Baseball will be that much less entertaining if, as Walt Jocketty suspects, Jim Edmonds doesn't plan on playing in 2011. Edmonds was a startlingly effective player after having a wounded-animal month with San Diego following the David Freese trade—while playing an occasionally unpleasant center field he hit .266/.356/.526 at 38 and 40. As a platoon outfielder or DH a lot of teams could do much worse.
if the five year clock begins in 2011 I'd better start my promised proselytizing now. So: Some Jim Edmonds paeans and novelties, the first of many.
1. Ken Edmonds, Jr. On Bill James Online one of—well, Bill James's favorite exercises is to graft two conveniently spaced careers together to make one super-career. Ken Edmonds, Jr., is one of the best chimeras in the history of baseball, so long as you don't get cute and connect Babe Ruth with Frank McCarton or somebody. Not only is it convenient in terms of career value, they also happen to be the same baseball age. Griffey through 29, Edmonds at 30, which cuts off two nice Griffey years and Edmonds's four year run with the Angels—
I love how smooth this is—the only real seam between 1999 and 2000 is Edmonds's huge strikeout year. That player finishes his career with 117 WAR—about 60-40 Griffey, with just 30-ish WAR left on the table, mostly from Edmonds's Angels days. And he probably comes back to get that 3000th hit.
2. Late blooming. While we're on the subject, Edmonds's WAR total between 30 and 40—the 47.9 he contributes to this Hall of Fame career—puts him 20th of all time per Baseball-Reference, and it's interesting—or maybe instructive to see the players ahead of him on the list. After 30 our opinion of most players is set in stone; at 30 Jim Edmonds was basically a less consistent, late-blooming Ray Lankford. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Most of the players ahead of Edmonds on that list are inner-circle Hall of Famers. The first four guys were more valuable than Griffey was his entire career between 30 and 40; Hank Aaron and Ty Cobb's thirties would have Edmonds-like Hall of Fame cases. Past that we get back to normal, aside from the fact that Edmonds's thirties constitute 70% of his career value. Here's everybody else:
1. Barry Bonds 56% 11 Ted Williams 45% 2. Babe Ruth 47% 12 Jackie Robinson 86% 3. Honus Wagner 64% 13 Charlie Gehringer 60% 4. Willie Mays 55% 14 Roberto Clemente 63% 5. Hank Aaron 46% 15 Nap Lajoie 51% 6. Ty Cobb 40% 16 Eddie Collins 41% 7. Tris Speaker 45% 17 Edgar Martinez 75% 8. Stan Musial 45% 18 Lou Gehrig 42% 9. Mike Schmidt 53% 19 Rickey Henderson 43% 10 Joe Morgan 55% 20 Jim Edmonds 70%
Jackie Robinson aside, Edmonds, Roberto Clemente, and Edgar Martinez stand out as the only players who weren't halfway to a Hall of Fame career when they put up an outstanding decade after turning 30. Clemente's career was the classic he-put-it-together story; Martinez was blocked and positionless until he was 28. Edmonds has no such story—he was pretty good until he was 30, and then he was outstanding until he was 35.
People with Hall of Fame votes probably remember Jim Edmonds as the acrobat and occasional malcontent who got better after he hit St. Louis—or thought of the Jim Edmonds they discovered in St. Louis as a guy who had a great run after having a change of scenery. But to accurately value his career voters are going to have to realize just how brilliant that run was, and how much different he was as a player after leaving Anaheim—about as different as Edgar Martinez the third baseman was from Edgar Martinez the designated hitter.
3. Peak number one. The original Jim Edmonds, acrobat, malcontent, half-shirt-trend-setter, put together a nice four year peak between 1995 and 1998, putting together 18.5 WAR in that timespan. In Jim Rice's four years as The Most Feared Player In Baseball he accrued 19 WAR; Jack Morris had a 16.7 WAR run as the winningest pitcher of the 80s between 1984-1987. Ryan Howard won an MVP and finished second and third between 2006-2009 for 16 WAR.
Jim Rice had intermittent success afterward and struck The Fear into the hearts of sportswriters from beyond retirement; Jack Morris had three average-ish seasons and then had an outstanding playoff game; Ryan Howard was given the third-richest contract by AAV in the history of baseball.
Jim Edmonds had a bad season and was traded for Kent Bottenfield and Adam Kennedy.