It was almost an afterthought, an uncelebrated statement on a mid-February afternoon¬†informing¬†the baseball world that Jim Edmonds, one of the best center fielders of the past quarter-century, was calling it a career.
Whether by Mark McGwire or Albert Pujols, Edmonds was always overshadowed by a national megastar during his days in St. Louis, but when one considers that Edmonds was a threat with the bat, and an incredible center fielder who reached the post-season seven times, it all leads to one question:
Is Jim Edmonds a Hall of Famer?
A glance at the breadth of Edmonds’¬†resume would seem to indicate that the answer to that question is a clear negative, considering that he accumulated less than 2,000 hits over 17 seasons, failed to reach 400 home runs and walks away from the game with a batting average of just .284
Though only Larry Doby (.283) and Andre Dawson (.279) would sport lower averages amongst center field eligible inhabitants, it is worth noting that Edmonds’ career closely parallels that of one particular Hall of Fame center fielder — Duke Snider.
Edmonds played 132 fewer games than the Silver Fox, but despite nearly a season’s less play, Edmonds was only outscored by eight runs, had 14 fewer homers with 134 fewer RBI, and collected 167 less hits.
Snider’s on-base percentage was .380, while Edmonds’ registered at .376. The Duke slugged .540, but Edmonds finished with a .527 mark. However, when talking defense, that is where Edmonds takes off.
Edmonds may have won eight Gold Gloves, but he also committed just 58 errors roaming major league outfields for 17 years, which was eight less than Snider. Edmonds also had a better fielding percentage (.988-to-.985) and more assists (131-to-123), but truly separated himself when it came to putouts, snagging 437 more flyballs.
Edmonds finished in the top five for NL MVP balloting twice, Snider three times.
Edmonds helped his clubs reach October seven times with one ring, Snider six times, also with one ring.
Though the similarities between Edmonds and Snider almost blur, it is worth noting that only Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Dawson would have more homers as Hall of Fame eligible center fielders than Edmonds. Not to mention that only that same trio, along with Joe DiMaggio, would have more RBI.
Edmonds scored more runs than seven Hall of Fame center fielders and has more hits than Earle Combs, Larry Doby and Hack Wilson.
That said, the stats on the back of Edmonds’ baseball card also closely rival those of Dale Murphy, who hit more homers (398-to-393) and drove in more runs (1,266-to-1,199) while winning back-to-back NL MVP awards (1982 & ’83) and claiming just three fewer Gold Gloves. For those efforts, Murphy has never garnered more than 23.2% of the vote on any Hall ballot.
Edmonds may have scored more runs and owns better averages for batting, on-base and slugging than Murphy, but few would consider Edmonds to have been the best, or among the best players in baseball at any point, while Murphy was firmly ensconced in that conversation in the early 80s.
So what is a Hall of Famer?
Are the truly impressive numbers that Edmonds posted over nearly two decades enough, though none were overwhelming? Is it enough that Edmonds had to be accounted for at the plate and feared in the pasture, though he was never held in the same esteem as other all-around center fielders like Snider, Mays or Ken Griffey Jr.?
Should¬†Edmonds join the ranks of the immortal, or be remembered amongst those of Murphy’s ilk, a fine player who wasn’t quite good enough?
You tell us.