Claim to fame: Four-time All Star and eight-time Gold Glove center fielder Edmonds announced his retirement on February 18 at 40. His 393 home runs, 1,949 hits, and .284 lifetime batting average seem a little pedestrian for much of his era, one of the greatest periods for hitters in baseball history, though Edmonds’ stats compare favorably with a number of Hall of Fame outfielders including Jim Rice and the recently-deceased Duke Snider. His chances for Cooperstown look promising.
Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Edmonds will first be eligible for enshrinement through the Baseball Writers Association of America in 2016, with a maximum of 15 years on their ballot.
Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Was Edmonds ever the best player in his league? No, but he came close a few times, finishing in the top five in National League MVP voting in 2000 and again in 2004. Was he, at any point in his career, the best player at his position? Maybe, depending on one’s opinions of Ken Griffey Jr., Andruw Jones, and Carlos Beltran. Was Edmonds ever much more than a very good player? Maybe not, but he was very good in so many facets of his game. That has to count for something.
In his prime, Edmonds offered 40-home run power, a .300 batting average, Gold Glove-caliber defense, and near-MVP WAR. Barry Bonds didn’t do all this in his biggest offensive years (though he did it early in his career.) Alex Rodriguez has done it, as have Albert Pujols and Griffey, and maybe a small number of others. Without checking, I’d guess it’s one of the feats that’s remained consistently rare between eras, steroids or no. Well-rounded players aren’t easy to come by. Guys like Edmonds are probably more valuable than they’re given credit for. I suspect he’ll be one of the more underrated Hall of Fame candidates when the time comes.
Is Edmonds a first ballot Hall of Famer? I doubt it. Snider, who hit 407 home runs with a .295 lifetime batting average, needed 11 ballots before his induction in 1980. Rice, with 382 home runs and a .298 clip, needed 15. While Edmonds hit for a lower batting average in a better offensive era (though Snider and Rice each played their best years in prime hitter’s enclaves, Ebbets Field and Fenway Park), Edmonds’ lifetime WAR of 68.3 bests Rice (41.5) and Snider (just barely, 67.5.) In addition, Edmonds’ OPS+ of 132, while less than dozens of non-enshrined players including Will Clark, Albert Belle, and Mark McGwire, bests Rice at 128, but falls short of Snider at 140.
The thought here is that unless an old, positive steroid test emerges for Edmonds, we’ll see him inducted into Cooperstown somewhere within 5-10 years after he debuts on the ballot. Some purists and Hall of Fame restrictionists may bemoan the eventual presence in Cooperstown of a second-tier honoree like Edmonds (because he’s no Ruth or Mays or Aaron, not that many players really are.) All the same, I doubt the Hall of Fame will be any worse for it.
Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a Tuesday feature here.
Others in this series: Adrian Beltre, Al Oliver, Albert Belle, Barry Larkin, Bert Blyleven, Billy Martin, Cecil Travis, Chipper Jones, Closers, Dan Quisenberry, Darrell Evans, Dave Parker, Don Mattingly, Don Newcombe, George Steinbrenner, George Van Haltren, Harold Baines, Jack Morris, Joe Carter, Joe Posnanski, John Smoltz, Juan Gonzalez, Keith Hernandez, Ken Caminiti, Larry Walker, Maury Wills, Mel Harder, Pete Browning, Phil Cavarretta, Rafael Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar, Rocky Colavito, Ron Guidry, Smoky Joe Wood, Steve Garvey, Ted Simmons, Thurman Munson, Tim Raines, Will Clark