MLB Playoffs: Ranking the Cardinals and the Last 10 World Series Champions

Matt Ryan@Matlanta1989Correspondent IIOctober 31, 2011

MLB Playoffs: Ranking the Cardinals and the Last 10 World Series Champions

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    The St. Louis Cardinals are the 2011 World Series Champions after a season of adversity. They made the playoffs after they appeared to be out of contention trailing by more than 10 games in late September. They won the Fall Classic after twice coming down to their final strike in a classic Game 6. 

    All this after a season in which the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees once again dominated the headlines.

    So where do they rank among previous World Series winners?

    Could this pitching staff handle those high scoring Boston Red Sox and New York Yankee teams? How would David Freese and the offense fare against the underrated 2005 Chicago White Sox pitching staff? Are they better than the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals?

#10: 2006 St. Louis Cardinals

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    A perfect example of why the best team isn't always a champion.

    The Cardinals won over a 100 games the previous two seasons and finished with their worst record since 1999, yet they still won the Fall Classic in 2006 with only the 15th best record in Major League Baseball.

    St. Louis Cardinals finished the regular season 83-78, the worst record ever for a World Series champion (1987 Minnesota Twins were 85-77).

    Albert Pujols led the way for the Cardinals with 49 home runs and 139 RBI. The offense also featured veterans such as Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds, and Juan Ecarnacion.

    The St. Louis pitching staff was unimpressive. Aside from Chris Carpenter, no other starter won more than 14 games or had an ERA under 4.00.

    The Cardinals beat the San Diego Padres in four games in the division series and then went on to win the pennant after a seven game series with the New York Mets.

    As they had been in their previous two series, St. Louis entered the Fall Classic as a heavy underdog against a Detroit Tigers team coming off series wins over the New York Yankees and Oakland Athletics.

    After a splitting the first two games, the Cardinals won the next three to earn their 10th World Series title in franchise history.

#9: 2011 St. Louis Cardinals

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    The Cardinals were 10.5 games back with 32 games left in the season. They finished the regular season with a record of 23-9 and clinched the wild card on the final day of the season.

    Albert Pujols once again led the Cardinals offense, 37 home runs and 99 RBI (first time he failed to hit the century mark) and Lance Berkman had a great comeback year with 31 homers and 91 RBI.

    St. Louis faced the heavily favored Philadelphia Phillies and their star studded pitching staff in the NLDS. The teams split the first pair of games in Philadelphia, before the the Phillies took a 2-1 lead heading in to Game 4.

    Cardinals were trailing in the fifth inning of Game 4, when the series began to shift in their favor after the Rally Squirrel ran across the field in Busch Stadium. They went on to win 5-3. They clinched the series on the road, two nights later, when Chris Carpenter pitched nine shutout innings in a 1-0 win.

    St. Louis beat their divisional rival Milwaukee Brewers in six games in the NLCS, setting up a matchup with the defending American League-champion Texas Rangers.

    The Fall Classic was tied going in to the third game, after the first two games were both decided by a single run. Cardinals won Game 3, 16-7, during a night in which Albert Pujols tied a World Series single game-record with three homers and six RBI; and set records with four consecutive hits and 14 total bases.

    Texas won the next two games by a combined score of 8-2 to put the Cardinals in a 3-2 hole with the series heading back to St. Louis.

    Game 6 would go down as one of the best of all time after the Rangers were twice, one strike away from winning their first World Series title. NLCS and World Series MVP David Freese hit a triple in the bottom of the ninth to the tie game up at 7. 

    Texas regained the lead and was up 9-7 in the bottom of the 10th, but once again failed to hold off the Cardinals. Freese was once again the hero, when he sent the series to Game 7 with a walk-off solo shot in the bottom of the 11th.

    No team had ever scored in the eighth, ninth, 10th, and 11th innings of a World Series game.

    The Cardinals went on to win Game 7, 6-2 to earn their 11th title in franchise history.

#8: 2010 San Francisco Giants

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    These San Francisco Giants were far from an elite offensive team. Only one regular starter had a batting average north of .300 and their two leading home run hitters combined for only 50.

    One the other hand, their starting pitchers were arguably the best in the league. Twice-defending NL Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum led the way for a staff that surrendered the second fewest runs in the league. Matt Cain would be the ace on most teams, but was the number two guy on Bruce Bochy's pitching staff.

    The rest of the Giant's pitching staff was rounded out by Jonathan Sanchez (205 strikeouts), Madison Bumgarner (3.00 ERA), and Barry Zito (former AL Cy Young winner). Their bullpen was anchored Brian Wilson (and his now famous beard).

    Buster Posey was Rookie of the Year and helped the Giants starting pitchers achieve such a high level of success.

