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2/02/2006

Should-be Hall of Famer

This post at C&L got me thinking:
Don Mattingly is the guy who would be a "Hall of Famer" if he didn't get injured early in his career. Who are your favorites that probably will never make the hall, but were tremendous players?
When I think about players who deserve to be in the HOF but probably won't end up there, I immediately think of one person: Jim Edmonds of the St. Louis Cardinals. My argument for Edmonds' HOF worthiness boils down to this: if Ozzie Smith is in the Hall, Edmonds ought to be.

Edmonds is, in my opinion, Ozzie's equal defensively; he is as good a centerfielder as Ozzie was a shortstop. At the very least, he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath with him, as they say. Ozzie had a .978 fielding percentage; Edmonds' stands at .990. Ozzie won 13 Gold Gloves; Edmonds' total is at 8 and counting.

Admittedly, fielding statistics are an exceedingly rough measure; it's hard to quantify defensive skill. But even if you prefer qualitative judgments, anyone who watched both players on a regular basis has to admit that Edmonds' play in center has been absolutely awe-inspiring, just as Ozzie's play at short was. Busch Stadium had a relatively spacious outfield, and Edmonds seemed to be able to reach just about anything that was hit out there. Plus, one might think that an extraordinary centerfielder is more valuable to a team than an equally talented shortstop, if for no other reason than when a shortstop 'robs' a hitter, he robs him of at most a single, while when an outfielder robs a hitter, it is often of a double or a triple.

On top of this, Edmonds' offensive prowess of course dwarfs Ozzie's. The Wizard's career numbers at the plate:

Batting Avg. - .262
OBP - .337
Slugging - .328
HR - 28
RBI - 793


Now Edmonds' numbers (and keep in mind that Edmonds, though past his prime, probably has 2-3 productive years in front of him):

Batting Avg. - .291
OBP - .384
Slugging - .543
HR - 331
RBI - 998


No contest, obviously.

So the upshot of the Edmonds-Ozzie comparison: Edmonds is arguably just as spectacular defensively as Ozzie was - at the very least, he's in the same league - and he's a much, much better hitter. Since Ozzie is in the Hall - an uncontroversial, first-ballot pick - so ought Edmonds be.

Q.E.D.

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