Before the closer position was in turmoil and constantly up for grabs, the St. Louis Cardinals saw a simpler time, and a more peaceful one. Does this endow a former closer into the Cardinals Hall of Fame?
With Jason Isringhausen manning the bullpen, the St. Louis Cardinals had an established and consistent closer from 2002-2007. While Adam Wainwright acted as the closer in the 2006 World Series, Isringhausen’s influence was still felt. Is he worthy of enshrinement?
Jason Isringhausen was nominated to the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame last week. The other candidates nominated are Scott Rolen, Ray Lankford, Lee Smith, Keith Hernandez, John Tudor, and Vince Coleman.
This piece will look at the qualifications and accomplishments of Isringhausen’s career as it pertains to his candidacy to the Cardinals Hall of Fame. My fellow contributors at Redbird Rants will be addressing the qualifications of the six other nominees.
Why Jason Isringhausen is worthy of the Cardinals Hall of Fame
Isringhausen was one of the best and longest-lasting closers the Cardinals have ever had. He recorded four straight seasons with an ERA under 3.00, including an impressive 2.18 ERA in his 2005 All-Star campaign.
He maintains a career 2.98 ERA over 401 games with the Cardinals, and until the very end of his tenure, he was consistently reliable for St. Louis. From 2002-2007, his highest ERA at the end of a season was 3.55, and was the only time he pitched with an ERA over 3.00 until 2008, his final season with St. Louis. He is also the St. Louis Cardinals all-time saves leader, converting 217 of 255 save opportunities (85%).
Isringhausen was also a decent playoff performer for the Cardinals as well. He has a career postseason ERA of 2.36 and a 1.09 WHIP, and most of that was done during his St. Louis tenure. While there was a game or two where his control failed him in the playoffs, he was mostly consistent over 19 playoff appearances for the Cardinals.
He was an important piece in building up to the 2006 team than broke the Cardinals World Series drought, and almost helped them to do it two years earlier. He was a reliable closer for a long time, something the Cardinals have not had often, and his solid stats over a decent closer tenure justify Isringhausen’s place in the Cardinals Hall of Fame
Why Jason Isringhausen is unworthy of the Cardinals Hall of Fame
The main argument against Isringhausen is longevity and pedigree. While you would be hard pressed to find much wrong with Isringhausen’s tenure with the Cardinals, the hardware is somewhat lacking.
He was only an All-Star a single time with the Cardinals, and while it is a decent number when looking at the length of his Cardinal career, when looking at the grand scheme of things, it isn’t anything to holler home about. Lee Smith was with the Cardinals for just four years, and he was a 3-time All-Star and finished top-5 in Cy Young voting twice, while Scott Rolen was a 4-time All-Star in six years in St. Louis.
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While Isringhausen was solid, there is an argument that he didn’t do enough to stand out while he was with the St. Louis Cardinals. While his numbers are solid, he only had truly impressive, eye-popping numbers during his All-Star campaign. On top of that, he didn’t win the Rolaids Relief Man Award, an award given to the top relievers in each league, a single time during his career, both in St. Louis and otherwise.
Also, while he was a huge building block in bringing together the 2006 year, he struggled during that season, and didn’t play in the 2006 Postseason. Some could say that Isringhausen’s only title was on the coattails of his teammates, and didn’t stand out enough to help do it himself.
There is no doubt that Isringhausen was good in St. Louis; that’s why he stuck for so long. But this is the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Very Good, and there is an argument that Isringhausen just misses that threshold.
It’s pretty difficult to justify leaving your all-time leader in saves out of your team Hall of Fame. I think that his importance in stabilizing the bullpen over several years so that the 2006 roster could be built is a feat that should not be overstated. Cardinal fans can appreciate this more now with all of the turmoil currently surrounding the bullpen.
The longevity of Isringhausen’s time paired with the consistency at a position where those traits are both rather rare. It would be one thing if he was a cheap straddler, but he was a solid producer through most of his career in St. Louis.
Given the brevity of most Cardinals closers careers, there is no doubt in my mind that Jason Isringhausen’s career stands out among Cardinals pitchers of the past, and he should be recognized as one of the best relievers in Cardinal history.