Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Cards in the "Naughties"

What exactly is this decade called, anyway? Life was much easier when you knew what period you were living in. "I was a child of the sixties." " Man, I loved the eighties!" Children growing up today may suffer from an identity crisis as they try to tell people when they grew up. "I remember the Oh'Oh's like they were yesterday." Not quite the same, huh?

Anyway, we tend to group history into various, bite size portions as we look back on things, and one of the ways we do so is by grouping together ten year sets, aka decades. Cardinal fans especially seem to have a tendency to do this, and for good reason.

1940's - 4 Pennants, 3 World Championships
1950's - Nothing
1960's - 3 Pennants, 2 World Championships
1970's - Nothing
1980's - 3 Pennants, 1 World Championship
1990's - Nothing (at least, no Pennant despite a close call in 1996.)

This trend would suggest that this is our decade, right? (We'll ignore the fact that the trend above would indicate 0 World Championships in the "Naughties", or that the events of 1942 actually don't have any impact on the 2004 St. Louis Cardinals.)

So, how have the Cardinals been thus far in the 2000's? This article will be a work in progress,
but today is a good day to get things started. Listed below are teams from 2000 through today (September 14th, 2004).

Rank Team Wins
1 New York (A) 476
2 Oakland 476
3 Atlanta 470
4 St. Louis 464
5 San Francisco 461

Not too shabby, huh? 4th most wins in baseball in this decade, 2nd most in the NL. St. Louis will likely not out-play Atlanta by 6 games over the next 20, but they should stay ahead of San Francisco in these standings. Just for fun, let' s look at the NL Central standings over this time.

Rank (Wins) Team Wins GB
4 St. Louis 464 -
12 Houston 414 50
18 Chicago (N) 385 79
22 Cincinnati 364 100
25 Pittsburgh 344 120
28 Milwaukee 327 137

Next time you get harassed by a Cub fan, let them know that the Cubbies are 79 games behind the Cardinals for the decade. Now, back to the Cardinals vs. the rest of baseball. How about number of playoff appearances?

Rank (Wins) Team Wins Playoffs
1 New York (A) 476 4
2 Oakland 476 4
3 Atlanta 470 4
4 St. Louis 464 3
5 San Francisco 461 3
6 Seattle 446 2
9 Minnesota 421 2
13 Arizona 402 2

Once again, not too bad. St. Louis has had the 2nd most playoff appearances in the NL for the decade, tied with the Giants. In fact, the Cardinals are one of just 4 NL teams to have multiple appearances in the post-season over the last 4 years, and will up that total by another appearance this year. How about teams to make it to the LCS?

Rank (Wins) Team Wins LCS
New York (A)
St. Louis
6 Seattle 446 2
3 Atlanta 470 1
5 San Francisco 461 1
7 Boston 441 1
9 Minnesota 421 1
11 Anaheim 415 1
13 Arizona 402 1
14 Florida 400 1
18 Chicago (N) 385 1
19 New York (N) 379 1

St. Louis is the only team in the NL to appear in the LCS more than once this decade. This table also points out that a total of 12 teams have made it to the LCS over the past 4 years, including a team that was almost contracted a couple of years back. Lack of parity? Anyway, on to the pennant winners.

Rank (Wins) Team Wins Pennant
1 New York (A) 476 3
5 San Francisco 461 1
11 Anaheim 415 1
13 Arizona 402 1
14 Florida 400 1
19 New York (N) 379 1

This is the table in which you start to see that winning it all doesn't have anything to do with long term success. Three teams this decade have managed to win the pennant in their league in their lone playoff appearance. Of those teams, the New York Mets actually have fewer total wins (379) than the average (395) and the median (392.) Finally, the whole enchilada.

Rank (Wins) Team Wins WS
1 New York (A) 476 1
11 Anaheim 415 1
13 Arizona 402 1
14 Florida 400 1

Obviously, the Cardinals are lacking in the last two categories listed. While I admit that I would have liked to have seen the World Series back in St. Louis by now - especially in 2002 after the passing of Jack Buck and Darryl Kile - I will also say right now that I am in the camp that firmly believes that winning in the playoffs is based in part on luck or hot streaks and not merely the best talent. (That's not to say that the above teams have been lucky, so much to say that the best team doesn't always win in a best of 5 or 7 game series.) And while a recent World Series title would have been great, which would you rather be right now - a fan of the Cardinals or the Diamondbacks? That World Championship was a blast, I'm sure, but the D-Backs are horrible right now, with no sign of getting things back together in the near future due to their 2001 "spend and burn" approach to getting a ring.

Looking at the above information, how do the Cardinals rank for this decade? Regular season, they're the creame of the crop. To have the 4th most wins in baseball over a span of close to 5 years is very impressive - especially if we were to factor in payrolls and city size (which I plan to do after the regular season.) In regard to the playoffs, the Cardinals have still been one of the most successful teams in the post-season, reaching the LCS more than any other team in the Senior circuit. Where the Cards fall short is in making it to and capturing the big stage.

Right now, the Cardinals have 20 games left in the regular season before beginning their next October campaign to win it all. Personally, I like the Cardinals against any team in the NL, and think this team has a great shot of going all the way. As impressive as this team has been this season, though, keep in mind the bigger picture. If the Cardinals do go all the way this year, they will not only be the best team in baseball in 2004, they will be the best team in the NL so far this decade, if not the best in all of major league baseball.


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