    San Francisco won the NL West, by only two games over the surprising San Diego Padres with a record of 92-70.

    The Giants made quick work of the Atlanta Braves in four games and then advanced to the World Series after upsetting the Philadelphia Phillies in a six game NLCS.

    After a high scoring 11-7 victory in Game 1, the Giants limited the Rangers to only three runs for the rest of series and won the Fall Classic in five games.

#7: 2003 Florida Marlins

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    The 2003 Florida Marlins are probably the most unexpected World Series champion of the last 10 years. Jeff Torborg was fired as a manger after the team got off to a 16-22 and replaced by 72-year-old Jack McKeon. The Marlins went 75-49 the rest of the way and won the National League Wild Card.

    Ivan Rodriguez had a major impact on a young pitching staff that featured Josh Beckett, Dontrelle Willis, Brad Penny, and Carl Pavano (A.J. Burnett was injured midway through the season).

    The rest of the offense had a good combination of speed (Luis Castillo and Juan Pierre), established starters (Derek Lee, Mike Lowell, and Alex Gonzalez), as well as a future superstar with 20-year-old Miguel Cabrera.

    The Marlins beat the reigning National League champion San Francisco Giants in round one, before matchups with two of the game's most storied franchises. Florida came back from adversity in both cases.

    The Chicago Cubs had a 3-1 series lead in the NLCS, but collapsed after getting shutout in Game 5, the Steve Bartman fiasco in Game 6, and a crushing 9-6 loss in Game 7 at Wrigley Field. 

    The Marlins fell behind 2-1 in the World Series against the New York Yankees, but won Games 4-6. Florida clinched their second championship in franchise history after Josh Beckett's 2-0 shutout win in Game 6 at Yankee Stadium.

    Just like the 1997 team, the core of this team gradually left South Florida after a championship triumph, reducing the chances of this young team to contend for more titles.

    However, two Wild Card appearances and two World Series Championships isn't too shabby for a franchise that is less than 20 years old.

#6: 2002 Anaheim Angels

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    Seattle Mariners were heavy favorites to win the AL West after a 116 win season in 2001. Instead, they finished in third place behind an Oakland Athletics team that won 103 games and the Anaheim Angels who made their first playoff appearance in 16 seasons.

    Tim Salmon, Garret Anderson, and Troy Glaus were the heart of the order for the league's fourth highest scoring team. The pitching staff lacked star power, but got career years from Ramon Ortiz and Jarrod Washburn who combined to win 33 games.

    Their bullpen was one of the best of the league with the likes of Scot Shields, Ben Weber, Brendan Donnelly, and four-time All-Star closer Troy Percival.

    It got even better in the postseason when Francisco Rodriguez went from an unknown minor league call-up to a playoff hero.

    Angels cruised to their first American League pennant after a four game ALDS upset over the New York Yankees and winning four consecutive games against the Minnesota Twins in the ALCS. This set up an All-California Fall Classic against Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants. 

    The 2002 World Series was the most recent that went to a seven games. Four games in the series were decided by a single run.

    Up 3-2 in the series, Giants had 5-0 lead in Game 6 after the seventh inning stretch. Angels scored three runs in both the seventh and eighth innings to force a seventh and deciding game, which they won by a score of 4-1. 

    Mike Sciascio and the Angels have won five AL West division crowns since their championship triumph nearly a decade ago, but no Anaheim team has yet to match the success of the 2002 edition (and the Rally Monkey.)

#5: 2008 Philadelphia Phillies

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    Philadelphia won the NL East for a second consecutive season and looked to improve after getting swept by the Colorado Rockies in the NLDS.

    The Phillies offense had a great combination of power and speed. MVP runner-up Ryan Howard hit 48 home runs, while Chase Utley and Pat Burrel each hit 33. Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino each stole more than 35 bases, giving Charlie Manuel a speedster at top and in the bottom half of his lineup.

    Their pitching staff was nowhere near as talented as the 2011 Phillies, but it had a good one-two punch of the young (24-year-old Cole Hamels) and the old (45-year-old Jamie Moyer). Brad Lidge didn't blow a save the entire season and won the Comeback Player of the Year award.

    Philadelphia beat the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLDS and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS to win their first pennant in 15 seasons.

    Their opponent in the Fall Classic was the upstart Tampa Bay Rays who were coming off their first winning season in franchise history. After Game 5 victory spread out over two nights because of a rain delay, The Phillies won their second championship in franchise history and ended a 25 year championship drought in Philadelphia. 

#4: 2007 Boston Red Sox

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    After ending the curse in 2004, the Red Sox failed to win a postseason game in the next two seasons. The following year, they were swept by the Chicago White Sox in the ALDS and missed the playoffs all together in 2006.

    Boston retooled in the offseason with the signing of J.D. Drew to five-year deal worth $70 million and committing over nine figures to Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka.

