While watching last night’s game, the broadcasters mentioned discussion going on on Fox Sports Midwest’s website to determine the All-Tony LaRussa Team. Obviously, since Tony managed the Cardinals for sixteen years, this interested me as there were a ton of options. I decided to put together my personal All-Tony Team. Being a bit of fanatic, though, I obviously had to make my own 25 man roster. I also wanted to look at each position and see which season saw the best performance for that position. Find out who made the cut after the jump.
Catcher – Yadier Molina
Yadi has been with the Cardinals since 2004 when he took over the starting position from Mike Matheny midseason. In his time as a Cardinal, he has won four Gold Gloves, two World Series rings, has been named to three All Star teams, led the league in caught stealing percentage three times, and is the active leader in the statistic. Yadi just recently signed a lengthy extension to stay with the Cardinals, so his achievements as a Cardinal are nowhere near complete.
The Best Season – Yadier Molina (2011) Yadi nearly doubled his career high of eight home runs and had an OPS over .800 for the first time in his career.
First Baseman – Albert Pujols
Whether you remain a fan or secretly enjoy his misery in Los Angeles of Anaheim in California, USA, no one can take away the fact that Albert Pujols is one of the very best players the St Louis Cardinals have ever had on their team. Thankfully, we got the good years and not the sub-Mendoza Albert. In his time as a Cardinal, his resume speaks for itself. Three MVP awards, nine All Star teams, the 2001 Rookie of the Year award, two Gold Gloves, six Silver Sluggers, and two World Series rings. Hopefully, he comes out of his horrible season-opening slump, because the longer it goes on it just gets sad to see a shell where The Machine used to be.
The Best Season – Mark McGwire (1998) Albert’s string from ’04-’11 is historic, but not as historic as McGwire’s 70 home run campaign in 1998. He may have been on the sauce, but McGwire was a force in ’98.
Second Base – Fernando Vina
Vina came over from the Brewers and held down the second base position for three and a half seasons. In his time there, he won two Gold Gloves and was named to ’98 All Star team.
The Best Season – Delino DeShields (1997) The Cardinals really never saw tremendous performance offensively from the second base position under Tony. In ’97, though, Delino hit fourteen triples and his career high of eleven home runs. He also scored 92 runs batting in the leadoff role for the Cardinals.
Third Base – Scott Rolen
Scott and Tony had a volatile relationship, but it didn’t stop him from being one of the best third baseman in Cardinals history. Rolen came over from Philadelphia in 2002 and held down the hot corner for nearly five years. Although he suffered a lot of injuries, Rolen was named to four All Star teams, won three Gold Gloves, and finished fourth in MVP voting in 2004.
The Best Season – Scott Rolen (2004) As stated previously, Rolen was in contention for the MVP award. He hit 34 home runs and had an OPS of 1.007 to go along with his Gold Glove award.
Shortstop – Edgar Renteria
Renteria took the job from Royce Clayton after coming over from the Marlins. He held the position for six season before leaving for the bright lights of Boston. Renteria was named to three All Star teams and won three Silver Sluggers and two Gold Gloves.
The Best Season – Edgar Renteria (2003) In his best season as a Cardinal, Renteria hit thirteen home runs, drove in 100 runs, and scored 96 runs. He won a Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove.
Left Field – Matt Holliday
Holliday only two and a half seasons under Tony, but at a position that hasn’t seen a lot of stability he played head and shoulders above the competition. Holliday has been named an All Star twice and won a Silver Slugger award.
The Best Season – Albert Pujols (2003) One of Albert’s top three season came early in his career. He hit 43 home runsm drove in 124 runs, and had a career-high .359 average en route to winning his second Silver Slugger award.
Center Field – Jim Edmonds
It had to be Jimmy Ballgame. Edmonds came over in the ’99 offseason and held the position from 2000 to 2008 when he was traded to the Padres. He won six Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger and was named to three All Star teams. He also finished fourth in voting in the 2000 MVP race.
The Best Season – Jim Edmonds (2004) Edmonds won the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards, belted 42 home runs, and had an OPS of 1.061 in his finest season as a Cardinal.
