The Cardinal Nation blog

Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Cardinals declines from second place

Yesterday, I presented summaries of the five previous seasons since 1920 in which the St. Louis Cardinals improved in the standings from second place one year to first the next.

Since this is an equal-opportunity blog, today’s post covers the opposite case. Of course, there are more places then one to fall in the standings, but I will note every occurrence. There are seven such seasons in total.

The Cardinals slid from second to third three times:

1991-92
1974-75
1939-40

There was a pair of declines from second to fourth:

1971-72
1936-37

The largest drop from second the next season was to fifth. This elevator ride straight down occurred twice, both during the Stan Musial years.

1957-58
1949-50

Taking each of the seven seasons, starting with the most recent…

1992: third place. Manager Joe Torre’s Cardinals actually declined by just one win from year to year, 84 to 83. The 1992 team had added a proven offensive performer in Andres Galarraga to replace Pedro Guerrero at first base, but The Big Cat flopped. Following the season, he was sent to Colorado where he revived his career as a member of the Blake Street Bombers.

The second base jinx was a good representation of the 1992 season. Geronimo Pena broke his clavicle after tripping over a glove during spring training and the Secret Weapon, Jose Oquendo, went down with a dislocated shoulder on Opening Day.

No Cardinals regular hit .300 that year, though Ray Lankford led the club in most major offensive categories. Bob Tewksbury won 16 games and posted a 2.16 ERA. Lee Smith saved 43 games.

1975: third place. After falling just short the two previous years, the Cardinals finished 10 ½ games out in Red Schoendienst’s second-to-last season at the helm. Heading into the year, Torre had been traded to the Mets and Jose Cruz was sold to Houston.

Ted Simmons paced the offense with a .332 average and 100 RBI while Bob Forsch won 15 games with a 2.68 ERA. Bob Gibson concluded his Hall of Fame career, given permission to return home in mid-September.

1972: fourth place. Owner Gussie Busch ordered the trades of pitchers Steve Carlton and Jerry Reuss. Simmons refused to sign a contract and played without one. That pretty much says it all.

Gibson remained, winning 19 games with a 2.46 ERA. Torre dropped from 137 RBI in his 1971 MVP season to 81, but still led the punchless lineup.

1958: fifth place. Despite Musial and Ken Boyer leading the offense, the 1958 team stumbled out of the gate at 3-14 and finished last in the National League in runs scored. The Cardinals won just 72 games, finishing in fifth.

Teenage sensation Von McDaniel had injured his shoulder in spring training and would never pitch again. “Sad” Sam Jones led the staff with 14 wins and a 2.88 ERA. Musial collected his 3000th hit on May 13 and Curt Flood played his first of 12 seasons as a Cardinal.

1950: fifth place. After winning 96 games in 1949 and finishing just 1 ½ games out, the 1950 team was in first place as late as July 24 before collapsing to just 78 wins in total. Their .510 mark was the worst showing by a Cardinals club since 1938 and foreshadowed a decade in which the team would post five losing seasons.

Despite having won the World Series in his first season in 1946 and not having a losing record in any year, manager Eddie Dyer resigned in October before owner Fred Saigh could fire him. Marty Marion would manage the club in 1951.

1940: third place. In a bridge period between the Gas House Gang of the 1930’s and what would become the Cardinals’ most successful decade, the 1940 team entered the season as the favorite, but came out of the chute at 15-29 and never recovered. In June, Future Hall of Famer Billy Southworth became the third manager of the season.

Johnny Mize’s 43 home runs stood as the team record for over a half-century until Mark McGwire came along. Star outfielder Ducky Medwick was essentially sold to the Dodgers in June.

1937: fourth place. In a reminder that one superstar performance does not ensure team success, Medwick had a season for the ages. Joe posted the last Triple Crown in the National League – .374 average, 31 home runs and 154 RBI. Dizzy Dean’s toe injury in the All-Star Game contributed to the team’s underachievement and sent his career on a slide. The team dropped from 87 wins in 1936 to 81.

It was manager Frankie Frisch’s last full season at the helm. Shortstop Leo Durocher was traded to the Dodgers after the season.

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