The 2003-04 school year was a pretty miserable one for me. It was my freshman year in high school, and because I lived in this weird purgatory of middle and high school district overlap, in my class of 512 people, I knew less than ten of them, and I had zero classes with any of them. I was shy and uncomfortable in social situations–people were rarely mean to me, but I had a difficult time making friends, and it was a pretty lonely, isolating experience. The next year, things improved once I realized that maybe I should do some extracurricular activities or something, so by the time I got to, like, November, I had some motivation to get to school besides it being a requirement. Which was nice. But for that time before that, I needed something else. So I had the 2004 Cardinals.
The 2004 St. Louis Cardinals were objectively the best Cardinals team of my lifetime. They won 105 games and made the World Series! They had three legitimate MVP-caliber players! They got bored in August and decided “hey whatever let’s just throw the former MVP and future Hall of Fame candidate Larry Walker into the mix” because they were the closest thing to a video game franchise mode team St. Louis has ever had! But they also have sentimental value for me that most teams don’t.
This weekend, the Cardinals will host the Houston Astros, the team they faced in the National League Championship Series in 2004. And if you think the current-day Astros are preposterous (they are), consider the names on the 2004 roster: Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Lance Berkman, Jeff Kent, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Roy Oswalt, Brad Lidge…oh, and they added Carlos Beltran in July, and he was worth 4.5 Wins Above Replacement in that partial season. It was an incredible series that was overshadowed by the (admittedly, also-great) Yankees/Red Sox ALCS and that’s a shame.
Because of the connection and the aesthetic beauty of multiples of five, the 2004 Cardinals will be honored throughout the weekend. Most of the attention will be given to obvious players. The vaunted MV3 of Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, and Scott Rolen, in the only season in which all three were actually, concurrently MVP-caliber players. Chris Carpenter, who had his breakthrough in 2004 before his Cy Young-winning 2005 and most of his established folklore. 2019 St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Jason Isringhausen.
But this isn’t for the real devotees of the 2004 Cardinals. If you wanted to establish yourself as a Black Sabbath fan, you wouldn’t go on about how you like “Iron Man”, would you? You’d be extolling the virtues of Technical Ecstasy, or at the bare minimum Vol. 4. So now, rather than reminisce about the names you’ll hear all about if you watch or attend games this weekend, Let’s Remember Some Guys.
- Marlon Anderson–Marlon Anderson was a perfectly adequate second baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies before the arrival of Chase Utley, and he had an above-average 2003 with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays before going to St. Louis in 2004. With Fernando Vina signing with the Detroit Tigers, Anderson seemingly had a shot at the starting position, but Tony Womack emerged and had a shockingly good season, so Anderson was relegated to bench duty. He had a pretty lousy year, with an OPS+ of just 66 and nearly as many innings logged in corner outfield spots as at second base. I told a friend of mine about how this weekend was going to be a big Remember Some Guys and he simply replied, “Marlon Anderson.” So he deserves to lead off.
- So Taguchi–Taguchi is arguably too famous to be an idealized Remember Some Guys for Cardinals fans–he was a solid fourth outfielder for several seasons and had a huge home run in Game 2 of the 2006 NLCS. But he was a first-ballot Remember Some Guys in the original installment of the segment from a national perspective, so he belongs here.
- Cody McKay–Was Cody McKay being on the roster nepotism, as he was the son of first base coach Dave McKay? A short-term solution because the team knew Yadier Molina was coming up sooner rather than later to become Mike Matheny’s backup at catcher? A precursor for years of not even attempting to employ serviceable backup catchers? Why not all three! Cody McKay played in 35 of his 37 career games for the 2004 Cardinals. This includes fourteen starts at catcher, but certainly his most memorable performance came as a pitcher, when he pitched two shutout, no-hit innings against the Milwaukee Brewers on April 8, 2004.
- Mike Lincoln–If your last name is Lincoln and you play for a team with a substantial fan segment in Illinois, you’re going to have some residual fandom headed your direction. Mike Lincoln got that, even if his thirteen games in a Cardinals uniform were…not good. He had a 5.19 ERA and didn’t pitch again in Major League Baseball until 2008, for the Cincinnati Reds.
- Jason Simontacchi–In 2002, Jason Simontacchi received Rookie of the Year votes. Not a lot of them, but he’s on the list. He was a late bloomer to the extent that he bloomed–he turned 29 the next November and was an all-world FIP-beater–but he was there. In 2004, Simontacchi, who had started previously, was exclusively a reliever, like Lincoln he had a bad ERA (5.28), but he managed to re-establish himself in the big leagues in 2007 instead, with the Washington Nationals.
- Roger Cedeno–There is something almost poignant about Some Guys who were once useful if unexceptional starters but over time, become nondescript backups. Roger Cedeno was this–formerly useful primarily because he could handle center field and be good enough offensively, the St. Louis version was a lackluster corner outfielder, still not much of a hitter, and was firmly just Some Guy on the bench.
- Josh Pearce–Those who complain in 2019 about the Cardinals being unable to produce much in terms of high-end Major Leaguers must not remember what a dead zone the minors were during the Walt Jocketty era. The system drafted and developed Albert Pujols and then, basically, took the next eight years off. It was so bad that Josh Pearce was second perhaps only to Jimmy Journell in terms of Some Guys I got excited about because I assumed if you were a top pitching prospect on your team, you were essentially assured he would win seven Cy Young Awards. Pearce actually had decent 2004 results, albeit in very limited playing time (he allowed just one run in 2 1/3 innings), but this would be the end of his MLB career.
- Bo Hart–Fun fact about Bo Hart: I attended his MLB debut in Milwaukee in 2003. And in his first game, the then twenty-six year-old went two for three with a double and a triple, as well as a walk. The guys around me at Miller Park kept asking who he was, and I did not know. Today, he is a fierce Some Guy but for the first fifteen games of his MLB career, he had an OPS over 1.000, which was truly amazing even in that era for a second baseman. He came back down to Earth and only had 14 plate appearances in 2004, with an OPS+ of -2, and he never again played in MLB, but he remains a favorite name to mention when a scrappy white infielder becomes instantly beloved despite somewhat middling results (hey guys, did you know Tommy Edman has been a below-average hitter with the Cardinals?).
- Colin Porter–Honestly, I have absolutely nothing to say about Colin Porter. He was an outfielder. He played briefly for the Houston Astros in 2003 as well. I don’t remember anything else about him. I needed to pull up his Baseball Reference page just to confirm his race. But…I remember him. He is truly the perfect encapsulation of Remembering Some Guys.