The St. Louis Cardinals’ new first baseman, Paul Goldschmidt, has had a very successful career. How does he match up against the rest of the memorable players the Cardinals have had manning first base?
Many fans will only have truly vivid memories of Albert Pujols, but the St. Louis Cardinals actually have a rich history at first base. From Stan “The Man” Musial to Joe Torre, icons across the generations have manned first base while bearing the birds on the bat.
Paul Goldschmidt is the latest addition to the long list of All-Stars that have played first base for the St. Louis Cardinals, but how will he be remembered when it’s all said and done? Goldschmidt has a career .297/.398/.532 slash line while averaging 28 home runs and 99 RBI’s per year in his seven full seasons in the majors. Those numbers are impressive, but where will he stack up among the Cardinals greats?
The following St. Louis Cardinals all-time first base rankings are premature, incomplete, and highly debatable. There a variety of points of contention included when you consider who the greatest first baseman in Cardinals history is.
Where do you stick 1928 MVP Jim Bottomley? Should you flip Bill White and Keith Hernandez? Joe Torre over Orlando Cepeda? Should we consider Stan Musial a first basemen? There are countless factors to consider.
Without further delay, here is the list.
All-Time Top 10 First Basemen for the St. Louis Cardinals
10. Jack Clark (1985-1987) 11.4 WAR (12.5 offensive, -1.1 defensive)
9. Orlando Cepeda (1966-1968) 1967 NL MVP, 11 WAR (10 offensive, 1 defensive) WS
8. Joe Torre (1969, 1971-73) 1971 NL MVP & Batting Champion, 22.5 WAR
7. Jim Bottomley (1922-1929) 1928 NL MVP & Home Run Leader, 2x WS Champ
6. Paul Goldschmidt (2019) ?
5. Mark McGwire (1998-2001) 22.5 WAR (26.3 offensive, -3.8 defensive)
4. Keith Hernandez (1974-1983) 1979 NL MVP, 40 WAR (31 offensive, 9 defensive) WS
3. Bill White (1957-65, 1969) 24 WAR (20 offensive, 4 defensive) 2x WS Champ
2. Stan Musial (1941-’44, ’46-’63) 3-Time NL MVP (1946 MVP at 1B, 6 seasons at 1B)
1. Albert Pujols (2004-2011) 3-Time NL MVP, 86 WAR, 2x WS Champ
Examining St. Louis Cardinals first base history and shuffling these names was a very complex process. Stan the Man played most of his career in the outfield, but winning an MVP as a first baseman along with his incredible career landed him as second on my list.
Everyone on this list won or competed in the World Series for the Cardinals with the exception of Joe Torre, Mark McGwire, and Paul Goldschmidt (pending). This clear pattern of successful teams with great first baseman may have already enticed the front office into wanting to try to lock Goldschmidt up long-term.
The top four all won championships with the Redbirds along with Cepeda and Bottomly (who won 2). Jack Clark almost won the 1985 and 1987 World Series for the Cardinals, but even thought that didn’t end up going their way, Clark’s production almost helped lead the Cardinals to multiple World Series victories. The analogous success the club has had with good a first baseman in the lineup makes the Goldschmidt trade even sexier.
Torre was another disruptive element, and his prodigious bat along with a 1971 NL MVP award led him to my eight spot, despite Torre not making a single playoff appearance. Matt Carpenter has to be considered, but with the Goldschmidt trade his starts at first will be few and far between, and he hasn’t done quite enough to merit a top 10 spot.
Finally, the number one spot is pretty hard to debate. Albert Pujols defined a generation of Cardinal baseball in a way that truly carried them through the 2000’s, and his impact will be felt for generations. He is fourth on the Cardinals’ all time hits list with 2073, and finished his 11 year Cardinals career with a blistering 1.037 OPS. He also cracked the second most home runs in history with 445, eclipsing the third most by 190, and trails Musial by just 30.
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- The St. Louis Cardinals’ 29 greatest (and slightest) rivals
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Now, after sorting through that mess, let’s consider the player we hope will be joining this list. Paul Goldschmidt has been a premier talent at first base since 2011, so forecasting next season as a Cardinal shouldn’t be that difficult.
In eight seasons, Goldschmidt produced a total WAR of 40.1 for the Diamondbacks. A realistic projection for the first baseman would be around 30 homers, 85 RBI’s and a .285 average with a WAR between 5.0 and 6.0. Also, if conventional wisdom holds, Matt Carpenter, Marcell Ozuna, and the rest of the lineup should see more hittable pitches and more overall success as a result of Goldschmidt’s added presence in the lineup.
The Cardinals rarely make headline moves, but with the NL Central at such a competitive level, they are being forced to act. The front office hasn’t disappointed, as this was a supercharged start to the offseason. Although the Cardinals’ trade for top-tier first base talent is encouraging, the club should still try to add another quality bat to put themselves in a position to compete for the 2019 World Series.
Honestly, I have a feeling they will.
Staying in the familiar confines of the NL should also be beneficial for Big Paul even with the pitching talent in the NL Central. Hopefully Goldschmidt performs, enjoys that Cardinal shine, and extends his stay in the Gateway City to secure a spot on this historic list of great first basemen.