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Injury forces should-be Hall of Famer Jim Edmonds to retire

Feb 18, 2011, 11:24 AM EDT

Jim Edmonds swing

Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that Jim Edmonds has decided to retire rather than attempt a comeback with the Cardinals because the Achilles’ tendon injury he suffered late last season “has not come around.”

It’s a shame too, because Edmonds remained a very productive player last season even after sitting out all of 2009. He hit .276 with a .342 on-base percentage and .504 slugging percentage in 272 plate appearances for the Brewers and Reds, and was set to compete for a bench spot with the Cardinals after signing a minor-league contract last month.

My sense is that Edmonds has little chance to actually convince the voters that he’s deserving of a place in Cooperstown, but to me he’s a pretty clear Hall of Famer. He finishes as a career .286/.376/.526 hitter with 393 homers and his relatively modest total of 1,949 hits is due in part to his outstanding total of 998 walks. Those numbers are impressive in any context–he has a higher OPS and more homers than recent Hall of Fame inductee Jim Rice, for instance–but they really stand out among fellow center fielders.

Edmonds is one of just seven center fielders in baseball history with more than 350 homers and the others are Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Mickey Mantle, Andruw Jones, Duke Snider, and Joe DiMaggio. He also ranks among the top 10 center fielders of all time in RBIs, walks, slugging percentage, OPS, and extra-base hits. Oh, and he’s an eight-time Gold Glove winner (for whatever that’s worth).

Add it all up and Wins Above Replacement (WAR) on Baseball-Reference.com pegs Edmonds as 68.3 wins better than a replacement-level center fielder for his career, which is the seventh-highest total of all time sandwiched in between Griffey (78.5 WAR) and Snider (67.5). If you think the Hall of Fame should probably include the 10 best center fielders in baseball history, then Edmonds belongs.

  1. dodger88 - Feb 18, 2011 at 11:39 AM

    Agreed that he will end up a borderline candidate who’s inclusion in the HoF would be fine with me but my expectation is that he falls short. He may get a bump for being “clean” compared to those that were suspected of PED use, thus making his numbers look better on the surface.

    I like the fact that he technically retires as a Cardinal and not just as a result of a one day PR signing.

  2. paperlions - Feb 18, 2011 at 11:45 AM

    Well, we have 5 years for voters to become more comfortable with defensive metrics and value metrics that account for defense and positional value (as CF defensive value is vastly under rated right now), and he should get enough votes to stay on the ballot and gain steam over time as people realize how few CFs were actually better than Edmonds was….I think he’ll get in after many years of incremental increases in support.

  3. BC - Feb 18, 2011 at 11:58 AM

    He’s going to have a really tough time getting in. The stats are there, but I think he somehow just flew under the radar for years – other than the Sportscenter highlight catches. I don’t think he gets in. If I were a voter, I’d be sqaurely on the fence though.

    • pauleee - Feb 18, 2011 at 12:19 PM

      Somehow flew under the radar? That’s because he played half his career in Anaheim, and West Coast baseball doesn’t even count to half the people east of the Mississippi.

      • BC - Feb 18, 2011 at 3:02 PM

        They have baseball teams on the West Coast?

  4. rmfields - Feb 18, 2011 at 12:24 PM

    I will miss this man’s Willie Mays-esque catches in the outfield! Edmonds had an outstanding career; a true ballplayer.

  5. goawaydog - Feb 18, 2011 at 12:27 PM

    he gets my vote on sheer balls to the wall commitment to every play. top 10 CF, also top 10 in entertainment value. a quality ballplayer.

  6. dirtyharry1971 - Feb 18, 2011 at 1:51 PM

    I think he belongs too but when i came here yesterday we got guys saying Sheffield isnt a HOF’er but this guy is a clear cut HOF’er? What am i missing here? Sheff belongs even more than Edmonds and thats not a knock to him either

  7. seeingwhatsticks - Feb 18, 2011 at 2:06 PM

    It’s close but I say no. Of course, I’m a small-hall guy and I don’t think Rice should have gotten in so saying “some of his stats are better than Jim Rice” doesn’t move me as much as it might others. For what it’s worth I also don’t think Andruw Jones is in either. The fact that Edmonds only finished in the top 5 of MVP voting twice tells me he was rarely if ever the best player on a good team, and as far as steroids/PED go haven’t we learned that we can’t assume anyone was/is clean? In my view being associated with Tony LaRussa certainly doesn’t help his case on that front, and while I don’t have any specific evidence to suggest Edmonds was dirty I also don’t have evidence that suggests with any certainty that he was clean.

    • paperlions - Feb 18, 2011 at 2:24 PM

      MVP voting doesn’t tell you as much as you would think. It says that Howard and Rollins have been more important to the Phils than Utley.
      .
      I have no problem with people being “small hall”, although the reality of a small hall sailed decades ago. There are about 7 HOF CFers that were better than Edmonds, so you think that in the history of MLB only 7 CFers should be in the HOF?
      .
      The funny thing is that players today have to be much better than players of yesteryear to get in the HOF because players as a group are better than players were 30, 40, and 50 yrs ago. Pitchers are better and more specialized, hitters have more data available for study (film), adjustments are now made within ABs and games instead of between seasons.

      • seeingwhatsticks - Feb 18, 2011 at 3:01 PM

        I understand the small hall ship sailed a long time ago when the HOF induction ceremony became a big business that required people being inducted every year whether they were HOF worthy or not, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I have to jump on board with the concept.

        MVP voting doesn’t mean anything by itself, but then no stat or accomplishment means anything in isolation. In this case I think it is telling because Edmonds doesn’t necessarily have the glamour numbers that we associate with the HOF. He didn’t hit 400 HR, let alone 500 HR, despite playing a position (OF) where power is frequently generated and based on the fact that he played 17 years you can’t blame a short career for that. He only hit .300 I think 4 times, only played 150+ games 4 times, and if you look at the baseball-reference similarity scores only 1 of the 10 listed is a current or likely HOF player. If you want to go back to the Jim Rice comparison for a second, Edmonds played 1 more season than Rice but over 200 fewer games.

        As far as his WAR is concerned, considering there is no 1 definitive WAR formula I have a hard time using that as a major determining argument for or against HOF inclusion. It’s an interesting stat but like all stats in baseball it has to be placed in context. Edmonds played a lot of years but doesn’t have the gaudy counting stats and never had a high enough peak in relation to his peers to justify HOF inclusion. There’s certainly an argument to be made that his defense makes up for some of that but in my opinion he was a great player but not one of the very best of his generation. He may get in eventually but it’s not going to happen any time soon and he’ll probably need one of those years where there just aren’t any other really good HOF candidates up for voting.

  8. baseballisboring - Feb 18, 2011 at 4:44 PM

    Meh, I dunno…not that I have any trust in the BBWAA at all, but I think they’ll take the fact that he was a (good) center fielder into consideration, and I think he’ll slide in eventually. Probably going to take some internet crusading though.

  9. mf44srq - Feb 19, 2011 at 8:27 AM

    He belongs in the Hall of Highlight Reels, not the Hall of Fame.

  10. metalhead65 - Feb 19, 2011 at 11:27 AM

    under the radar?seriously? I don’t care where he played he was always on the tv making diving catches wether he had to or not.just because he played shallow and made highlight catches does not make him a hall of famer. he was good but no Jr.

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