Even though it’s been expected since he retired, the reality for Jim Edmonds of becoming a candidate for Baseball’s Hall of Fame still struck the former St. Louis Cardinals centerfielder.
“It’s pretty amazing,” described Edmonds at seeing his name officially on the ballot. “If I ever get that opportunity to be voted in I think it will be a most amazing thing, but I have to sit and wait and see how it goes. Hopefully, it will be a good first year for me.”
In his 17 big league seasons, Edmonds earned eight Gold Gloves and is regarded as one of the best defensive centerfielders to play the game–but is that enough to go with offensive numbers that aren’t automatic considerations for Cooperstown?
“I don’t really know what to expect,” said Edmonds, who has tempered his expectations after receiving both good and bad feedback about his candidacy. “I don’t know what the qualifications are. The coolest thing that I’ve ever heard was a guy like Ozzie Smith–who dominated being an amazing shortstop for so long and especially in his prime.
“He got in for his glove and then people say, ‘well, you were as good in centerfield as anybody and then you have offense to go with that’. That’s very flattering to hear, but like I said, when I was a kid baseball players were gods and I thought they were untouchable and then I became one and then all of a sudden the Hall of Fame was in that kind of light and now I’m on the ballot, so it’s a really weird situation.”
Edmonds amassed 1949 hits, 393 home runs, and 1199 runs batted in during his career, which when averaged into a 162-game season, he was a .284 hitter with 32 HRs and 97 RBIs.
“I wish I had one last injury because then all those 99’s would be into the next century mark,” said Edmonds. “One regret or one point is too many surgeries and missed a few too many games, so I guess that is keeping me out.”
The other thing that Edmonds–and others who played during his era, must face is the PED question. Very few facts are still known as to who used and who did not use performance enhancing drugs. How do we judge the era?
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Mark McGwire have already seen their Hall of Fame votes affected. Others such as Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell–and even Craig Biggio, who was elected last year, have had to contend with speculation and rumor about what may or may not have happened in their careers.
“Some of those guys you said are in that era and have been linked or talked about in the steroids deal, other guys are just getting a free pass,” said Edmonds. “It’s an era that is, I would have to say, that more people were using it than just the people who were named. If you were hitter, pitchers were doing it and if you were a pitcher, hitters were doing it. I think it was an era that was fair to everyone as far as you had your opportunity to do what you wanted to do. If you didn’t choose to do that, then that’s your choice…you can’t hold anything back. You just move on. I think that era was what it was.”
A simple approach is judging the players against the era. If the majority of players were using, in a sense the playing field was leveled. So then who still stood out as the best players in the era?
“There’s two ways to look at this–the best of all-times and then you throw your numbers out there,” agreed Edmonds. “Then there’s a select few that are the top of an era. If you got the 10 years without getting into the best of all-times, which would be impossible, then you measure if the guy is the best of his time–you measure like a ten year, fifteen year window. And yet your numbers are quite not there, but yet you dominated because maybe you had a shorter career, think maybe you deserve a longer look. If you had your favorites, you would vote for a guy…if you didn’t, I guess that’s why they get left off of it.”
“I’ve been running everyday trying to make a comeback,” joked Edmonds on the size of the contract Jason Heyward is going to wind up with. He also believes that his friend, St. Louis Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak, isn’t going to greatly change his offseason approach for roster building or maintenance.
“People need to understand, I don’t know if I’ve met another guy–well, he’s as cool as it gets,” explained Edmonds. “He understands the game and he knows that players are going to get hurt. For him to get upset and start kicking things is not the way that he does business. You kind of go into a season knowing that someone is going to go down at some point and you roll with it. That’s why the Cardinals have been so good.
“I don’t think he’s going to change his game plan. They might lose a guy, but they’ve got plenty of guys in the minor leagues to come up and fill. There were plenty of guys on the roster this year to play in the big leagues and they’ve got a lot more left I’m sure.”
In terms of how that leaves the Cardinals being able to sign Heyward, it reminds Edmonds of one of his former teammates.
“I think you’re going to see an Albert Pujols situation, I really do,” he compared. “I think that if he gets to the point where it doesn’t make sense and you need to go out there and sign another pitcher, and maybe another infielder, and then another outfielder–I think that they’re probably going to stick to their plan which is they’ve got three or four young outfielders waiting around to play and they’ve got a couple pitchers that are hurt…pitchers who they can rely on. I think they’re just going to take the opportunity to do what’s best for the organization and that might not be paying someone $200 million.”
photo credit: Charlie Riedel-AP, Bill Greenblatt-UPI, Jason Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports