Last week, voting opened for the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame. There are six good candidates and two will be added by fan vote. Who did I vote for and why?
First off let’s be clear. I voted for Keith Hernandez and Scott Rolen this week as voting for the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame. To begin with, between them, there are, nine Gold Glove Awards, six All Star Appearances, two Silver Slugger Awards, and two World Series Titles. Also, one won the NL MVP and a batting title, while the other was a member of the heralded ‘MV3’ in 2004.
Defensively, a case could be made that both players were the best at their positions in their generation, Offensively, both were key contributors to the St. Louis Cardinals during their years while wearing the birds-on-the-bat. In fact, without Keith Hernandez and Scott Rolen, instead of having eleven World Series titles, the Cardinals would likely only have nine.
Both Hall of Fame managers they played for, Whitey Herzog and Tony LaRussa, called them the best at their positions they had ever seen. Interestingly enough, though, both Hernandez and Rolen fell out with their managers and were traded to other teams.
However, I feel Keith Hernandez and Scott Rolen should be voted in this year’s Cardinals Hall of Fame. I’m not taking anything away from Jason Isringhausen, Matt Morris, Edgar Renteria, and John Tudor. All are deserving, and I expect they will eventually be in the HOF.
Here’s why I voted for each player.
Keith Hernandez was drafted by the Cardinals in the 41st round of the 1971 MLB draft. The left-handed Hernandez was called up on August 30, 1974 by the Cardinals and returned in 1975 to stay with the major league club.
Hernandez glove was never questioned, but his bat took a couple of years to fully develop. By 1979 he hit .344 to win the NL Batting Title. The 25-year old also had 11 HRs with 105 RBIs and led the league with 116 runs scored and 48 doubles. His 1979 performance earned him not only his second Gold Glove and first All Star appearance, but also an NL CO-MVP Award with the Pirates Willie Stargell of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
But it was the 1982 World Series Championship season many Cardinals will remember and Hernandez’s contribution. Earning his fifth Gold Glove, the durable first baseman also hit a slash line of .299/.397/.413 with 7 HRs and 94 RBIs in 160 games.
In the World Series vs the Milwaukee Brewers that the Cardinals won in seven games, Hernandez’s clutch hitting resulted in eight RBIs for the series and a home run in a must-win game six.
Keith Hernandez’s career with the St. Louis Cardinals came to an inglorious end in 1983. After clashing with Manager Whitey Herzog over several issues(including his drug use), the Cardinals traded Hernandez to the New York Mets on June 15, 1983, for pitchers Neil Allen and Rick Owenby.
Hernandez finished his career with the Cardinals with six Gold Glove Awards, two All Star appearances, one Silver Slugger Award, an NL Batting Title, and an NL MVP Award. HIs 10 year slash line with the Cardinals was .299/.385/.448 with an OPS+ of 130.
Scott Rolen arrived in St. Louis via trade with the Philadelphia Phillies on July 29, 2002. The 27-year old arrived in St. Louis already with a Rookie of the Year Award, an All Star appearance, and three Gold Gloves.
The right-handed Rolen, made an immediate impact on the Cardinals by hitting a slash line of .278/.354/.561 with 14 HRs and 44 RBIs in 55 games in 2002. He also earned his fourth Gold Glove Award and a Silver Slugger Award.
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After batting .286 with 28 HRs and 104 RBIs in 2003, Rolen had the best year of his career in 2004. Belonging to a lineup that included Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, Edgar Renteria, and later Larry Walker, Rolen hit an OPS of 1.007 with 34 HRs and 124 RBIs. This lineup propelled the Cardinals to 105 wins and into the World Series against the Boston Red Sox.
In fact, the lineup of Pujols, Rolen, and Edmonds earned the nickname of MV3, since all three were considered MVP candidates in 2004. But Rolen finished third in voting, behind Barry Bonds, Andrian Beltre, and Pujols, while Edmonds came in behind Rolen.
In 2005, Rolen injured his shoulder during a collision at first base in May and only played 56 games, however, he returned strong in 2006 to help lead the Cardinals to their 10th World Series Championship. Rolen hit a slash line of .296/.369/.518 with 22 HRs and 95 RBIs in 142 games. He also won another Gold Glove and made his fourth consecutive All Star Appearance. During the 2006 World Series vs the Detroit Tigers, Rolen hit .421 and had an OPS of 1.213 in five games.
In 2007, Rolen’s injury woes came back and played only in 112 games. He also had a falling out with the Manager Tony LaRussa and demanded a trade after the 2007 season. The St. Louis Cardinals gave into Rolen’s trade demands and he was sent to the Toronto Blue Jays in the off-season for Troy Glaus.
Scott Rolen finished his Cardinals career with three Gold Glove Awards, four All Star Appearances and a six-year slash line of .286/.370/.510 with an OPS+ of 127.
To Wrap Up
Without meaning to disparage the likes of Albert Pujols or Ken Boyer, but I think Keith Hernandez and Scott Rolen are the best defensive players at their position in St. Louis Cardinal history. Their accomplishments and awards should speak for themselves.
I know many Cardinal fans don’t remember Keith Hernandez when he wore the birds-on-the-bat, and probably more identify him with the New York Mets. Also, many may remember the issues surrounding Hernandez and the Pittsburgh Drug Trials in 1985. I won’t use this piece to cover that ground again. Nevertheless, it has been a stain on Hernandez and many Cardinal fans may still hold this against him. I won’t defend him for these actions, which he has admitted.
Still, I voted for Keith Hernandez and Scott Rolen for the Cardinals Hall of Fame for their accomplishments on the baseball diamond. Because of these many accomplishments, I think they are both very deserving. Finally, I believe both would be honored to be admitted by the fans.