Birdinals Bytes: Which number will be next?


"<strongTony LaRussa joined the illustrious clubs of Cardinals to have their jersey retired in 2012.” width=”125″ height=”181″ />The Cardinals will certainly honor Stan “The Man” Musial’s #6 in April at Busch Stadium. However, the question of who will have their number retired next is controversial. This is a tough question for the Cardinals, who have retired the second most numbers in baseball.

First, we can eliminate the following Cardinals legends who have not been inducted to the Hall of Fame and appear to have been overlooked by St. Louis, but will never be forgotten by Cardinals Nation. All of these players appear deserving in ways, but the reality is that all of their numbers have been reissued, so their chances look to be gone.
#7 Joe “Ducky” Medwick
#10 Johnny “The Big Cat” Mize
#21 Curt Flood
#23 Ted Simmons
#31 Bob Forsch
#37 Keith Hernandez

Next, Redbirdrants assesses three players who are inactive and might join the distinguished group of jerseys on the outfield wall in the future.

#51 Willie McGee

Willie is still a local favorite, even more than thirteen years removed. His number hasn’t been reproduced for any other player or coach, and he could be next on the wall. While McGee won Rookie of the Year in 1982, MVP in 1985(Dwight Gooden snub), collected three Gold Gloves, four All-Star Games and one championship, he still doesn’t boast massive career numbers that the other players whose jerseys have been retired have. Willie returned to St. Louis to play four more quality seasons (total thirteen) in the late 90’s after years in Oakland, San Francisco and Boston. St. Louis is a place where the fans love counts for a great deal, but the question here is, how much regard will the organization show Willie?

#25 Mark McGwire
Yes, he admitted using juice, but he didn’t lie. How many other steroid users from that era have had or will have their number retired? Today, it looks like a enormous stretch for Big Mac to get into the Hall of Fame, however he did have a couple critical years (2011 & 2012) as hitting coach to accompany his years (five) at first base for the Cards. He has seven total seasons with Birds on the Bat, which doesn’t seem to be enough, and he recently chose to leave and coach for the Dodgers. Don’t bet on Mark.

#15 Jim Edmonds
Rafael Furcal currently wears Jimmy’s old number 15, so his jersey may not be heading towards retirement, but he was a Cardinal for more seasons (eight) than any other team. Fans adore him for his well-balanced play, which included spectacular plays in centerfield and an often-scorching bat. Over all he finished with six Gold Gloves, three All-Star appearances, and one championship for the Cardinals. Only time will reveal this answer.

It is finally time for the grueling part of this piece, which is full of speculation and a pinch of bitterness: current MLB players.

#5 Albert Pujols
If “Phat Albert” had stayed in St. Louis, #5 would be a guarantee, but he didn’t, and his exit wasn’t graceful. Numerous Cardinals fans hate Albert, and others are more understanding. He holds various records as a Cardinal, but he is looking to break MLB records in Anaheim.  The former face of the organization didn’t just sign a baseball contract with the Angels, he also signed a service contract. While other greats like Nolan Ryan have worked it out so that they had their number retired where they were most memorable, that will be Albert and the front office’s decision in the future. A great parallel is that St. Louis Blues legend Brett Hull departed in a similar way when signed with Dallas. Hull broke lots of hearts in St. Louis, but number sixteen hangs high at The Savvis Center today. Though it is fundamental to consider that the Blues and Cardinals are two extremely different organizations with completely different histories and traditions.  The series this July in LA could get heated, and who knows what happens if, when or how he comes back to Busch.  What if “The Machine” comes back to play for the Cardinals in 2017 and the Angels pay?

#29 Chris Carpenter
“Carp” has spent the previous nine seasons in St. Louis and has been an anchor for the pitching staff. He won two rings, one Cy Young Award (almost won two more), three All-Star Games and received a substantial amount of MVP votes in three different seasons. While injuries have kept Chris off the mound during various times during his time in St. Louis, his career numbers, especially his playoff numbers, are stout. Carpenter pitched in eleven series during the post season for St. Louis with a record of 10-4. During those eleven playoff series, he has a 3.0 ERA. That joined with his 3-0 World Series record (2.0 ERA,) it now appears that Carpenter’s number is moving towards retirement, as it should be.

