Drafted but Unsigned Cardinal: Bill Madlock

Not signed by the Cardinals, third baseman Bill Madlock punished St. Louis pitching during his 15-year career.

We are down to the ninth of our top 10 players once drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals, but signed elsewhere and performed well. The covered period runs from the start of the modern draft in 1965 through 1980.

This standout on our almost-Cardinals team amassed 38.0 career bWAR, second-most among the group. To make matters worse, third baseman Bill Madlock spent 10 of his 15 Major League seasons tormenting St. Louis as a member of the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates, two key divisional rivals. He further caused late-career damage in the playoffs with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

With his 663 plate appearances over 164 regular-season games against the Cardinals equating to roughly one full season over his career, Madlock hit 10 home runs, drove in 73, stole 25 bases and scored 94 runs with a line of .323/.378/.436/.814.

The Cardinals could have headed off all that aggravation, if they had been able to sign Madlock after taking him with their 11th-round selection in the 1969 draft. Reportedly, the Illinois resident did not come to terms in part over concern about being blocked at shortstop by St. Louis’ defensive star Dal Maxvill.

Just seven months later, the conditions were apparently right, as Madlock inked his first professional contract after being selected with Washington’s fifth-round pick in June 1970.

“Mad Dog” reached the majors with the new Texas Rangers (formerly Washington Senators) in September 1973, but was off to the Cubs the next month as part of the take for ace pitcher Ferguson Jenkins. His job was to replace future Hall of Famer Ron Santo at third base for the Cubs, and Madlock excelled, coming in third in the 1974 National League Rookie of the Year voting.

Madlock’s breakout season followed in 1975, when he won the first of his four batting titles, hitting .354, after being named the Most Valuable Player in the All-Star Game. Despite Madlock’s two straight batting championships, the Cubs traded him following the 1976 season to the Giants for Bobby Murcer and Steve Ontiveros.

Not happy with a move to second base, Madlock was dealt to contending Pittsburgh in June 1979 in a six-player trade that included another almost-Cardinals star, Lenny Randle. Back at third base, Madlock was an immediate fit with the surging “We are Family” Bucs, batting .375 to help defeat the Orioles in the 1979 World Series.

The next season, Madlock, known as an emotional player, was fined and suspended for 15 games for poking umpire Jerry Crawford in the face during an in-game argument.

In 1981 and 1983, the right-handed hitter took his third and fourth NL batting titles (at .341 and .323, respectively) and was named an All-Star both years. In between, in 1982, Madlock finished second in the batting race while logging his best home run (19), runs scored (92) and RBI (95) seasons of his career, yet the Pirates could not get back to October play.

With Pittsburgh again going nowhere late in the 1985 season, the contending Dodgers acquired him for three players. All Madlock did to the Cardinals in the NL Championship Series was hit three home runs and drive in seven for a 1.083 OPS. In one of the most exciting post-season series in team history, St. Louis still prevailed, thanks in part to the heroics of Ozzie Smith and Jack Clark.

After his May 1987 release by Los Angeles, Madlock signed with Detroit, where the 36-year-old finished out his last major league season with his final playoff appearances. He played in Japan in 1988 before hanging up his cleats.

Madlock, another almost-Cardinal who got away, finished his 15 years in the majors with 2008 hits, a .305/.365/.442/.807 line, 163 home runs, 863 RBI, four batting titles, three All-Star berths and one Championship ring.

Stay tuned as the final member of this team is named, the one with the most career bWAR. For more details on the All-Drafted, but Unsigned Team, click here.



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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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