The St. Louis Cardinals’ 50 greatest players

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#27 Ray Lankford

Until a knee injury hampered his career in St. Louis, Lankford was a hidden gem and multi-tool player for many years. He could lace a triple, lift a home run or spray singles all over the field. Like a chef salad for a hungry diet addict, Ray offered many different virtues for the Cards.

From 1990-2001 and a brief return at the end of his career in 2004, Lankford averaged a .365 on base percentage and .481 slugging percentage. Sure, he got caught stealing 24 times in 1992 and struck out 147 times, but he also put together eight seasons of 19 home runs or more and six seasons of 30 doubles or more.

Lankford’s best stretch came in a four year period, from 1995-98, capping it off with a 6.2 fWAR, 31 HR, 105 RBI and a .932 OPS in 1998, largely overshadowed by someone named Mark McGwire. During that time, Lankford compiled a fWAR of 4.3, 5.5, 5.6 and the 1998 6.2 mark, before the knee injury hampered his 1999 season.

He was traded in 2001 when the strikeouts piled up and the defense (once average) turned bad with the loss flexibility in the knees. He also got the surgery on his knees done without team consent, leading to some salty wounds. He returned in 2004 to finish in St. Louis.

Overall, Ray is underrated. Until Big Mac came along and slugged home runs right and left, Ray owned the highest HR mark at Busch Stadium II. His 238 career home runs as a Cardinal puts him on a respectable list.

He may not be remembered by most but Ray was great, especially for a tight four year stretch. His fWAR of 40.4 places him 10th among Cardinals’ position players.

Dan Buffa

Next: Happy Hollidays

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