It's almost disappointing that I'm beginning my discussion...
It's almost disappointing that I'm beginning my discussion on the 1926 Cardinals with second baseman Roger Hornsby. While he still had a few good seasons left in the tank, Hornsby was near the end of a fantastic career when the Cardinals finally won their first World Series. Just the year before, in 1925, Hornsby won his sixth consecutive batting title (which I believe is still a National League record) by hitting .403. On top of that, he led the league in RBIS (143) and homeruns (39) to winthe second triple crown of his career.
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Similar to players like Ty Cobb, it's hard to determine which season was Hornsby's best. In 1922, he won the triple crown and hit a career best 42 homeruns. In 1924, he hit a career high .424 and also set a career highwith a .507 OBP. And then in 1925, his third season above the .400 mark, he set career highs in slugging (.756) and OPS (1.245). In 1925, Hornsby also took over the managerial reigns from Branch Rickey part way through the season so it's fitting that the Cardinals won it all in Hornsby's first full season as skipper.
1926 was definitely an off year for Hornsby. For the first time nine years, Hornsby wasn't in the top four in hitting. His OPS+ of 124 was his lowest season total ever unless you count his rookie season (1915) when he logged only 57 at bats. It was also the first time since 1915 that Hornsby didn't lead the Cardinals in OPS. Ironically, even in this off year, Hornsby finished eight in the National League in runs (96) and sixth in RBIs (93).
Despite the Cardinals winning the World Series, Hornsby's story doesn't have a happy ending with the Cardinals. In December of 1926, the Cardinals traded Hornsby to the New York Giants for Frankie Frisch and Jimmy Ring. Ring went 0-4 in 27 innings for the Cardinals in 1927 and was traded after the season but Frisch was a major player on both the 1931 and 1934 World Series championship teams and managed the team from 1933 through 1938.
Hornsby wasn't quite done putting up great numbers after being traded by the Cardinals. He had a great 1927 season for the Giants (league leading OPS+ of 175 and second in hitting with .361) but was traded after the season to the Boston Braves. In 1928 he won his seventh and final batting title and notched his fourth and final season with at least an OPS+ of 200 (it was exactly 200 in 1928). Like the previous two seasons, Hornsby was again traded in the off season, this time to the Chicago Cubs.
That 1929 season was another historic one. He was voted the MVP for the second time in his career and belted 39 home runs. He also set a career high in runs scored with 156. He stuck with the Cubs through 1932, but after 1929, he never played more then 100 games in a season. He even made a final appearance with the Cardinals in 1932 even if it was for only 83 at bats.
Hornsby finished his career as the second greatest hitter ever with a .358 batting average. Only Ty Cobb had a higher mark. Hornsby's OPS+ of 175 is the fifth best mark of all time and his career OBP of .434 is the eighth best mark ever. In Bill James' Historical Baseball Abstract, Hornsby was chosen as the third greatest second baseman ever. Only Joe Morgan and Eddie Collins ranked higher but Hornsby's 1922 season is considered as the greatest season ever by a second baseman.
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