Our regular readers know we like to help fill the weeks and months between the end of one season and the start of the next by preparing lists – whether the focus is on the here and now, such as with our annual, just completed series on the St. Louis Cardinals Top 40 Prospects, or the past, as evidenced by our Top 40 Cardinals Players of All Time articles from last winter.
Our newest mission is to look back into time and develop a list of the 15 best Cards teams of all time. To accomplish this, we again decided to call on a group of knowledgeable minds – Rob Rains, Jerry Modene, Ray Mileur and myself – the same four that ranked the Top 40 players one year ago.
Rains served as the Cardinals beat writer for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat from 1984-1986, covered the team for UPI from 1981-1984, and was the NL beat writer for USA Today Baseball Weekly from 1991-1995. Rob has penned autobiographies or biographies of Ozzie Smith, Red Schoendienst, Jack Buck, Mark McGwire and Albert Pujols; a 100th anniversary history of the Cardinals and at least six-other Cardinals-related books.
Anyone who has ever browsed a Cardinals-themed message board on the internet has discovered Jerry Modene’s astute observations. His knowledge of Cardinals history is especially second to none, making him an ideal participant in this assignment. Jerry is also a regular contributor here at stlcardinals.scout.com.
Independently, each of the four developed our own criteria for what makes up a great team, and prepared our own lists. They were then combined, with the only rule that a team had to have been named by at least two voters to qualify for the master list.
As one might expect, there were similarities, but also significant differences, especially later in the lists. Every team ranked in the top ten by any one of four made the cut, but anywhere from one favored team (Jerry) to two teams (Ray and Brian) to three teams (Rob) in our personal final five (between #11 and #15) did not receive enough votes to join the group’s top 15.
Only one Cardinals club received votes from as many as two of us but did not make the top 15, so we feel like we have developed a very representative list. It will be unveiled team-by-team, one day at a time, starting tomorrow and running for over two weeks thereafter. We will conclude the series with articles by each voter covering our favorite teams that missed the group’s list and a look at top awards over time.
To kick off the series, today’s article will conclude with each voter explaining how they selected their top 15 Cardinals teams of all time. Remember to bookmark this page, as we will track our top 15 countdown right here each day.
Ray Mileur. Several factors went into my decision making process in ranking the top 15 St. Louis Cardinals Teams of all-time to include; regular season record, post-season record, World Series Championships, the level of competition, the quality of competition in the post-season (beat the Yankees a big bonus), performance vs. expectations, the era in which the team played, pre-expansion teams vs. post expansion teams.
The first MLB expansion began in 1961 with subsequent expansions occurring in 1962, 1969, 1977, 1993 and 1998. What had been sixteen-team league in 1960 grew to thirty franchises by 2006, an increase of 87.5%. Each time new teams were added the talent pool was diluted, contributing to inflated win totals due to the presence of weaker competition. When a team played and scheduling balance (Cardinals have benefited by playing in the NL Central) were factored into the rankings.
Winning a National League or World Championship was almost a prerequisite to be included in my rankings, but when it came down to it, the bottom line, the deciding factor was winning, with the regular season record carrying the most weight. Of course, regular-season proficiency can be wiped out by post-season stumbles, as we’ve seen with the 2004 and 2005 Cardinals who won 105 and 100 games respectively.
Jerry Modene. Well, here we are again with another countdown that is sure to spark plenty of discussion – and maybe a little controversy here and there. Surprisingly though, there was little disagreement between us as to which teams made the Top 15 and which ones didn’t. For my own part, I was pleased that 14 of my 15 choices made the consensus list (the one that didn’t was the 1885 team, and that’s OK with me).
In approaching this task, though, I wanted to ensure that each of the Cardinal eras were fairly represented – which is one reason I selected the 1885 team and is a reason why the 1914 team made my “honorable mention” list – and I think we succeeded in this. In addition, I wanted to make selections that would reflect the character of the Cardinal franchise, a franchise that has a history that is as colorful, dramatic, and outstanding as any in major-league baseball history; really, only the Yankees and Dodgers can compare. (OK, maybe the Red Sox, too.)
That’s why you’ll see a few teams on the list that did *not* win the World Series – the 1943, 2004, 1968, and 1985 teams – and two teams that didn’t even make it *to* the World Series. Winning the Series did help, though, as nine of our World Series winners made the Top 15 (guess which one didn’t!).
All in all, it was a pleasure to reminisce, ruminate, and re-live some of the great seasons in Cardinal history!
Rob Rains. Just as it is hard to compare players from different eras, it also is hard to come up with a system which accurately can compare teams from different eras. Here is how I did it -- I came up with a scoring system.
Each team that won a world championship received 10 points. An NL pennant also was worth 10 points. I also added in the margin of victory over the second place club. The other three categories I used were to award points for each individual major award victory such as the MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, etc. I then added a point for each category in which the team led the NL, and finally one point for each player on the team leading the NL in a specific category, i.e. wins, batting champion, home runs, RBI, etc.
The results were interesting. The one team I thought would fare better, and really was penalized for not winning the World Series was the 1985 Cardinals. They finished 10th in my individual scoring system, but would have ranked fifth if they had defeated the Royals.
Brian Walton. I decided to put my mathematical training to work to develop as non-subjective an approach as possible to rank the best Cardinals teams of all time. Independently, I ended up following a similar thought process to Rob, though my scoring was much different.
As I considered what makes a great team for me, I came up with four factors, listed in order of importance. First is how the team fared in the postseason, as that is what it is all about. Second was dominance during the season as measured by win percentage. Next was number of great players, as after all, the players make the team. Finally, if the club was skippered by a current or future member of the Hall of Fame, that also received a small consideration.
In terms of scoring, I gave teams from five to two points for winning the World Series down to winning the Wild Card berth. I assigned from one to four points for win percentage, starting from .501-.550 and going up from there. A half point was added for every team member who ranked in our Cardinals Top 40 Players of All Time list from last winter and an additional quarter point was tacked on for each Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner. And finally, each club with a manager who is either in the Hall, no matter why chosen, or a lock for eventual induction (Tony La Russa and Joe Torre), received one point.
Top 15 St. Louis Cardinals Teams of All Time
“Top 15 All-Time Cards Teams - The Final Tally” – Each voter’s individual top 15 lists side by side
“Top 15 Cards Teams: Walton’s Best of the Rest” – Brian’s top Cards teams that missed the group list
“Top 15 Cards Teams: Mileur’s Best of the Rest” – Ray’s top Cards teams that missed the group list
“Top 15 Cards Teams: Rains' Best of the Rest” – Rob’s top Cards teams that missed the group list
“Top 15 Cards Teams: Modene's Best of the Rest” – Jerry’s top Cards teams that missed the group list
“Top Cardinals Teams and the MVP Award”
“Top Cardinals Teams and the Cy Young Award”
“Top Cardinals Teams and Rookies of the Year”
“Top Cardinals Teams and Gold Glove Awards”
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