St. Louis Cardinals All-Decade Team: The Rotation, ‘Pen, and Head Men

By Editorial Staff

The Rotation:

The Ace: Chris Carpenter. Carpenter soared to new heights after joining the Cardinals in 2004, winning a career-high 15 games. He came to St. Louis with a history of injury problems in Toronto. A change from the Bluebirds to the Redbirds proved to be a comfortable change of scenery. His first season was a sign of things to come, as he became the ace of the Cardinals staff for the last half of the decade. He won the 2005 Cy Young and battled for the award again in 2006 and 2009. He anchored the staff that won the World Series and brought a competitive fire to the Cardinals clubhouse. The pitcher is among the most intense and fiery the game has to offer. The lone negative this decade was injuries. Carpenter essentially missed all of 2007 and 2008 due to injury. Is it a coincidence that the Cubs won the division as the Cards struggled? I don’t think so, it just goes to show how valuable Carpenter has been.

Number 2: Adam Wainwright. The young gun of the group, Wainwright burst onto the baseball scene with the Redbirds in the second half of the aughts. By burst, I mean he closed out the World Series. No big deal for a rookie, right? When Jason Isringhausen went down with an injury, Wainwright was thrown into the fire. He finished off the regular season pennant race. Then, he coolly led the Cards to the World Series title despite some pressure packed situations. The best memory is his strikeout of Carlos Beltran with the bases loaded to clinch the NL. Then he ended the Series with another strikeout. Oh, by the way, that was only part of one year. He starts too. And he has become one of the best in the game. 2009 was the breakout year for Adam. He won 19 games, struck out 212 batters, and was flat-out dominant. Expect more of the same in 2010 and beyond!

The Old Guard: Matt Morris. Morris came into his own in 2001 as the Cards ace for the first half of the decade. The 26-year-old won 22 games, played in the All-Star game, and finished third in Cy Young voting. He remained the steady standard in St. Louis, tallying double-digit win totals in five straight seasons. Morris just snapped nasty curveball after nasty curveball for the Cards, and racked up win after win. Unfortunately Morris left St. Louis for San Fran and never got to share the joy of the World Series. #35 still had a memorable run with the Cards and those bouncing curves to Mike Matheny will rank highly with early decade memories.

The Good Guy: Darryl Kile. Kile will always be remembered in the baseball world after his shocking death due to “coronary atherosclerosis, narrowing of the arteries supplying the heart muscle.” There wasn’t a nicer guy around in the game (The Good Guy Award is given in his name for a player on the Astros or Cardinals “who exhibits good character”). He was also pretty good pitcher, too. In his first season with the Cardinals (2000), Kile won 20 games, made the All-Star team, and was a candidate for the Cy Young. He won another 16 games in 2001, and became the leader of the pitching staff. As a mature MLB pitcher, the others looked to Kile and he was more than willing to help. He took a young Matt Morris under his wing during his time in St. Louis. Then, tragedy struck in 2002 and Kile was gone far too soon. The Cards rallied around their fallen leader’s death. “DK 57” became a symbol of the season and an inspiration across the baseball world.

The Final Piece: Jeff Suppan. The fifth spot in the rotation was constantly changing throughout the decade, much like the instability that exists heading into 2010. Woody Williams gave the Cards 45 wins over parts of four seasons. Suppan won 44 in three seasons. Both had winning records in every season, and both were great bottom-half guys that did their jobs every fifth day. The difference? Suppan was on the 2006 World Series crew. Not only was he on the team, he was a major contributor, even a star in October. In the NLCS, Suppan got two starts, throwing 15 innings and giving up only one run. That’s good for a .60 ERA, and NLCS MVP, and a spot on the All-Decade team.

The Closer: Jason Isringhausen. Isringhausen spent seven seasons in Redbird red. During most of that time, he was a dominant closer in the game. He piled up 217 saves in St. Louis — good for the distinction of all-time saves leader in franchise history. In five seasons he had an ERA under three. The highlight of his stay came in 2004, when Izzy saved a league leading 47 games. His success in St. Louis as the fireman is unmatched.

The Skipper: Tony La Russa. Tony La Russa was the only manager for the Cards this decade, but his success is worth mentioning. He had only one losing season in the decade. The franchise was dominant in the NL Central, winning it seven times. The club won the NL twice and he won a second ring, his first as the Cards head man. His leadership and baseball savvy are still sharp as he enters a third decade with the team (90s, 00s, 10s). The stability has been key for the franchise’s success. Add to that Dave Duncan, his right hand man, and this coaching tandem is among the best around. Only Joe Torre could claim to be more successful throughout the entire decade. With his decision to bring in Mac, it will be interesting to see how the manager does over the next ten years.