The 10 Worst Cardinals of All Time

The 10 Worst Cardinals of All Time
"Any idiot can rank the greatest players of all time, but it takes skill to rank the ... worst," a sports blogger noted. Veteran sportswriter Bill Christine still thought he could take a shot at it. For more on his undertaking, see his intro here.

Rather read something positive? Check out Christine's list of the 10 best. Or, you know, just carp in the comments section.

1. Tony Cruz

Catcher, 2011-2015

Cruz spent four years in the minor leagues before being called up in 2011 as a backup for the oft-injured All Star Yadier Molina. Cruz hit .220 in 259 games, striking out four times more than he walked.

His best games came in the post-season, when he homered against the Giants and got what might have been a big hit against the Cubs, but the Cardinals lost both games and were ousted in both series. At the end of 2015, Cruz was traded to the Royals. In spring training this year, he popped out into a triple play. It wasn't his fault, really. The hit-and-run play was on, and his crime was making contact with the ball.

2. Bob Uecker

Catcher, 1964-1965

It's hard to separate Uecker's apocryphal stories from the ones that really happened. There's the story about Uecker signing his first contract with the Milwaukee Braves. His father was in their living room with a Milwaukee scout. "Is $3,000 all right?" the scout said. "Oh, no," the father said. "We couldn't pay you that much to sign Bob."

In 1964, Uecker's first year with the Cardinals, the team won the World Series. Uecker seldom played during the season and sat on the bench for the entire series. "I helped them win the pennant," Uecker said one night on Johnny Carson's show. "I caught hepatitis. The trainer injected me with it."

In 1965, Uecker broke out of his slump when he hit .228. Then he was traded to the Phillies. "I remember that deal," Uecker said. "The Cardinals got somebody named Gene Oliver and a mascot to be named later."

3. Tyler Greene

Second Base - Shortstop, 2009-2012

Greene was picked in the amateur draft by the Atlanta Braves, but declined to sign. Three years later, in 2005, the Cardinals selected him higher, at the back end of the first round. But Greene never mounted any traction in St. Louis, and after four years in the minors and four years of part-time play for the Cardinals, he was traded for virtually nothing. His average as a Cardinal was .218 and he struck out roughly every four trips to the plate.

4. Jack Ryan

Catcher - Infielder, 1901-1903

A St. Louis sporting goods company sold a glove called the "Jack Ryan Special," which was named after this turn-of-the-century Cardinal. It was a fielder's glove, although Ryan played most of his games behind the plate. A bat named after Ryan might have been out of the question. He was 32 when he joined the Cardinals, after playing for several other teams, and his averages in three seasons in St. Louis were .197, .180 and .238.  He scouted for the Cardinals and managed in the minor leagues long after his playing days were over.

5. Anthony Reyes

Pitcher, 2005-2008

I'm always suspicious of players who wear their caps funny. Reyes wore the brim of his flat. It looked like a pancake. "They come in the box that way, and I don't bend them," Reyes said. "It helps me see better."

Reyes lost two decisions late in 2006. He beat the Tigers in the first game of the World Series, but then started 2007 with ten straight losses, tying a club record that dated back to 1897. It was the beginning of the end. For the year, he went 2-14 with an earned run average of more than six. In 2008, the Cardinals traded him to Cleveland. Surgery on his elbow didn't help and he was released.

6. Red Donahue

Pitcher, 1895-1897

For other teams, Donahue won twenty games or more three times, and pitched a no-hitter. But while with the Cardinals, he lost 24 games in 1896. In 1897, he had a 6.13 earned run average, won ten and lost 35, setting a record for defeats in a season. The team as a whole won 29 and lost 102.

During one at-bat, Germany Schaefer was sent up to pinch-hit for Donahue. Donahue asked, "Who the hell are you to hit for me?" He then slammed his bat down and stormed off. Schaefer hit a home run, but while his teammates congratulated him, Donahue sat at the end of the bench and sulked. After he retired, Donahue became a bartender in Philadelphia.

7. Tom Lawless

Second Base - Third Base - Outfielder, 1985-1988

Lawless had the most theatrical home-run bat flips in baseball. In the fourth game of the 1987 World Series, against the Minnesota Twins, he hit a deep drive to left field. Lawless took a half-step and gazed at the ball. Then he took nine mincing steps toward first base, his eyes still transfixed on the ball. Finally, nonchalantly, with his left hand, he flipped the bat over his shoulder, high in the air behind him. He's lucky he didn't hit the Twins' catcher. "I didn't even know I did it," Lawless said.

Trouble was, he only hit one other homer for the Cardinals, and only one more besides that. His batting averages in St. Louis were .207, .282, .080 and .154.

8. Dal Maxvill

Shortstop - Second Base, 1962-1972

Maxvill's reliable glove kept him in the game. His batting average during a long career in St. Louis was a puny .220, with only six home runs. One year, he batted .175. In the 1968 World Series, which the Cardinals lost to the Tigers, Maxvill was hitless in 22 at-bats. Yet his salary was relatively high for the era.

"Almost everywhere I go," said Bing Devine, the general manager, "the question I'm asked the most is how I can pay Dal Maxvill $37,500. But if you could see how he plays shortstop, you would understand." Maxvill laughed all the way to the bank. He played for five World Series teams—three in St. Louis and two with the Oakland A's.

9. Leo Durocher

Shortstop, 1933-1937 

The final two players on this list made the case for inclusion thanks to their off-the-field transgressions.  Durocher, according to his biographer, Gerald Eskenazi, was a heavy gambler whose name was linked to the mob in the 1930s. Later, one of his cronies was the actor George Raft, who reportedly won as much as $100,000 in one year betting on baseball, and who partnered with Durocher in hoodwinking other players in rigged craps games.

All the while, Durocher was a light-hitting, slick-fielding shortstop and a manager who won more than 2,000 games. He won World Series as both a player (Cardinals) and a manager (New York Giants). When Durocher was managing the Brooklyn Dodgers, the commissioner suspended him for the entire 1947 season for "conduct unbecoming to baseball."

For years, Durocher moaned about not getting into the Hall of Fame, and he once asked Ken Burns, the documentary filmmaker, to "turn down (the honor) for me, posthumously." In 1964, Durocher's last year on the ballot as a player, he got 2 of 226 votes. Thirty years later, almost three years after his death, he was voted in as a manager by the eighteen-member veterans' committee. Campaigning by the slugger Ted Williams, a member of the committee, didn't hurt. The actress Laraine Day, the third of Durocher's four wives, delivered the acceptance speech.

10. Mark McGwire

First Baseman, 1997-2001

At the end of his career, McGwire hit 70 homers for the Cardinals in 1998, breaking Roger Maris' record, and hit 65 more in 1999. The 1998 season was one of the most heartfelt in team history, but when asked later at a congressional hearing whether he'd used performance-enhancing drugs, McGwire claimed that the people in attendance "weren't here to talk about the past." Then, in 2010, McGwire apologized, saying that he had used steroids, on and off the field, for nearly a decade, even while claiming that the drugs did not enhance his power to hit home runs.

In his ten years on the Hall of Fame ballot, McGwire has never polled more than 24 percent of the votes, far short of the amount needed for election.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story misspelled Yadier Molina's first name. D'oh! We regret the error.

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