St. Louis Cardinals: Ray Lankford’s case for the Cardinals HOF
By Jason Grose
The St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame candidates were announced recently. Joining three returning candidates are four new ones. Ray Lankford is one of the new guys. Does he deserve to be enshrined into the Cardinals HOF?
The St. Louis Cardinals recently released their new Hall of Fame ballot. Returning candidates are Keith Hernandez, Scott Rolen, and Jason Isringhausen. Joining them this year are Ray Lankford, Vince Coleman, Lee Smith, and John Tudor. Several writers will each be diving into one player’s candidacy. Each writer will also be doing a “for” and “against” section. Finally, you readers get to decide for yourselves.
Here is my take on Ray Lankford.
Ray Lankford deserves to be a St. Louis Cardinals HOF member
Lankford played 13 seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals, playing in a total of 1,580 games for the Redbirds. His triple slash for the team was .273/.365/.481 which equals an .846 OPS. He hit 228 home runs, had 829 RBI, and stole 250 bases. All pretty solid numbers.
His best stretch was from 1996-1998. He was worth over five rWAR each season and made his only all-star team in 1997. He was a 20/20 (home runs and steals) guy in all three of those seasons and did it five times as a St. Louis Cardinal overall. According to FanGraphs, he was 10th in WAR in all of major league baseball during that three-year stretch.
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From 1991-2000 (his full seasons as a Cardinal), he was 20th in WAR. Being top 20 in WAR for a 10-year period is arguably elite. But, at the least, he was a very valuable player during that stretch.
Furthermore, Lankford still ranks in the top 10 among Cardinal greats in many categories: home runs, runs, total bases, doubles, RBI, walks, stolen bases, and extra base hits.
These are all significant offensive categories. Being top-10 in all of them should be treated as such.
Ray Lankford is not a St. Louis Cardinals HOF member
Hall of Fame players, Cooperstown or a team’s HOF, are supposed to be great or elite players, right? Was Lankford a good player? Definitely. Very good? Probably. Elite? Maybe…
While he ranks in the top 10 in many offensive categories, he is top five in only two categories: home runs and walks. He’s also second all-time in strikeouts, a category in which you don’t want to be a leader.
Also, the Cardinals were simply not very good from 1991-2000, only making the playoffs twice during that stretch. He did sign a one-year deal with the team in 2004 after taking a year off from baseball. That team was very good and lost in the World Series, but he did not contribute significantly. He didn’t even have an at-bat during the playoffs that year.
I understand an argument can be made that the lack of team success should not detract from the success of an individual. But, I also think players are appreciated more or valued higher if they played on a successful team.
Although a compelling argument could be made against his candidacy, I do think Ray Lankford deserves to be in the Cardinals Hall of Fame. He was at least a very good player for them during the 90’s. While he doesn’t rank in the top five of many offensive categories, he is top-10 in a lot. That is impressive, in my opinion. In terms of WAR, he was a top-20 player in Major League Baseball for the team during a 10 year stretch. That is arguably elite. I also believe that he would get more love if he had played on some good Cardinals’ teams. My vote: put Ray in!
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What do you guys think? Is Ray Lankford a Cardinals Hall of Famer? Let me know. Thanks for reading.