There are few franchises as storied as the St. Louis Cardinals. But, when it comes to making any all-time roster, it can be vulnerable to significant omissions. The best anyone can do is try to avoid gross oversights, knowing that a team full of the second-best Cardinals at each position would still be a remarkable force on the diamond. That’s just how deep this franchise is with all of its rich history and the players who donned the jersey throughout their existence. As we continue preparation for our All-Time Team Tournament, we look at the St. Louis Cardinals All-Time Team.
Cardinals All-Time Team
Catcher: Yadier Molina (2004-Present)
While Yadier Molina is known for his defense, his offensive statistics alone would make him a solid choice for the catcher position. This past season, Molina passed Albert Pujols and Rogers Hornsby to move into third all-time hits among Cardinals. Most of Molina’s offensive case comes from longevity—longevity he wouldn’t enjoy without his otherworldly defense and handling of pitchers. If the decision were solely on offense, Hall of Famer Ted Simmons would be the catcher on this list. Simmons put up greater counting stats over his 13 years as a Cardinal than Molina has over his 18 years, and his rate stats are also better. However, Molina’s nine Gold Gloves and a long list of other defensive achievements push him past Simmons who has fewer all-star appearances despite a similar WAR during his time with the Cardinals.
First Base: Albert Pujols (2001-2011)
Other than Molina, Albert Pujols is the only active player to make the starting roster. Few players have had a career in their prime like Pujols. Over 11 years in St. Louis, he amassed an 86.6 WAR. Since he departed from the Cardinals, Pujols has tacked only 13 wins above replacement. Pujols is in the top five among Cardinal players in nearly every offensive category. Mark McGwire actually outpaces Pujols in Cardinal OPS, but the slugger’s time in St. Louis was too brief to warrant serious consideration. The only real competition for this spot is Stan Musial, who played significantly fewer games at first than he did in the outfield.
Second Base: Rogers Hornsby (1915-1926, 1933)
Second base is almost as much of a heartbreaker as a catcher. Not that the selection isn’t clear-cut, but leaving Frankie Frisch and Red Schoendienst off of an all-time list of Cardinals is an unpopular stance. All in all, Rogers Hornsby isn’t just one of the best Cardinals to ever play; he’s among the greatest players in history. No other second baseman across baseball has a higher career WAR, and he’s ninth among all position players. He led the national league in WAR in seven seasons, won seven batting titles, and led the league in OPS 11 times, among many other leaderboard appearances. Hornsby was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1942.
Third Base: Ken Boyer (1955-1965)
There really isn’t a third baseman who comes close to Ken Boyer in terms of career Cardinal numbers. Had he spent more time in St. Louis, Scott Rolen might be worth a glance. As is, it’s Boyer, and his numbers warrant inclusion on the list. Boyer is fourth in oWAR among all Cardinals and 10th in dWAR. He won the NL MVP in 1964 and logged five Gold Gloves. Boyer is third all-time among Cardinals in home runs.
Shortstop: Ozzie Smith (1982-1996)
Fourth in WAR among Cardinals’ position players, Ozzie Smith is arguably the greatest defensive shortstop in history. His 44.2 dWAR is the highest for any player at any position. Among shortstops, only Mark Belanger has Total Zone Runs. Add 2,460 hits, 580 stolen bases, and 1,257 runs scored to that defense, and Smith is clearly an asset any team would love to have on their roster. Surprisingly, Smith is eighth in oWAR in Cardinals’ history. No other Cardinal shortstop comes close to Smith. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002.
Left Field: Lou Brock (1964-1979)
Although Lou Brock barely makes the Top 10 among Cardinals in terms of WAR, he edges out a relatively crowded group of outfielders to make a list. The obvious stat here is the stolen bases. In 1978 Brock stole his 915th base to pass Hall of Famer Billy Hamilton to become the record holder. Hamilton held the record for stolen bases for over 80 years. Brock would surrender it to Rickey Henderson after holding it for only 13. It’s often overlooked, however, that Brock would have likely made the Hall of Fame without all of the stolen bases. He had 3,023 career hits. Pujols, Pete Rose, and Alex Rodriguez are the only players with more hits who aren’t currently in Cooperstown. Brock was elected in 1985.