#50 Adam Wainwright
Adam has certainly achieved a great deal in the past seven seasons, however his upcoming contract will define his chance of having his number immortalized. Also, he was hurt in 2011 when St. Louis won their eleventh title. Regardless of the past, his recovery from Tommy John surgery looked much more promising during the later part of the 2012 season, so keeping him in St. Louis is a giant priority. His career 3.15 ERA, 80 wins, and nearly 1,000 strikeouts are stellar, but the future has been limited for pitchers who have had similar operations. Wainwright was certainly a major key throughout the Cards 2006 title run (as a closer), and his powerful bat (6 HR, 27 RBI, and .204 batting avg.) is unique for a pitcher. He will need more of the same to see #50 next to other Hall of Fame hurlers like Dean, Gibson, and Sutter.

#4 Yadier Molina
This really isn’t a question since Yadi is signed up for four more years with the Cardinals. His offensive numbers are now beginning to match up to his dominant defensive stats. Yadi has always been clutch in the playoffs with a .299 batting average (14 series), and after the past two regular seasons when he finished over .300, improvement is truly part of his game. Yadier will be the first catcher on the wall if he stays reasonably healthy and in St. Louis. For more, please see “Molinaville”(http://redbirdrants.com/2013/01/28/birdinals-bytes-molinaville/)

Lastly, we can look ahead to a few Cardinals that have the potential to be remembered forever with their jerseys in the outfield.

Mike Matheny had a nice start in 2012 as skipper to compliment his five seasons as a standout catcher in St. Louis. If David Freese explodes in the near future and continues playing (for multiple seasons) at third base more than the disabled list, he has a chance. If Jason Motte has many more years like 2012, he could see his jersey honored, but that seems tough for a 33 year old. Allen Craig could be in line for the distinguished honor if he continues to shine during his promising career in St. Louis. Jon Jay looks to be making way for Oscar Taveras, but maybe “The Federalist” will continue to have seasons like last year and stay in The Lou. Of course, Matt Holliday has a chance, assuming that his lack of defense can be overlooked, but he desperately needs to turn it up in the 2013 and 2014 seasons and stay healthy.

*José “The Secret Weapon” Oquendo would definitely be in this conversation if he were promoted last year. The current third base coach has been wearing a Cardinals uniform for twenty-six years. His feats in the late 80’s/early 90’s are historic (.992 career fielding percentage at 2nd base, played every position in 1988, three errors in 1990.) A few years from now he may enter this discussion, but it is depressing to say that he could be a manager elsewhere sometime soon.
**Ray Lankford is worth a shout out for his productive thirteen seasons, but most of the teams he helped power didn’t win enough, and his .273 batting average is his demise.
***Please vote for who you think will be next to have their number retired in the Redbirdrants.com poll!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/steven.puglia Steven Puglia

    The next player to enter the hall with an STL on his hat will be the next number retired. I think Rolen could be that guy, but I hope Jimmy Baseball is next.

    • Thomas Demerath

      Scotty was a hell of a Cardinal like Jimmy. I can’t argue with that at all. But his numbers with Philly are slightly better and he was there an additional year. Also, unlike Edmonds, he couldn’t get along with TLR. I think his numbers could be HOF(tough these days) worthy when he is older, but I don’t know about being retired at Busch, but I would applaud it if it happens.

      Thanks for commenting Steven.

  • http://twitter.com/DolphRudager Dolph Rudager

    I think it will be LaRussa, then Pujols. What percentage of Cardinals fans are not McGwire fans (fans of pitching; he juiced, etc)?

    I don’t know if Rolen gets into the HOF, tho he only had 3 full seasons as a Cardinal. I think numbers should only be retired by teams if they played a significant portion of their career with the team. Carpenter is certainly an interesting case, while only 6 full seasons & only 19th in wins on the franchise list, they were top notch.