2005 St. Louis Cardinals
Manager: Tony La Russa
Regular season record: 100-62 (.617), first in National League Central Division
Staff Comments (individual rankings in parens)
Ray Mileur (15) The Cardinals reached the coveted 100-win mark and posted the best record in the National League for the second season in a row. The season started with the Cardinals winning the final home opener in the old Busch Stadium and I'll never forget the pitching matchup between Mark Mulder and Roger Clemens on April 23, with Mulder going the distance winning 1-0 over Houston. It was the best pitched game I ever witnessed in person.
It was the year the Cardinals were one strike away from getting knocked out of the playoffs in Houston, when Albert Pujols hit that famous three-run homer in the top of the ninth in Game Six of the NLCS to send the series to a Game Seven. The Cardinals lost Game 7, 5-1, in what would be the final game played at Busch Stadium, to close out another very emotional season. Demolition of our old friend, the old ballpark began about three weeks later. Chris Carpenter was named the 2005 National League Cy Young Award winner, the first Cardinal to win the award since Bob Gibson in 1970.
Jerry Modene (5) After having finally gotten past the NLCS barrier in 2004 only to be swept in four by the Red Sox in the World Series, the 2005 Cardinals led the race virtually wire-to-wire, taking over first place nine games into the season and extending that lead to 16 full games by September 13, having won 89 and lost only 49 in that span.
While the "MV3" took a huge hit with Scott Rolen's shoulder injury, Abraham Nunez filled in admirably for the injured star and Albert Pujols finally got past Barry Bonds and won a long-overdue Most Valuable Player award. On the mound, the five main starters made all but two of the team's starts, led by eventual Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter. 2005 marked the first time that two Cardinals won MVP and the Cy Young in the same season (Bob Gibson received both awards in 1968).
Ultimately, the season ended on a down note when the team lost to Houston in the NLCS – after one last thrill provided by Pujols when he homered off Brad Lidge to win Game Five.
Brian Walton (13) This is the only club in my personal top 15 that did not play in the World Series. In my scoring system, that was balanced by the presence of both the Cy Young Award winner, Chris Carpenter, and NL Most Valuable Player, Albert Pujols, on the club. This is the only time in history that two different Cardinals earned these honors in the same season. Along with those two, three other top all-time Cardinals were on Tony La Russa's team: pitcher Jason Isringhausen, third baseman Scott Rolen and outfielder Jim Edmonds.
This club was consistent in so many ways, holding down first place from April 16 until the playoffs began. They logged identical home and away records at 50-31 while taking their fifth division title in six years. The defense logged a franchise-best 196 double plays.
There were a number of strong individual performances, too. Pujols finished in the top five in the league in 12 different categories. His 41 long balls made the all-time top ten single season list for the club and his 27 intentional walks are third-most in team history. Isringhausen's 39 saves rank sixth most in a single Cardinals season. Carpenter's strikeout to walk ratio of 4.18 was fifth-highest in franchise history.
Rob Rains (NR) After winning their first NL pennant in 17 years in 2004 but being swept by the Red Sox in the World Series, there was only one way for the 2005 Cardinals to be a better club. It didn't quite happen that way, but the team came close.
For the first time since 1943-1944, the Cardinals produced a second consecutive 100-win season, falling from 105 wins to 100, still enough to win the division by 11 games. Albert Pujols won the MVP Award and Chris Carpenter the Cy Young, the first time players on the same team won the two major awards in the NL since Terry Pendleton and Tom Glavine of the Braves did it in 1991.
After a riveting seven-game series win over Houston in the 2004 NL Championship Series, the Astros emerged on top this time, in six games, with the final game on October 19 marking the final game ever at the old Busch Stadium.
Key: NR = not ranked
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