Center Field: Jim Edmonds (2000-2007)
This particular position is as close as any position battle on the roster. If Jim Edmonds had come over from the Los Angeles Angels earlier in his career, he would be the clear favorite over Curt Flood. As is, he barely edges him out. Edmonds is among the franchise leaders in home runs and OPS. He only trails Flood in WAR by a small margin despite playing three fewer years there. It isn’t easy to understand why Edmonds did not receive more consideration in Hall of Fame voting, but his place on this roster is secure.
Right Field: Stan Musial (1941-1963)
The all-time greatest Cardinal was obviously going to make a list. The only question was where. Stan Musial played 929 games in left field and 785 in the right. Since Brock played over 2000 games in left, Musial in the right works fine for this lineup. No case needs to be made for him to be on the team. He’s at the very top of nearly every offensive category for the Cardinals. His career WAR of 128.7 is eighth among all position players across baseball. Instead of listing all of his accolades, how about just an interesting fact? Musial had 1,815 hits at home and 1,815 hits on the road, retiring as the National League leader in career hits. He was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1969. On top of all that, he was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.
Designated Hitter: Enos Slaughter (1938-1942, 1946-1953)
Like several players from the era, it’s fair to ask what Enos Slaughter’s numbers would have been like if his career hadn’t been interrupted by military service. Despite losing three years in his prime, he still ranks among the all-time greatest Cardinals. He finished second in MVP voting in 1942 and finished third in his return to the majors in 1946. His “Mad Dash” in 1946 resulted in the winning run of game seven of the World Series. In 13 seasons with St. Louis, Slaughter amassed a WAR of 52.8, good enough for sixth place on the Cardinals’ leaderboard. Even though he played all three outfield positions during his career, he is the weakest fielder on the roster by a significant margin. Slaughter was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985.
Starting Pitcher: Bob Gibson (1959-1975)
Bob Gibson’s 1968 campaign would be enough by itself to warrant some consideration on this list. But his entire career makes him the clear starter, and it’s not particularly close. His 81.7 WAR is twice that of Adam Wainwright, who sits second on the Cardinals’ all-time list. Gibson has two Cy Young awards and an MVP award. He’s 13th all-time in career shutouts and 14th in strikeouts. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1981.
Relievers: Jason Isringhausen (2002-2008), Bruce Sutter (1981-1984), Adam Wainwright (2005-Present)
The Cardinals’ pitching staff presented a lot of options to choose from. Jason Isringhausen cuts the all-time saves leader for the club. He enjoyed a dominant stretch of five years closing out games. Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter only pitched for the Cardinals for four years. He racked up 127 saves during that time, leading the league in three of those four years. The final bullpen spot goes to Wainwright. He started in the bullpen his rookie year before becoming arguably the second greatest starter in Cardinals’ history. It would have been nice to include Lee Smith, a career reliever, but Wainwright’s body of work far outpaces Smith’s.
Manager: Whitey Herzog (1980-1990)
Although a case can be made for others, Whitey Herzog gets the nod to lead this all-time squad. During his eleven years at the helm, he led the team to three pennants. The team secured one championship with Herzog managing. His winning percentage with the Cardinals was .530. Fellow Hall of Famer Tony La Russa had as much success as Herzog, but it took him longer to accomplish it.
Cardinals All-time Team Honorable Mentions
Johnny Mize (1936-1941), Ted Simmons (1968-1980), Curt Flood (1958-1969), Dizzy Dean (1930-1937)
Johnny Mize only spent six years with the Cardinals, or the first baseman may have found himself on the starting roster, likely as the designated hitter. In those six years, Mize managed 37.8 WAR. He nearly doubled that WAR for his career, despite missing three prime years of military service.
The case for Simmons is pretty clear-cut. He’s among Cardinal leaders in many offensive categories, and he only narrowly lost out to Molina. He’s seventh in WAR among Cardinal position players and could have been the designated hitter if it weren’t for Slaughter.
Today, Flood is as well known for his involvement in labor history as his time on the field. Despite that, it’s Flood’s on-the-field performance that lands him on this list. Flood actually outpaces Edmonds in dWAR and total WAR, thanks in part to having more time on the team.
It’s hard to imagine a 30-game winner not making the all-time roster, but such is the case for Dizzy Dean. From 1934-to-1936, no one was better. Dean won an MVP and finished second twice. If the Cy Young Award had existed sooner, he’d have more than one. However, Dean’s career with the Cardinals was short, and his years in the majors with other teams weren’t noteworthy.