Jim Edmonds: The Hall of Fame Case


Former St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Jim Edmonds will be eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame for the first time on the 2016 ballot. Here at Redbird Rants, we help make case for why Edmonds should be inducted in Cooperstown.

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We’re not alone in saying that Edmonds should get the call. It may not come on the first ballot but certainly by the end of the ten years when Edmonds loses his eligibility.

On his Cheap Seats blog at the Belleville News Democrat, Scott Wuerz writes:

"Edmonds hit 393 homers in the big leagues. That falls well short of the pre-steroid era standard of 500 home runs for a free Hall pass. But of the 17 centerfielders previously enshrined, only three have more round trippers than Jimmy Ballgame: Mays (660), Mantle (536) and Duke Snider (409). Edmonds’ 1,251 runs scored is more than seven of the centerfielders in the Hall and his 1,199 RBIs totaled more than 10 of the HOF centerfielders."

Snider finished six times in the top ten voting for the National League MVP and also played center at a time when either Joe DiMaggio or Mickey Mantle were getting all the press in New York City. Nevermind the fact that he played in six World Series, it still took him 11 ballots before he got inducted to the Hall.

Wuerz does bring up a great point. Edmonds played the majority of his career in a city that, well, is not New York.

I reached out to a few baseball writers, including Dayn Perry of CBS sports and Jayson Stark of ESPN. I asked Dayn if Edmonds’ shortcomings in offensive stats, like not reaching the 2,000 hit plateau, would be offset by his defensive work.

“I don’t think it quite will,” Pery said. “I think his ‘counting’ shortfalls — no 2,000 hits; no 400 HRs; no 1,000 walks — will hurt him. Also, he racked up those offensive numbers in an era that’s largely being dismissed by voters (I think that’s silly, but it seems to be a real consideration). That he played such good defense at a vital, up-the-middle position is definitely in his favor, and I can see his getting to north of 50 percent at some point. However, even after this year’s results, we still have a bit of a ballot logjam. It also wouldn’t surprise me if some voters have some unspoken suspicions about the ‘legitimacy’ of Edmonds’ accomplishments. That’s patently unfair and a mindset I wholly reject, but we’re seeing it happen to Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza.”

How does Stark feel about Edmonds’ Hall of Fame credentials?

“I think he has a legitimate case, absolutely,” Stark said over the phone last Thursday. “I think he is going to be one more of these guys who is going to be, if not, a victim of the ten player limit or even they expand to a twelve player limit. Certainly his case, his chances are going to be hurt by that that limit. The fact that we’ve got such an overstuffed ballot and we are still going to, even next year.

“If you want to make his case, it’s better than a lot of people think. I took a look, for example, at his OPS. A guy with a .903 OPS for his career and eight Gold Gloves deserves a long look. The only outfielder that I found in the Gold Glove era who have that kind of OPS, that kind of Gold Glove—basically Jim Edmonds’ slash line—are Willie Mays, Ken Griffey, Jr., Barry Bonds, and Edmonds. That would be all. If you just go by that, that’s pretty incredible. That’s a Hall of Fame group depending on what you think of Barry.

“I think what hurts Jim Edmonds is the counting stats. He didn’t get to 400 homers. He didn’t get to 2000 hits. This is the kind of stuff that some of these voters really focus on. When you’re looking at a ballot with so many great names, if you run out of room and he’s right on the fence, he’s not going to get all those votes. It’s going to be really difficult for him.”

Then there’s this nugget from Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons that Joe uncovered at Viva El Birdos. It came from an appearance Gammons made on The Edmonds and McKernan Show this past August.

"“I think it’s extremely legitimate,” he said. “I actually have a lot of pages filed away on this subject."

"“So much of the Hall of Fame is when you’re there and who else is up, this idea I think we can only vote for four people and I think it’s a lot bologna. If you’re a Hall-of-Famer, you’re a Hall-of-Famer.”"

One can only hope that writers will listen when Gammons talks.

Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa discussed Edmonds’ case with Frank Cusumano on The Hollywood Casino Press Box.

“I think he’s got a legitimate chance,” La Russa said. “The first ballot you have to be overwhelming. The entire player that Jim was, he played long enough, he showed the power, hit for a good average. His defense, gold glove, was off the charts. I think the completeness of Jim as a player, I think he’s got a terrific chance.”

Sports Illustrated‘s Jay Jaffe recently previewed the future Hall of Fame eligibles through the 2020 ballot, including Edmonds in 2016.

"Edmonds, a career .284/.376/.527/132 OPS+ hitter and outstanding defender, ranks 14th in JAWS among centerfielders, about six points below the standard. With other defensive metrics valuing him more highly than the Total Zone/Defensive Runs Saved combo that goes into JAWS, he’ll be a popular candidate among the sabermetric set but his overall support will lag, even when accompanied by one hell of a highlight reel."

Jaffe points out that no player in the Expansion Era has been elected with under 2,000 hits. Edmonds finished with 998 walks. If half of those had been hits instead, we’d be talking a completely different case being made for the outfielder.