Top Cardinals Teams and the Cy Young Award

Jerry Modene looks at the best pitchers on the best St. Louis Cardinals teams of all time, including those who won the Cy Young Award and others who could have.

Yesterday, we took a look at how the individual players on the Top 15 St. Louis Cardinals Teams of All-Time fared in the Most Valuable Player Award voting. This was a fairly simple task, given that the leagues have been giving out some form of the MVP award since the mid 1910's, and the current (BBWAA) form of the award since 1931 – so only the 1926 Cards posed any difficulty at all.

Now, expanding that process gets more difficult as the other baseball awards didn't start appearing until the 1950's. With seven of the top 15 teams in Cardinal history coming from before the 1950's, how does one be fair to those early teams?

Well, we just have to be creative. For instance, for Dizzy Dean (1934) and Mort Cooper (1942 - right), who each won the NL Most Valuable Player Award, I think it would be reasonable to assume that had the Cy Young Award existed at that time, they would have won that award – so I'll consider those a couple of first-place finishes. Likewise, any mention on an MVP ballot I'll treat as equivalent to a mention on a Cy Young ballot. Failing that, I'll consider 20-game winners (and where they ranked among the league leaders) as a qualifier.

Finally, the parenthetical rankings, such as Johnny Beazley's (3), indicates where the pitcher ranked among NL pitchers in the MVP voting, not where they ranked among all players.

So, starting with our top-ranked team and working down:

1942: Mort Cooper (1), Johnny Beazley (3). Total two pitchers.
1944: Mort Cooper (3), Ted Wilks (6), Max Lanier (7). Total three pitchers.
1931: Paul Derringer (6T). Total one pitcher.
1967: No mention in Cy Young voting, as the balloting prior to 1970 allowed for only one vote – in 1970, the CYA voting took the MVP "weighted ballot" form. Also, no 20-game winners. However, Nellie Briles was the third-highest ranking pitcher in the MVP voting, with Dick Hughes fourth and Bob Gibson tied for sixth – so: Briles (3), Hughes (4), Gibson (6). Total three pitchers.
2004: No mention in either Cy Young or MVP voting; no 20-game winners. Total zero pitchers.
1946: Howie Pollet (1), Harry Breechen (4). Total two pitchers.
1934: Dizzy Dean (1), Paul Dean (3). Total two pitchers.
1968: Bob Gibson (1st in both Cy Young and MVP voting). Do we give him double credit? If so, then total two pitchers, both Gibson.
1943: Mort Cooper (1). Total one pitcher.
1964: No CYA mentions; Bob Gibson (6T MVP), Schultz (8). Total two pitchers.
1926: Flint Rhem (2). Total one pitcher.
1982: Bruce Sutter (3rd CYA - right), Joaquin Andujar (T7th CYA); Sutter was the top-ranked pitcher on the MVP ballot and Andujar was the 4th. Double credit there gives us four postseason mentions among our pitchers.
1985: John Tudor (2 CYA), Joaquin Andujar (4 CYA); Tudor was the second-highest ranked pitcher on the MVP ballot. Double credit for the "Cranky Yankee" gives us three postseason mentions.
2005: Chris Carpenter (1 CYA). Carpenter was also the top-ranked pitcher on the MVP ballot. Double credit: two postseason mentions.
2002: No mentions for Cards pitchers on either MVP or CYA ballots. No pitchers.

The biggest surprise, really, even though it shouldn't have been, was that Mort Cooper was clearly the top pitcher in the National League in the early 1940's, winning an MVP award in 1942, finishing as the third-ranked pitcher in 1943, and as the top-ranked pitcher, but behind MVP winner Marty Marion in 1944. So why was he traded in 1945?

Money. Sam Breadon was in full control of the team by then, as Branch Rickey had gone to Brooklyn by that time, and Breadon was a tight man with a dollar. Cooper's success had necessitated a top salary, and once he started making that salary, Breadon determined that he would have to be traded – and he was, to Boston in 1945, where he ironically played a role in yet another Cardinal pennant, shutting down the Dodgers in 1946 and preserving a first-place tie for the Redbirds.

The other item of note is how Andujar/Sutter's (right) double duty, by placing high in both the Cy Young and MVP Award voting, played such a key role in the success of 1982. But in terms of actual pitchers placing on the ballots, the 1943 and 1967 teams led with three MVP mentions each.

Finally, looking at 20-game winners for each of the 15 top teams' seasons, we find:

1942: M. Cooper (22 wins), Beazley (21).
1944: M. Cooper (22 wins).
1931: No 20 game winners; Derringer led with 19.
1967: No 20 game winners; Hughes led with 16.
2004: No 20 game winners; Suppan led with 16, but 3 others had 15 wins each.
1946: Pollet (21 wins).
1934: Dean (30 wins).
1968: Gibson (22 wins).
1943: M. Cooper (21 wins).
1964: Sadecki (20 wins).
1926: Rhem (20 wins).
1982: No 20 game winners; Andujar and Forsch led with 15.
1985: Tudor (21), Andujar (21).
2005: Carpenter (21 wins).
2002: No 20 game winners; Morris led with 17.

The surprise here is that five of the top 15 teams had no 20-game winners and eight others had only one 20-game winner. Only two of the 15 top teams had two 20-game winners, the 1942 and 1985 editions. And, there's never been a Cardinals team with three 20-game winners, although the 1985 team came close, as Danny Cox won 18 games.

In conclusion, along with their acknowledged pair of Cy Young Award winners, Gibson in 1968 and Carpenter in 2005, one could see how at least four more could have been earned by Cardinals pitchers – Dizzy Dean in 1934, Mort Cooper in both 1942 and 1943 plus Howie Pollet (right) in 1946.

Flint Rhem finished just 12 points behind Pittsburgh's Ray Kremer in the 1926 balloting for MVP and could also have won the Award, and Cooper, who finished behind New York's Bill Voiselle and Cincinnati's Bucky Walter in 1944, very nearly could have made it three Cy's in a row - which, I think, really underscores just how great he was at his peak level. Ironically, those three seasons (1942-44) were Cooper's only great seasons and he would only win two more games for the Cards and 16 more overall before injuries forced him to hang 'em up after the 1949 season.

Coming up next: Top St. Louis Cardinals Teams of All Time and Rookie of the Year and Gold Glove Awards. To reference our entire list of Top 15 Cardinals Teams of All-Time and read about each individual club, click here.

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