St. Louis Cardinals All-Decade Team: Lineup
By Editorial Staff
As part of the United Cardinal Bloggers recent project, I will add my take to the all-decade team of the 2000s. It was a great decade for the Redbirds, as the franchise made the playoffs seven times, won the NL Central division title seven times, was crowned NL champs twice, and of course, won the 2006 World Series. In this dominant decade in the Central, many great players passed through baseball’s best city. So, who were the best at each position for the Cards in the 2000s? Here’s my take:
First Base: Albert Pujols. Is there really a need for explanation here? Pujols was the best player in the MLB for the decade, making him a no-brainer for this honor. Pujols took the league by storm in 2001 and never looked back. He batted at .300 with 30 home runs, 100 RBIs, and 99 runs in every year of the decade. That is dominance. That is machine-like. He won the triple crown for the decade, the first to do so since Ted Williams. Pujols also won three MVP awards and played in eight All-Star games. Jayson Stark declared him the MVP of the ‘00s. Oh, I almost forgot that he won a World Series. Shall I continue? The Machine was simply revolutionary in baseball during the decade as he is on path to become the greatest of all-time.
Second Base: Aaron Miles. There was no clear-cut winner at second base during the aughts. I give the nod to Miles for his contributions to the 2006 World Champions. He played well during the run as a capable fielder and hitter. Miles got better in his final two seasons in St. Louis, hitting .290 and .317 respectively. The other popular pick was Fernando Vina, but he was disqualified due to his involvement with performance enhancing drugs. He was named in the Mitchell Report.
Shortstop: David Eckstein. Eckstein is a personal favorite of mine. The scrappy shortstop may not have been as good as Edgar Renteria, but his heart was bigger than anyone to pass through St. Louis in the 2000s. Eckstein made his only two All-Star game appearances in St. Louis. He was also the World Series MVP in 2006, coming through in the clutch. He hit around .300 in each of his three seasons with the Redbirds. The ultimate underdog in baseball was a perfect leader for the 2006 team that only won 83 games and was discounted as real a real threat. They proved everyone wrong. The kicker for Eckstein was his relentless hustle, sprinting on and off the field and up the first baseline – something that hadn’t been done since Charlie Hustle terrorized the field. The X Factor was something special during his run in St. Louis. It all adds up to a spot as the starting shortstop for the decade team.
Third Base: Scott Rolen. Rolen spent parts of six seasons under the Arch. He battled through injuries, but when he was on the field, the Cardinals were a better team. Rolen drove in runs and hit the gaps in the middle of the lineup. In the hot corner, there are few, if any, better than Rolen. He won four Gold Gloves and made four All-Star games. Rolen was also part of the magical 2006 run to win it all. Notice a theme yet?
Left Field: Ryan Ludwick. Left field was another chink in the Cardinals armor. Ludwick burst onto the scene in 2008, making the All-Star game and becoming Albert Pujols’ sidekick in the lineup. He hit .299 while smashing 37 home runs and driving in 113 RBIs. Luddy had moderate success in 2009 in helping the Cards to another division title. Hopefully, he can make a greater impact in the next decade as St. Louis looks to bring home another Commissioner’s Trophy.
Center Field: Jim Edmonds. While Edmonds won’t be returning in the new decade, he was an icon during the last. He spent eight seasons in St. Louis, treating fans to spectacular diving catches and wall climbs to rob home runs. His defensive brilliance earned him six consecutive Gold Glove awards and a whole lot of Web Gem appearances. He wasn’t too bad with the stick either, hitting 42 home runs twice. His combination of defense and power made him a premier center fielder in the game during the decade. #15 was always a fan favorite in St. Louis and he too played for that 2006 team.
Right Field: J.D. Drew. While Drew never reached his full potential in St. Louis, he was a good right fielder and a good bat. The highly touted outfielder was steady for the Cards despite playing under immense pressure. He hit .295, .323, and .289 in the early years while also hitting at least 15 homers including one year of 27. Drew was a professional in his time and that trait is important in the Cardinals organization. He has continued his workmanlike play throughout his career, but learned it in St. Louis first.
Catcher: Yadier Molina. This may have been the toughest decision to make. Mike Matheny was the best defensive catcher in the game during his stay in St. Louis. He knew how to call a game and made it easy on the pitching staff. Add to that his defensive prowess and it’s hard to find a better catcher. Unless the kid he taught was just more gifted. Matheny handed the torch to Molina after 2004, and the young general didn’t disappoint. He has established himself as one of the top catchers in the game, blessed with a strong arm and stronger mind. Molina comes prepared everyday, ready to lead the team to another victory. He has also become a threat with the bat, too. Both have a collection of Gold Gloves to their names.
Tomorrow: The Pitching and Coaching Staff of the Decade will be added to the lineup.