaPoint: Weaver

The point of all this is to stop and think - while we're puzzling how the Cardinals managed to win a World Championship with these pitchers in 2006, it's amazing how they likewise won a championship in 1982 with what I'm sure was also considered, at the time, a rather weak pitching rotation.  And indeed, the 1982 team really never got its due; I can remember Ozzie Smith rather bitterly complaining about the lack of respect the 1982 Cardinals received from the national media.

Anyway, better to enjoy this latest World Championship and not think about it too much – after all, we can take the parallel too far.  Because in 1983, the year after the World Championship, the Cards fell to below .500 and not a single starter won more than 12 games; Stuper and LaPoint won 12; Forsch and Allen won 10; Andujar fell to 6-15.

 

Hopefully we won’t see a similar decline in 2007!

 

© 2007 stlcardinals.scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed.



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