Right Field – J.D. Drew
Remember how much promise he had? What happened J.D.? Drew was with the Cardinals from his debut in 1998 (pinch-hitting in the same game that McGwire hit number 62) to 2003. He was then traded with Eli Marrero for two future arms in Ray King and Jason Marquis and a prospect by the name of Adam Wainwright.
The Best Season – Lance Berkman (2011) Everyone laughed at the Cardinals front office when they not only gave Berkman an eight million dollar contract after his disastrous stint with the Yankees, but also wanted him to play in the outfield, which he hadn’t done since the 2007 season. He responded by helping to lead the team to a World Series title, batting in the game-tying run in game 6, and finishing seventh in MVP voting.
C – Mike Matheny
Matheny gave way to Yadier Molina and mentored the young catcher. Seems like he did a good job… Matheny won three Gold Gloves in his five season in St Louis.
Infielders – Mark McGwire and Fernando Tatis
McGwire set the single season home run record as a Cardinal in ’98. The next season, Tatis set another record by becoming the only player in history to hit two grand slams in the same inning….off the same pitcher! McGwire won a Silver Slugger in ’98.
Outfielders – Ray Lankford and Ryan Ludwick
Ray Lankford was a 90s staple for the Cardinals. He was the team’s center fielder from mid-1990 to 1999, then moved to left field to make way for J.D. Drew and then Jim Edmonds. To the day, he is one of my favorite Cardinals of all-time. Ryan Ludwick was a fan favorite who played right field from 2007 to 2010 and won a Silver Slugger in 2008
Morris was a very promising pitcher for the Cardinals. He made his debut in 1997 and stayed with the Cardinals until 2005 before signing with the Giants in ’06. With Lankford, Morris is another of my all-time favorites. He was named to two All Star teams, finished second in Rookie of the Year voting in ’97 and third in Cy Young voting in 2001.
Carpenter was a huge success for the Cardinals. After failing to impress with the Blue Jays and eventually blowing his arm out, Carpenter was signed as a project in 2004. The risk paid off, as he won the 2005 Cy Young award, finished third in voting in 2006, and second in voting in 2009. He has seen his share of injury troubles with the Cardinals but has been a tremendous pitcher when healthy and a great mentor in the clubhouse.
Woody Williams is one of Dave Duncan’s biggest success stories. After a string of average season with the Blue Jays and Padres, Woody came to the Cardinals in a trade for Ray Lankford and cash. He went on to have two tremendous before signing back on with the Padres and wallowing back into obscurity. Williams was named an All Star in 2003.
Wainwright has been a tremendous asset for the Cardinals since coming over in the J.D. Drew trade. He pitched out of the bullpen in 2006 and closed out both the NLCS and World Series. He then went on to become a starter to great success. He finished third in Cy Young voting in 2009 and second in 2010. He also won a Gold Glove and was named to an All Star team. Wainwright is returning from Tommy John surgery this season.
Darryl Kile came to the Cardinals in 2000. He finished fifth in Cy Young voting that season and was named to the All Star team. He followed that up with an even more impressive 2001 and was off to a great start in 2002 before tragically passing away midseason before a game against the Chicago Cubs. Kile’s family had a history of heart health issues and he sadly passed away.
The Best Seasons – Matt Morris (1998), Woody Williams (2001, 2002), Chris Carpenter (2005, 2009), Adam Wainwright (2009, 2010)
This is the area that is hardest to fill because Tony and Dave Duncan have utilized so many useful fill-in guys. Isringhausen definitely gets the closer role after holding the position for six and a half seasons under LaRussa. Veres, Kline, and Flores were LaRussa staples in the bullpen at different time. Franklin was the successor to Isringhausen and held the closer’s job for three season. Ray King is there because no Tony bullpen is complete without your lefty specialist. Andy Benes is the longman after narrowly missing the cut as one of the starting pitchers.
As you can see, assembling a team out of the multitude of different players that Tony LaRussa managed is no easy decision. Where did I go wrong? Would you have taken Cesar Izturis instead of Renteria? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.