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September 8, 2008

Long time friend...first time reader

I don’t do requests…it’s true.

Sure, there have been instances where I’ve asked for ideas or suggestions, but generally, I don’t pay attention to the “you should write about about so and so” emails.

Until now.


I got an email from a friend earlier in the week. I was shocked. I hadn’t heard from him in a couple of years and to top it off, I had no clue he knew about this site…much less what a “blog” was. Suffice it to say, after the standard pleasantries, there it was…”you should write a little more about the Cubs in your blog.” Ugh.

The Cubs? Really?!?

Had this dude actually read my site? Outside of Lee Smith, I can’t say I’ve really trumpeted many Cubs (I’m looking your way “Ryno”) as Hall of Famers. But I had a plan. I had an idea on how I could fulfill BOTH of our wants.

Jim Edmonds.

Yeah…”Jimmy Baseball”! He’s a Cub still, right? Admittedly I’ve been kicking Edmonds around for a while now…I just haven’t been motivated enough to write about him.

There were a few avenues to go down. I started by comparing him to contemporary outfielders like Steve Finley and Luis Gonzalez. Both guys who, in my mind, would illustrate what I already thought…Jim Edmonds DOES NOT belong alongside those enshrined in Cooperstown because, frankly, not one of the three belongs in the same sentence as the sleepy New York town.

Sure, Edmonds is good. He’s a world champ, a four-time all-star and twice he’s finished in the top five in the MVP voting. But Hall worthy? No way. The fact that he’s never finished in the top five in any major statistical category cemented my opinion. (NOTE: Jake has added a couple of statistics that I obviously overlooked in the comments section below. That being opinion hasn't changed.)

But then I remembered…you CAN go into the Hall based on your defense (a la Bill Mazeroski or Ozzie Smith) and Edmonds did bring home eight Gold Gloves in a nine year span. With this guy…defense was the delicious dessert at the forefront and his batting was the icing.

At the plate, Edmonds has 379 career home runs (more than Joe DiMaggio, Ralph Kiner and Tony Perez), a .285 career batting average with five seasons above the .300 mark.

Barring injuries (and honestly, couldn’t we say that about a bunch of players), Edmonds could be nearing 500 bombs and 2500 hits versus where he’ll end up…closer to 400 and 2200.

He is good…just not great.

On paper, his stat line is comparable to a player that, for some reason, still has a weird groundswell of support…Dick “Richie” Allen.

At first thought, the two couldn’t have been more opposite. If you look at their fielding accomplishments alone, you wouldn’t even continue the comparison. Allen had more errors in his first two full seasons (67) than Edmonds has had over his sixteen year career (51).

Sure, they played different positions. Edmonds has primarily been a centerfielder whereas Allen played everywhere. The guy was a hired stick who would have been a terrific DH had he played in the American League and not started his career ten years prior to the implementation of the role.

Allen was once quoted as saying “I can play anywhere…first, third, left field, anywhere but Philadelphia.” It is ironic that in 1977, Dick walked away from baseball after the Oakland A’s tried to make him what he should have always been…a designated hitter.

I’m sure that didn’t help the public’s perception of Allen.

So, back to Edmonds. Jim has always been seen as a “good guy”…he is liked and hasn’t come close to sniffing a controversy. Allen was HATED. It got so bad in Philadelphia, that when he took the field, he became John Olerud-like by donning a batting helmet to protect his skull from the batteries and other debris being hurled by the Phillie faithful.

But, enough about that. I mentioned these guys are similar (and Baseball Reference would agree)…but how?

Well, without getting into TOO much depth, their stat lines are virtually as identical as the number they both wore. Career batting average, on base percentage and slugging slightly favors Allen (.292, .378 and .534) when compared to Edmonds (.285, .377 and .527). The totals swing in Edmonds favor. Jim has Dick beat with runs, hits, homers and RBI (1201, 1874, 379 and 1171 compared to 1099, 1848, 351 and 1119) but did play in a few more games. Allen hit 30 or more home runs six times and only three times, knocked in 100 or more. Seven times, Allen hit better than .300 and six times he finished in the top ten among the league leaders.

Clearly, you can see that the comparison is pretty much a wash, but Allen did garner some hardware.

“Richie” brought home his only MVP award in 1972, his first of three seasons with the White Sox and, like Edmonds, he only finished in the top five in MVP voting twice. Also like Edmonds, you could point at a few other seasons where they were on the short list of the league’s elite.

However, UNLIKE Edmonds…Allen was a man on an island.

Edmonds played alongside the underrated duo Garrett Anderson and Tim Salmon while with the Angels and then, with the Cardinals, was plugged into lineups that included Mark McGwire, Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen.

The best player Allen played alongside during his first stint with the Phillies…Johnny Callison.



While with the Cardinals in 1970, Allen was in the same lineup as Lou Brock and Joe Torre...but they’re not exactly McGwire and Pujols now are they? The best lineup Allen ever saw was in 1975 and 1976 when, during his second stint in Philly, he was paired up with Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski.

