FS Midwest's Cardinals Tourney of Champions

Comparing the pool from FOX Sports Midwest to select a new all-time best St. Louis Cardinals team to our previous rankings.

If you have been tuning in to the "Cardinals Live" post-game shows this season on FOX Sports Midwest, you've heard about a new feature called "The Cardinals Tournament of Champions Bracket".

The concept is to use fan voting to select the top 16 St. Louis Cardinals teams of all time, then place those clubs into one of four, four-team brackets. Each week throughout the remainder of the season, a simulated seven-game series between a pair of clubs will eliminate teams until one will be left standing as the winner by the end of the summer.

The four brackets were announced Tuesday night, with the creatively-labeled titles of "Stan Musial Region", "Bob Gibson Region", "Lou Brock Region" and "Ozzie Smith Region".

The fan voting results were not disclosed, but each of the 16 clubs was given a one through four seeding in their bracket, with seed number one playing seed four and seeds two and three facing off in the first round.

Being a follower of Cardinals history as I am, I quickly scribbled down the teams and seeds. Poring over them in the light of day, I have only one major quibble and a few small ones.

Back in the spring of 2008 here at The Birdhouse, four writers, including me, Ray Mileur and author Rob Rains, selected our collective view of the Top 15 Cardinals Teams of All Time. Though we did not run game simulations, we considered a wide variety of factors when considering clubs from different eras.

FS Midwest's fan-selected brackets include 12 of our top 15 teams. I won't quibble over order. Of the three teams that made our list but missed FSM's, 2005, 2002 and 1943, only the latter seems to be a major omission.

The 1943 Cardinals won 105 games during the regular season (at a time teams played just 154) and beat the second-place Reds by 18 games. Musial earned his first Most Valuable Player Award after leading the league in batting and doubles. He added 20 triples!

Billy Southworth's club, in the midst of a three-year run of World Series appearances, did fall to the New York Yankees in October. But their accomplishments were such that they are clearly among the top 16 all-time Cardinals teams. We collectively ranked them ninth.

In terms of the four teams that made the FS Midwest brackets but fell short of The Birdhouse Top 15, a couple of the selections are curious. I can see including the 2006 World Champions, though seeding them second in their bracket feels like a major stretch. The 1928 Cardinals, a team that won 95 games, but was swept four straight in the Series, is also defendable. In fact, in our voting, I ranked that club 11th on my personal list.

However, the 2000 Cardinals, the last pre-Pujols club, lost in the National League Championship Series to the New York Mets. That team won 95 games, but to me doesn't seem to have a place among the top 16. I would have put the 2002 or 2005 clubs into the tourney before them.

Perhaps the oddest inclusion in the brackets is the 1949 team. By definition, this is a "champions" tourney. The Cardinals' rich history clearly offers enough true champs, whether league or division, to fill out the field. Yet, Eddie Dyer's 1949 club appears as the fourth seed in the Smith Bracket. This despite the fact the team finished in second place in the NL after winning 96 games.

The 1930 and 1987 clubs, the latter falling just one game short of a World Championship, are two Cardinals World Series teams that didn't make the cut on either list.

But hey, that is what these features are all about – getting Cardinals fans talking and yes, disagreeing about their all-time favorites and what criteria should be used in ranking them.

The bracket busting begins next week on "Cardinals Live" as the Musial Region's first and fourth seeds, the 1942 and 2000 clubs, face off. Though the winner will be selected as a result of the game simulations, you can also suggest your preference between the two. FS Midwest is accepting US Cellular text messages at "432-432". Enter "CHAMP" and the four-digit year to have your say.

Here are the brackets with seeds. The Birdhouse Top 15 ranking follows in parentheses.

Musial Region Brock Region
1. 1942 (1) 1. 2004 (5)
4. 2000 (NR) 4. 1926 (11)
2. 1964 (10) 2. 1931 (3)
3. 1934 (7) 3. 1968 (8)
Gibson Region Smith Region
1. 1967 (4) 1. 1944 (2)
4. 1928 (NR) 4. 1949 (NR)
2. 1982 (12) 2. 2006 (NR)
3. 1946 (6) 3. 1985 (13)

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Catch his Cardinals commentary daily at his blog, The Cardinal Nation.

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