I’m not a big college basketball fan, though I try to keep up with what my Arkansas Razorbacks are doing. I don’t mind basketball or have the aversion to it like I have with football, it’s just, well, not baseball. However, it’s hard to avoid it at this time of year. Everywhere you look you see “March Madness” or “The Big Dance” or some other reference to 68 teams working their way to a title.
I think the reason this has exploded is not because of the game per se but because people love brackets. They love pitting things against each other and seeing who comes out victorious. Why else would there be so many non-sports ballots out there? You’ve got science fiction and fantasy in general or Star Wars in particular already out this year, and likely many more to come. (Here’s some from last year to give you an idea of what could be out there.) It’s not new to Cardinal Nation either: a couple of years ago, Nick put together a Greatest Cardinals Team tournament that was spread out over four blogs.
I wanted to come up with something to tie into this grand phenomenon because I, too, love brackets. (Seriously, I do. Used to set up various types of tournaments in my youth with my various toys just to draw out brackets. This nerd comes by the title honestly.) However, I had a little trouble, because so many things are fairly self-evident. Greatest Cardinal tournament? Stan the Man wins that every time. Greatest Cardinal season? Probably going to be that year The Man won just about every NL category.
Then, in the course of chatting with Nick about this idea, the lightbulb went on. What if you limited your tournament to living Cardinals, and didn’t ask for who was the greatest, but who was your favorite? That seemed to open up a lot more possibilities for the final outcome. There are so many beloved Hall of Famers that are still with us, plus a number of guys that are short of Cooperstown but long on the love of the faithful. I got to work.
Basic criteria is that the player (just players, no managers save Mike Matheny, who is on here because he was a player) had to be in St. Louis in at least four different seasons. I came up with a list of names (helped by suggestions from a few members of the UCB) and started sorting. The Hall of Famers and those on the ballot for the Cardinal Hall of Fame went on the sheet first, then after that it was just mainly by feel. I expect some are rated too high and some too low, but that should give us some upsets then, huh?
Above is our bracket. You should–and I’ve not tested this out–be able to click on it to print it out if you wish. (You can also see it here.) If you want to predict the tournament, send me your picks (I’ve not got a good way to do this, either scan in your completed bracket or email me round by round selections) before the first matchups are posted and the winner can get a copy of the 2011 World Series Game 6 on BluRay and DVD. Given our usual level of participation, you’ve got a darn good chance of winning if you submit something.
The voting will be done here starting March 20. We’ll have four regions: The Arch Region (with top seed Ozzie Smith), Ballpark Village Region (top seed Bob Gibson), Champions Region (top seed Lou Brock) and Diamond Region (top seed Bruce Sutter). The names are a little forced, but I wanted an A-B-C-D theme. The top half of the Arch and Champions brackets and the bottom half of Ballpark Village and Diamond will go on Tuesday, the rest on Wednesday. Expect four posts scattered throughout the day on both of those days.
Thursday and Friday, we get into the second round, as the winners on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively meet up. We’re back at it Monday with the full Sweet 16 round, followed by Wednesday with the Elite 8 and Friday with the Final Four. Then, Opening Day, we take the top two players and face them off to see who gets the title.
Voting is simple: who is your favorite? This isn’t an exercise to prove who is better than the rest. Stats don’t have to factor into it. Maybe you think Tim McCarver was better but you really like Tom Pagnozzi more. That’s fine–that’s expected. Some things like this are supposed to be without emotion or sentiment. Not this time–emotion is the key part of the process. There’s a reason “Favorite”, not “Greatest”, is in the title.
All voting will cutoff at noon the following day, no matter when the matchup is posted, so to give me time to prep the next round. (For example, all of Tuesday’s matchups will end at noon on Wednesday, even if the posts go up later in the day, so be sure to check often to get your votes in!)
We’ll do a little analysis of the bracket later on, but for now, here you go. Print it out and have some fun this weekend!