"He was the greatest player I ever managed, and what he did for us in Chicago was amazing," Allen's White Sox manager Chuck Tanner said. "In Pittsburgh I had guys like Willie Stargell, Dave Parker, Phil Garner, Bill Madlock, but in Chicago it was Dick Allen and, what, Bill Melton? There just wasn't a lot of talent there. With Dick...well, we were able to battle the Oakland A's, one of the greatest teams ever. Without him we simply weren't a first division team."

Allen’s impact on the game was much like Albert Belle’s. Both were guys that swung a big stick, but weren’t necessarily favorites of the media (Allen was at least a hit with his teammates) and that was reflected in how they were received when up for enshrinement.

Dick Allen spent fourteen years on the Hall of Fame ballot hovering between 3.7% (1983) and 18.9% (1996). During that span, his vote totals were constantly eclipsed by notable “almost” Hall of Famers Ron Santo, Joe Torre and Tony Oliva even though the numbers would show that he was better. Unfortunately, this carried over to the Hall of Fame Veterans Committe as well. As recent as 2007, Allen received only 13.4% of that vote. You can't say the guy wasn't consistent.

How will Edmonds fair when he is up for election five years after he makes that last diving catch in deep center.

Only time will tell.

***For more on the case for (and against) Dick Allen's inclusion in the Hall of Famer, check out Dick Allen (for) the Hall of Fame HERE***

BallHype: hype it up!


E said...

I had Jim Edmonds on a fantasy team in '06, which turned out to be the year he became useless.

He's dead to me.

Anonymous said...

Looking back on this, it's pretty long, so sorry for the novella.

Despite Jimmy's current Cubs affiliation, I would still say he's one of my favorite players I've ever watched, but I'm not sure if he's hall worthy or not. There was talk of this when he was in St. Louis, though.

He's always been an amazingly streaky hitter. When he's bad, he's really bad, but when he's hot (or at least during his prime) he is actually one of the few players I can think of who can almost singlehandedly carry a team. It wasn't unusual to see him go on a tear and hit 13 or 14 homeruns in a month, AND save quite a few runs with his defense.

Speaking of his defense, he's long had the reputation for "hotdogging," but I think that's blown out of proportion. There may be some times when he makes catches tougher than what they should be (he's no Eric Byrnes), but when you watch him every day you'll see that's not the norm. Most of his catches are (shock) routine, and some of those highlight reel catches are absolutely necessary. I'm not sure many guys in the history of the game would be able to make some of the grabs he has over the years. You also can't hot-dog when you rob a homerun, and he was pretty good at that too.

He has been fortunate to play with some great players/teams, but you have to remember he was also a contributor to that success too. When he got to St. Louis, McGwire was already wearing down. Edmonds was far and away the best player on the team that season.

Pujols was hitting as soon as he came up to the big leagues, but he was still a man without a set position. Edmonds was always anchoring CF and playing at a gold glove level. As for offense, Pujols changes the way pitchers face the Cardinals lineup, and he's always on base, so that naturally helps everyone else on the team. However, Edmonds (and Rolen) were usually good enough to drive him in. I suppose it's somewhat a golden chicken and egg problem.

It may very well be my bias after having watched him for so long, but I think he was simply better than Luis Gonzalez and more of an "impact" guy than Finley (who was really good too). I think Edmonds' chances to get in the Hall should be higher than either of those two.

Good stuff, though.

Jake in Missouri

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, courtesy of baseball reference...

I don't know what you consider a major statistical category, but here are some of Edmonds Top 5 finishes:

Runs Scored
1995 - 3rd (120)
2000 - 3rd (129)

2004 - 5th (42)

Slugging %
2003 - 5th (.617)
2004 - 3rd (.643)
(He's also ranked 49th best all-time for his career)

2004 - 4th (1.061)

Interestingly, when I looked this up, I noticed he finished 6th in quite a few categories over the years. Some of his #6 finishes - OBP (twice), OPS, Runs, Total Bases (twice), Doubles, and RBI.

Statistically, the stretch of 1995-2005 were his prime years, and those probably hold up pretty well to other potential Hall candidates.


Jesus said...

Good to see you in the fold, Jake...I kinda thought you would hop on board given the topic.

Obviously, with the Cubs around the bend from me, I get bombarded with the Edmonds talk and I just can't see it given the competition he'll be up against.

Think about his highlight reel catches and sub-"benchmark" numbers make him more of a Hall of Famer than someone like Gary Sheffield, Jim Thome or, gasp, even Ken Griffey, Jr...because that's who he is going to be up against when he comes up for vote.

My guess is he'll be a guy, like Steve Garvey and Jim Rice (or Dick Allen for that matter), who was good enough to appear on the ballot for the full 15 years...but not great enough to break through the doors.

I could be wrong, but as I said...only time will tell.