Unlike the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown NY, which relies on baseball writers for the entirety of its voting process, the Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum, reopened in 2014 after a hiatus caused by the departure of the International Bowling Hall of Fame to Arlington, TX (it's a long story), is for and by the fans.
Unlike Cooperstown, which disregards fan opinion altogether, two-thirds of players inducted to the Cardinals Hall are directly elected by Cardinals fans through online balloting. And since these are the people who will actually be visiting the Cardinals Hall of Fame, this is logical. The Hall of Fame will only be worth what the people whose opinions matter (i.e. "people who would be inclined to buy tickets to it") say it's worth.
The hall automatically put all Cardinals inductees in the National Hall and all players with retired uniform numbers in the Cardinals one, and in each of the last two years the hall inducted four more people: two Cardinals from the last 40 years as voted by fans, one Cardinal retired 40+ years who is elected by a "red ribbon" committee, and one Cardinals contributor in a non-playing role (this slot is more of an optional thing, but it is an option which has been chosen in each election so far).
In 2014, the inductees were Jim Edmonds, Willie McGee, Marty Marion, and Mike Shannon. In 2015, the inductees were Bob Forsch, Ted Simmons, Curt Flood, and George Kissell. I won't pretend to have any real ability to forecast the contributor induction, so I will instead estimate future player inductees.
2016: Chris Carpenter, Ray Lankford, Tom Alston: Carpenter, in his first year of eligibility (players must be retired for 3+ seasons and must have been a Cardinal for 3+ seasons to be eligible), is a shoo-in. Although he will fall short of Cooperstown, Carp's role as the ace of two World Series title teams and several moments of modern Cardinals folklore (his epic NLDS duel with Roy Halladay, the time he had a rib removed during surgery and gave it to his daughter) will supplement his impressive statistical case.
Ray Lankford was the star player on some average Cardinals teams in the 1990s and is perpetually underrated, but his longevity makes him a reasonable guess for 2016. As for Tom Alston, the first African-American player in team history, while his playing resume is not as strong as that of Curt Flood, last year's historically significant committee pick, his importance will surely be recognized by the Hall at some point.
2017: Keith Hernandez, Scott Rolen, Bill White: Hernandez is the best defensive first baseman in history, he won an MVP and World Series with the Cardinals, and although he may be hampered slightly by younger fans, even Cardinals ones, associating him with the Mets (and I suspect this is largely a Seinfeld thing), he will be the career WAR leader among fan ballot eligible players. Rolen, a member of the acclaimed "MV3" of the mid-2000s with the already-enshrined Jim Edmonds and Albert Pujols (more on him later), is second only to Ken Boyer in WAR among Cardinals third basemen and combined a terrific bat with one of the best gloves the hot corner has ever seen. And the underrated Bill White was an All-Star eight times in five seasons (not a typo) and was a 1964 World Series champion, in addition to later being President of the National League.
2018: Mark McGwire, John Tudor, Joe Torre: Say what you will about McGwire's PED usage, but his importance to the franchise is undeniable. He wasn't just great--he was iconic. I was nine years old when he broke the single-season home run record and it was the single most formative experience in my Cardinals fandom. I know I'm not alone. John Tudor was a solid Cardinals pitcher for several years, and had a very Cy Young-worthy season in 1985 if Dwight Gooden hadn't been a show-off and had the best pitching season since Bob Gibson. Joe Torre, correctly more famous at this point as a four-time champion as manager of the New York Yankees, was a four-time All-Star playing in St. Louis and the 1971 NL MVP, in addition to serving as manager from 1990 to 1995.
2019: Joaquin Andujar, Tom Herr, Orlando Cepeda: Andujar, who passed away in 2015, and Herr were key contributors on both the 1982 World Series champions and the much-loved 1985 team, on which each was an All-Star and Herr in particular had a career year. Cepeda, in Cooperstown as a member of the San Francisco Giants, spent parts of three seasons with the Cardinals and barely meets the Cardinals tenure threshold, but made a mark with the club, leading the NL in RBI during the title year of 1967 and starting at first base for another pennant winner in 1968.
2020: Jose Oquendo, Lee Smith, Harry Brecheen: Oquendo has a strange case for the Hall, as he was never a star player, but thanks to his versatility and decade as a player, not to mention nearly two decades as a Cardinals coach, he would likely garner fan support. Smith may fall short of Cooperstown but two seasons in St. Louis in which the former all-time saves leader led the NL in saves firmly cement his place in Cardinals history. Brecheen, a prominent pitcher in the 1940s, is 13th in WAR in club history, ahead of Johnny Mize, Jim Edmonds, and Ray Lankford.
