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All-Time Cardinal Team Tournament: Smith Semifinals

Posted on March 24, 2012 at 8:30 AM
Filed Under: St. Louis Cardinals | United Cardinal Bloggers
We've worked our way down to the Sweet 16 of the All-Time Cardinal Team Tournament.  There aren't any easy choices anymore.  No teams that were kinda memorable.  When you are looking at 16 years of Cardinal history, you know they've got to be great.

In case you've missed this, here's what's going on.  We've got Sweet 16 action going on at Pitchers Hit Eighth and I70 Baseball until Sunday night and you've got it here and at Aaron Miles's Fastball until Monday at 8.  Plus, you've got a chance to be a winner out of all of this at well.  Check out this post on how you can win one of the sweet World Series DVD sets.

Let's look at our two matchups.  As we did in the first round, we've got Bob Netherton from On The Outside Corner to give us some expert opinion.  Here we go!

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(1) 2004 (105-57) vs. (4) 1968 (97-65)

How they got here: 2004 defeated (16) 1975 34-6 and (8) 1963 18-4; 1968 defeated (13) 1948 27-3 and (5) 1974 20-1.

Game notes: It's a matchup of two teams that came up just short.  The 2004 team won a classic NLCS but was swept in the World Series by Boston.  1968 looked to pull the repeat, but lost in seven games in the World Series in the last year before divisions.

The case for 2004105 games speaks for itself.  That ties this team with 1944 and 1943 for the second-most wins in team history, trailing 1942 by one.  They played in one of the great NLCS of all time and perhaps was just a play or two away from winning Game 1 of the World Series against Boston, which could have changed the whole tone of the series.  Key members of the squad: Albert Pujols (9.4 WAR), Scott Rolen (9.2), Jim Edmonds (8.4).

The case for 1968: Well, they won the National League, so that has to count for something.  Though they lost to Detroit in seven game (a season and a series that was outlined in a recent book review here on the blog), St. Louis was considered the favorite and perhaps could have won the series if it weren't for Curt Flood's fateful slip.  You have Bob Gibson in his prime, Lou Brock stealing bases, and Orlando Cepeda giving us the phrase that became famous.  Key members of the squad: Gibson (11.9 WAR), Brock (5.1 WAR), Flood (4.0).

Bob's take: This is perhaps the best matchup in all of the brackets because we get a chance to answer the question, does good pitching really beat good hitting. This is truly the best of both as MV3 meets the CY7. The 2004 Cardinals had Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds firing on all cylinders and terrifying the opposing pitchers. The pitching was also solid, especially late in the games as Jason Isringhausen earned 47 saves. Izzy's setup guys were just as effective, preserving wins for the starters, of which 4 had 15 or more wins and none had a losing record. 

But .... 

The pitching in 1968 was one for the record books, and also for the rulebook as Major League Baseball lowered the mound following the season. Bob Gibson was a big part of that, but if you look deeper, it was the entire pitching staff. 30 combined shutouts, 31 games with just 1 run allowed and 21 more where they just allowed 2 runs. That is holding the opposition to 2 runs or less for more than half of the season. That, my friends, is pitching. Throw in some Gold Gloves in the middle of the field (Curt Flood, Dal Maxvill, Bob Gibson) and a couple of more that could have earned one (McCarver, Javier). 

The only thing that kept the 1968 Cardinals from repeating as World Champions was a bad first move by a perennial Gold Glove winner on a very wet artificial surface. As good as the 2004 Cardinals were, and they were exceptionally good, the record book pitching the '68 Cardinals and the Gold Glove defense will shut them down, perhaps setting up the dream matchup of '67 Cardinals vs '68 Cardinals, causing historian's heads to explode all across Cardinals Nation.


(2) 1934 (95-58) vs. (3) 1946 (98-58)

How they got here: 1934 defeated (15) 1999 27-0 and (7) 1949 16-4; 1946 defeated (14) 1992 28-1 and (6) 2002 17-4.

Game notes: A couple of World Series winners match up, one as the high point of a decade, the other as part of a semi-dynasty.

The case for 1934: It was a World Series winner, taking it from Detroit in seven games.  It was also the Gashouse Gang, with a cast of characters that may never again be equaled in St. Louis history.  Dizzy Dean won 30 games and his brother Paul won 19, with both of them winning two games apiece in the Series.  Anytime Leo Durocher isn't the most colorful character, you know you've got something.  Key members of the squad: Ripper Collins (6.1 WAR), Joe Medwick (3.2), Bill DeLancey (2.9).

The case for 1946: A World Series title always helps.  The '46 squad won the NL by two games over Brooklyn and then beat the Red Sox on Enos Slaughter's mad dash.  You had Stan Musial and Red Schoendienst and a pitching staff led by Harry Brecheen.  They also went 34-19 in one run games.  Key members of the squad: Musial (9.8 WAR), Whitey Kurowski (5.1), Slaughter (5.0).

Bob's take: This is another fun matchup as good hitting meets exceptional pitching, but this time with some more balanced lineups. Just as you should never bet against Bob Gibson in must win games, you should never underestimate the capabilities of not just one, but two Dean brothers. Paul was a rock, winning 19 games, but Dizzy was the story of the league, winning 30 games - the last time it would be done in the National League. The two brothers would win all four games in their World Series win over the Tigers. The Dean brothers are just too much for the balanced lineup of Stan Musial's '46 juggernaut, and the '34 crew advance to face Gibson, Washburn and Carlton.

Be sure to vote and spread the word.  Let's see how many votes we can get in these matchups!

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