St. Louis Cardinals: It’s time to put Keith Hernandez in the Cards HOF

1982: Keith Hernandez #37 of the St. Louis Cardinals at bat during a 1982 season game. (Photo by Rich Pilling/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
1982: Keith Hernandez #37 of the St. Louis Cardinals at bat during a 1982 season game. (Photo by Rich Pilling/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

The vote for Cardinals Hall of Fame class of 2020 begins on March 1st and we have seven good nominees. Here is my case on why I’m voting for Keith Hernandez.

This is an important election year in the United States. We will be voting on a President, state and local officials, and likely several ballot issues. But starting on March 1st and running through April 17th, St. Louis Cardinals fans will have their own election to consider.

On February 5th, the St. Louis Cardinals announced seven nominees for induction to the Cardinals Hall of Fame. The nominees for the Class of 2020 are Steve Carlton. Keith Hernandez, Tom Herr, Matt Morris, Edgar Renteria, Lee Smith, and John Tudor.

The seven nominees were selected by a Blue Ribbon committee of media members and former Cardinal managers. To be eligible, the nominees must have played for the Cardinals for at least three seasons and be retired as a Major League Baseball player for at least three years. The process ends with the fans, who will decide on the two players to be inducted on August 29th.

In my opinion, all seven of the nominees are deserving to be inducted, and no doubt a legitimate case can be made on all of their behaves. However, this year, I will use one of my two votes for Keith Hernandez to be inducted in the Class of 2020.

Why does Keith Hernandez deserve to be at least one of the two nominees to go into the Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2020? Here’s my case.

The Case for Keith Hernandez

Honestly, Keith Hernandez should be a slam dunk for the Cardinals Hall of Fame. After all, as a Cardinal first baseman, he won six straight Gold Gloves (’78-’83), an NL MVP award (1979), an NL Batting title (1979), a Silver Slugger award, made two All-Star appearances, and was an important member of the 1982 World Series Championship team, where he drove in eight runs.

1979 was Hernandez’s best year, not only as a Cardinal but in his entire MLB career. Hernandez’s left-handed bat hit a slash line of .344/.417/.513 with 11 homers and 105 RBIs and an OPS+ of 151. Additionally, he led the league in runs scored (116), doubles (48), and batting average (.344), which won him the NL Batting Title. He was named the National League 1979 MVP along with Willie Stargell of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In 1982, he proved his durability and worth to the Cardinals by playing in 160 games, where he hit a slash line of .299/.397/.413 with 7 homers and 94 RBIs while hitting primarily in the three-hole. Among starters, he led the team in walks (100), OBP (.387), second in OPS+(127), and RBI(94).

Finally, during his 10-year career (’74-’83) in St. Louis, he hit a slash line of .299/.385/.448 with an OPS+ of 130.

Yes, his admittance to the Cardinal Hall of Fame should seem automatic, and it’s an easy choice for me. However, I realize for many, it isn’t.

A Generation of Cardinal Fans remember Hernandez as a Met

A generation or more of Cardinal fans don’t remember Keith Hernandez ever wearing the Cardinal red. In fact they only remember him as part of the hated New York Mets of the 1980s.

Keith Hernandez was traded to the New York Mets on June 15, 1983 where he proceeded to make himself an icon to Met fans over the next several years. So to many Cardinal fans, he is more remembered as a part of the New York Mets.

He has only reinforced this by being in a famous ‘Seinfeld episode in 1992 and becoming an analyst for the Mets television broadcasts. Finally, in 1997, he was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame and was selected by the fans as the Mets all-time first baseman in 2002.

Some Cardinal fans remember how his career ended in St. Louis in 1983 and may have not forgiven him. After feuding with manager Whitey Herzog and his reported drug use, the Cardinals traded Hernandez to the Mets for pitchers Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey.

The details of the causes which lead to the trade are too complicated for this piece, but it’s important to know Keith Hernandez and Whitey Herzog have long since buried the hatchet.  Additionally, Hernandez has been back for reunions of the 1982 team and other events sponsored by the Cardinals.

The Last Word

I hope when fans start voting on March 1st for the Cardinals Hall of Fame, they will remember Keith Hernandez’s 10 years wearing the Cardinal uniform. They should look at his accomplishments

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like the numerous Gold Gloves, the batting title, the MVP award, and the World Championship.

In my opinion, Keith Hernandez was the best defensive first baseman to ever wear the Cardinal uniform. Arguably, he was the best defensive first baseman in the history of the game. Yes, he was that good.

Cardinal fans are universally known for their baseball knowledge and deep appreciation of the game. Because of this, I’m optimistic Keith Hernandez will be elected to the Cardinal Hall of Fame in 2020.

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C’mon, it’s time.

Let’s put Keith Hernandez in the Cardinal Hall of Fame.