    The Red Sox ended the Yankees nine year streak in the AL East and tied the Cleveland Indians for the league's best record at 96-66.

    David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, and Mike Lowell all had All-Star seasons as the Red Sox scored the fourth most runs in the league.

    Josh Beckett was the Cy Young runner up won 20 games and had an ERA of 3.27. Tim Wakefield and Daisuke Matsuzaka combined to win 32 games. Jonathan Papelbon (37 saves, 0.92 ERA) anchored a great bullpen.

    Just as they had in 2004, Boston overcame adversity with the pennant and their season on the line. The Red Sox trailed the Cleveland Indians 3-1 in the ALCS, before winning the final three games by a combined score of 30-5!

    Boston swept the Colorado Rockies in the World Series for their second championship of the 21st century.

#3: 2005 Chicago White Sox

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    The 2005 Chicago White Sox are easily the most underrated World Series champion of the last 10 years and possibly beyond that. In the second year of the Ozzie Guillen era, the White Sox record of 99-63 was the American League's best.

    No player scored more than 100 runs or had a batting average above .300, but their 200 home runs were the fifth most in Major League Baseball. Six White Sox hit at least 15 home runs. Paul Konerko led the team with 40 to go along with his 100 RBI.

    Their pitching staff was arguably the best in the league. Mark Buehrle, Jose Contreras, Freddy Garcia, and Jon Garland all won more than 14 games and had an ERA of less than 3.90.

    This quartet was so dominate in the postseason that the bullpen only needed to get two outs in the ALCS against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and they helped shutout the Houston Astros for the final 15 innings of the World Series.

    Chicago posted an 11-1 record in the postseason with their only loss (3-2) coming against the Angels in Game 1 of the ALCS.

    A year after the Red Sox ended their championship drought, the White Sox ended 88 years of futility when Bobby Jenks made the final out in a 1-0 Game 4 win over the Astros.

#2: 2009 New York Yankees

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    After eight seasons of expensive teams that failed to live up to lofty expectations, the Yankees finally brought another world championship to the Bronx.

    They began the 2009 season in a brand new stadium, after yet another offseason spending spree. CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and A.J. Burnett were signed for the grand total of $423.5 million after the Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time since 1993.

    This high scoring offense boasted eight players who hit at least 18 homers and helped to carry the Yankees to league's best record with a mark of 103-59.

    In the latter half of the Joe Torre era, the pitching staff was often the culprit for the Yankee's shortcomings in spite of All-Star caliber lineups.

    Their starting pitchers didn't rival the 1970 Baltimore Orioles, but the trio of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Andy Pettitte was a major improvement compared to recent years.

    Yankees swept the Twins in the division series and advanced to the World Series for the first time in six years (a long time for a Steinbrenner-owned team) after beating the Los Angeles Angels in a six game ALCS.

    Cliff Lee and the defending world champion-Philadelphia Phillies won Game 1 by a score of 6-1, before losing the next three. Philadelphia then won Game 5 to send the series back to the Bronx.

    World Series MVP Hideki Matsui (in his final game as a Yankee) went three for four in Game 6 and had six RBI as the Yankees offense embarrassed three-time Cy Young winner Pedro Martinez (in his final MLB game) in a 7-3 win.

    The Yankees won their 27th World Series title and ended a near decade of championship shortcomings.

#1: 2004 Boston Red Sox

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    After a Game 7 meltdown the year before against the rival Yankees, the Red Sox made several big changes in the offseason, starting with the firing of Grady Little and replacing him with Terry Francona.

    A blockbuster trade was completed for Curt Schilling. Pairing him with Pedro Martinez gave the Red Sox a great one-two punch that rivaled the one that Schilling formed with Randy Johnson in Arizona.

    This was in addition to the signing of All-Star closer Keith Foulke.

    Another blockbuster trade was almost completed that would sent Alex Rodriguez and Magglio Ordóñez to Boston, with Manny Ramirez and Nomar Garciaparra going elsewhere. This trade never became reality, but Garciaparra was traded later in the season to the Chicago Cubs as part of a deal that gave the Red Sox, Doug Mientkiewicz and Orlando Cabrera.

    Great seasons from Schilling and Martinez, in addition to an offense that scored 949 runs helped the Red Sox win 98 games and the wild card for a second straight season. The All-Star duo of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez combined for 81 home runs.

    Boston swept the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the ALDS before meeting the New York Yankees in an ALCS matchup. The Yankees looked well on their way to another Fall Classic after winning the first three games.

    Instead the Red Sox made history by becoming the first MLB team to win a series after trailing 3-0. Boston swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series and won their first championship since 1918.

    86 years of suffering were over and Red Sox fans didn't have to wait as long for the next one.