2021: Matt Holliday, Matt Morris, Max Lanier: This is the point in the exercise where I have to start guessing when current players retire, and I'm going with 2021 eligibility for Holliday. Arbitrary but realistic, I think. And the four-time All-Star in St. Louis, though arguably lacking a central "moment" (well, a positive one), has accumulated a solid statistical resume--he is currently 2.7 WAR behind Willie McGee, inducted seven years earlier. As for Lanier, he was not only a good pitcher for significant, underrepresented 1940s Cardinals teams, but he also represents, along with teammate Fred Martin, an important forerunner to Curt Flood's challenging of the reserve clause.
2022: Vince Coleman, Adam Wainwright, Whitey Kurowski: Three fun facts about Vince Coleman: He was an all-conference kicker and punter for Florida A&M's football team; he led the NL in steals all six seasons he was with the Cardinals; according to legend, while playing in MLB, he was asked about Jackie Robinson and did not know who he was (the exact quotes suggest he literally knew who Jackie Robinson was, but didn't have much appreciation for his cultural significance). Wainwright you already know about--he could retire today (please don't retire today, Waino) and he'd get in the Hall in three years. As for Kurowski, although he retired due to injury at 31, he was a five-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion in the 1940s at third base.
2023: Steve Carlton, Yadier Molina, Tim McCarver: Although Carlton has already appeared on the ballot, I have a theory he takes a while because no matter how much of a Cardinals fan you are, everybody associates him first and foremost with the Phillies. It was where he went from a very good pitcher to a Hall of Famer. But he was nevertheless a worthy Cardinals Hall of Famer. Molina will sail into the Hall--even with online voting, we'll monitor these results wondering if he gets 100% like we did with Griffey in Cooperstown last week. He's that much of a slam dunk. And McCarver, as a steady catcher throughout a successful Cardinals decade of the 1960s, and a popular figure among the media who would be voting for him, will help him make it in.
2024: Darrell Porter, Albert Pujols, Jesse Burkett: Yes, I know Albert Pujols has that personal services contract with the Angels, and yes, there are some Cardinals fans who will never forgive him for leaving St. Louis, but the only question about when Pujols gets into the Cardinals Hall is when he becomes eligible. Although some speculate Pujols will retire before his Angels contract ends as a matter of personal pride if his performance deteriorates, I suspect he will instead maximize income (and why shouldn't he?) and wait until 2024 for induction. This will, fairly or unfairly, overshadow Darrell Porter, 1982 NLCS and World Series MVP and Coke bottle glasses aficionado, and Jesse Burkett, a turn-of-the-century Cooperstown member with nearly twice as many career inside-the-park home runs (55) as Ozzie Smith had total home runs (28).
2025: Jason Isringhausen, Edgar Renteria, Bobby Wallace: Admittedly, this doesn't quite have the luster of Pujols, but this class recognizes two underrated members of the mid-2000s Cardinals. Isringhausen, like every other closer in history that isn't Mariano Rivera, faced criticism (closers are like Congress--it will never be unfashionable to dislike them), but is among the club's most accomplished relievers. Renteria was a three-time All-Star with two Gold Gloves and three Silver Sluggers at shortstop. And Wallace, a successful Cardinal in his own right, gets bonus points for being perhaps the greatest St. Louis Browns player that wasn't George Sisler.
2026: Brian Jordan, Terry Pendleton, Ed Konetchy: Okay, this is probably the point where the Cardinals Hall seems to jump the shark. Which isn't a slight (well, it kind of is I guess) at any of these players: Jordan was a nice player for seven seasons and was the team's WAR leader for their only playoff season of the 1990s in 1996; Pendleton also spent seven years in St. Louis and was a slick-fielding third baseman for two pennant winners in 1985 and 1987; Konetchy, though somewhat anonymous today, was perhaps the franchise's greatest player of the Dead Ball era. But neither Jordan nor Pendleton was an All-Star in St. Louis and Konetchy died less than a month and a half after Jackie Robinson debuted.
2027: Jack Clark, George Hendrick, Ted Breitenstein: Clark is interesting, as his reputation somewhat outweighs his accomplishments--he was the lone source of power on teams legendarily built on speed but since he only played three seasons for the team, was worth only 9.6 WAR (Rogers Hornsby was worth 9.6+ WAR in six separate seasons as a Cardinal). But on the fan vote, I think he will do well on ballots when not facing dominant candidates. Hendrick spent a little over 6 1/2 seasons in St. Louis and though he lacks Clark's public persona (I mean, his nickname is "Silent George"), he was a steady performer for the 1982 champions. As for Breitenstein, he probably won't be a huge fan favorite (for reference, when he died, Yogi Berra was nine years old) but he did throw a no-hitter in his first career start. Not to give away too much, but Bud Smith didn't make my Cardinals Hall.
