NOTE: The BND has endeavored to identify an objective list of the top 100 St. Louis Cardinals players of all time, based on statistical formulas developed through sabermetrics. We’ll count down the list daily, player by player, until April 4, the day of the Cardinals’ 2019 home opener. The running list and player bios can be found at bnd.com.
NO. 82: DARRELL PORTER
Whitey Herzog has often said that if National League had the designated hitter, Ted Simmons would have died a member of the Cardinals.
Such was not the case when Herzog arrived in St. Louis in 1980 as both manager and general manager. He set out to rebuild the Redbirds around the cavernous confines of Busch Stadium II, with its deep walls, wide outfield gaps, and fast Astroturf. Simmons was a great switch hitter, but slow afoot and not the defender Herzog wanted behind the plate.
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Darrell Porter, meanwhile, had been Herzog’s catcher for three straight American League Western Division titles in Kansas City and an All-Star three of his four seasons with the Royals. So Simmons was traded to Milwaukee and Porter was signed to a free agent contract worth $3.5 million over five years, big bucks in those days.
With his round glasses and square jaw, Porter may have looked like Superman’s alter ego, but the chances he’d ever be a hero to St. Louis fans were long. Simmons had been hugely popular, while his high-priced replacement had missed part of the previous season to be treated for drug and alcohol addiction.
Then a shoulder injury and a 58-day players’ strike limited Porter to just 61 games and a .224 average his first season in St. Louis. His .231 average in 1982 didn’t look a whole lot better to fans, who didn’t cut their new catcher any breaks.
But the wisdom of Herzog’s bold offseason wheeling and dealing began to reveal itself. The Cardinals lacked power, finishing the season last in the majors with just 69 home runs, but they were adept at manufacturing runs 90 feet at a time.
Porter walked at least as often has he struck out, which wasn’t often, and had an on-base percentage of .349. His contact from the left side of the plate was effective in advancing the speedy runners ahead of him and his superior glove behind the plate fortified the Cardinals’ defense up the middle.
Porter’s wins above replacement (WAR) in ‘82 was 2.9.
But his contributions were perhaps more evident in the postseason.
In the league championship series against Atlanta, he reached base in 10 of 14 plate appearances, scored three runs and drove home another. In Game 2 of the World Series against Milwaukee, his two-run, opposite-field double in the sixth helped the Cardinals to a 5-4 win.
St. Louis went on to defeat the Brewers in seven games to break a 15-year championship drought and Porter was the hero — he was named MVP of both the NLCS and World Series.
Tragically, Porter died in 2002 at age 50 from the toxic effects of his drug use.
SEASONS IN ST. LOUIS: 1981-1985
.237/.347/.402 in St. Louis | 40.9 carer WAR | 2 NL titles | 1 WS ring
TOP 100 SCORE: 2.34