2028: David Freese, Garry Templeton, Larry Jackson: It's an interesting dichotomy for the fan elected--the hometown hero of them all in Freese (his regular season statistics fall short even for the increasingly relaxed standards of this hall, but 2011 makes him an inarguable part of the story of the Cardinals) and a guy most famous today for giving the finger (not metaphorically) to Cardinals fans before being traded for Ozzie Smith, but Templeton has a solid statistical case from his six years with the club and by 2028, he will be 47 years removed from his obscene gesture incident and fans will likely be more forgiving due to lack of memory of it. As for Jackson, he spent eight years in St. Louis, making All-Star Games in three seasons and forging a legacy which is often overlooked due to the relative mediocrity of the era for the franchise.
2029: Ken Oberkfell, Jhonny Peralta, Mort Cooper: A guy who spent parts of eight years with the Cardinals while never eclipsing three home runs nor 3.5 WAR, a guy who joined the Cardinals at 32, and a guy whose primary success came during World War II years in which the talent pool of Major League Baseball was greatly diminished. While each player has his charms--Oberkfell was steady for several years and was born in nearby Highland, I'm working under the assumption that Peralta will rebound from his poor late 2015 and that he will have another couple of years to add to his Hall case, and Cooper did win an MVP (and, by 2029, is the only MVP on the Cardinals not in the Hall).
2030: Matt Carpenter, J.D. Drew, Silver King: Carpenter will be around long enough that he will make the Cardinals Hall fairly quickly--I suspect that for guys who aren't in the Pujols or Molina class, though, there will be some "I don't know if he's a first-ballot guy" backlash, even when coming from fans and not writers where this is established precedent. Drew's Cardinals career was plagued with injuries and had his share of critics by the time he was traded to the Braves (citation needed for whom the Cardinals acquired). Silver King was a very good pitcher during the American Association days whose real name was Charles Koenig--I'm not sure where "Silver King" came from but given the era, I suspect William Jennings Bryan was involved. Only true 1890s kids will get this reference.
2031: Darryl Kile, Carlos Martinez, Curt Simmons: Kile, whose 2002 death is something of a "remember where you were?" moment for my generation of Cardinals fans, was a good-not-great pitcher statistically in an all-too-brief tenure with the Cardinals but remains a spiritual icon of the club. Martinez, 24, has a long way to go, but if 2015 was any indication of his future in the rotation, this isn't a huge stretch. Simmons is more famous nationally as a Phillie but was a worthy second-banana to Bob Gibson from 1960 to 1966.
2032: Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha, Julian Javier: You know the crazy thing about Lynn here? I don't see him adding a ton to his resume. Maybe a nice 2017 but then there's a good chance he departs in free agency. I could see his dry sense of humor making him a popular player post-retirement, which is a silly reason to vote for somebody into a hall of fame, but these are the standards of an induct-three-a-year organization. Wacha has higher resume upside than Lynn and has a much better chance of making the Hall immediately or near-immediately. Javier was a mainstay for the 1960s Birdos (like, the Cardinals era that inspired the name of this site), earning two All-Star appearances.
2033: Bernard Gilkey, Randal Grichuk, Al Hrabosky: And I'm not even all that high on Grichuk, really. I can also see the argument for Stephen Piscotty, but it seems superfluous even by these standards to include both, so even though I think Piscotty is probably more likely to be a good player, Grichuk flashed power in 2015 that could, if things break right for him, make him a generational type of player. Gilkey has the local connection, being from University City. And Hrabosky's club affiliation as an announcer, mixed with a respectable list of accomplishments as a reliever, arguably make this a bit late for him to make the Hall of Fame.
2034: Lonnie Smith, Todd Worrell, Dick Groat: Lonnie Smith won a World Series with the team in 1982 as an exciting, base-stealing machine susceptible to mediocre left field defense and in 1985, he was traded to make room for Vince Coleman, who had a similar general description (but with more steals). Worrell had the interesting story of being an effective relief pitcher in the 1985 postseason and then winning Rookie of the Year in 1986. Groat is an iconic Pittsburgh Pirate (and was a #3 overall pick in the NBA Draft by the Fort Wayne Pistons) but played well in three seasons in St. Louis, finishing 2nd in MVP voting in 1963 and winning a title in 1964.
2035: Trevor Rosenthal, Kolten Wong, Dal Maxvill: I understand the temptation for derision here. Rosenthal, though terrific, is still essentially a lottery ticket on a 25 year-old closer maintaining consistent success at a position prone to fluctuation. While Kolten Wong could turn out very good, he also might not. And Dal Maxvill, though bolstered by local ties, parts of 11 seasons with the team, and serving as GM later, and was worth only 7.5 WAR in St. Louis, only topping 1 WAR three times. But this is the nature of the Cardinals Hall of Fame as it currently stands: everybody makes it. As the biggest Big Hall guy on the planet, I don't mind--I'd put as many guys in the Hall as can fit. But clearly, this rate of induction will not continue unabated for twenty years.
I don't know what the proper rate is. It's completely subjective. But while Cooperstown discussions have grown somewhat stale, creating a regurgitation of the same old talking points every single year, St. Louis has a chance to build something new and exciting in Ballpark Village with the Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum.