Jim Edmonds isn't going to make the Hall of Fame in 2016. In fact, there stands a good chance that he won't even be on the ballot after this year because at the time of this writing he's only on 2.6% of public ballots and the announcement is this Wednesday. If Edmonds does somehow eclipse 5% of the vote, to have any chance in the future he'll likely need a grassroots movement to gain mainstream traction akin to Jonah Keri's (noted Edmonds supporter) noble efforts on behalf of Tim Raines. To that end, perhaps Bill DeWitt Jr. can bankroll @JimEdmondsHOF with the money that had been earmarked for David Price and Jason Heyward.
Until then, the drum for Edmonds is probably going to continue to beat around here. There's not much novelty that can be added to Edmonds's case at this point because Viva El Birdos has done a thorough job of getting the word out on his behalf. However, in Ben Godar's excellent piece from last week, a line was quoted from an old Tom Friend NYT article in which Friend wrote in reference to Edmonds's beleaguered reputation that "His first mistake was making the game look easy." If he made a second mistake it was that he seemed so carefree.
Perception was likely not reality. Anyone who achieved Edmonds's stature in the game had to care. Cardinals fans remember his emotion following his heroics in Game 6 of the 2004 NLCS, and showering Jeff Suppan and Yadier Molina with praise and game balls in the Shea Stadium clubhouse when they clinched the pennant in '06. That was not the act of a person who didn't care. But Jimmy Ballgame never seemed the type to sit around and study hours of game film like Tony Gwynn. Instead, he showed up to the ballpark presumably on time and on the right night could entertain everyone with his bat and his glove. At least, that's what it seemed like.
To fully appreciate Edmonds, it's helpful to remember July 19, 2004, when the Cardinals beat the Cubs 5-4 in a nationally televised game at Wrigley Field. In retrospect, that score looks almost innocuous since that '04 squad seemed to pound every team 11-4. There was nothing mild about that game, however, and it was a microcosm of Edmonds's greatness masked in a carefree attitude.
In the first inning, Cubs' pitcher Carlos Zambrano plunked Edmonds to load the bases. The video of this event is hard to come by but the chatter at the time, if I recall, was that it was intentional. (I remember watching the game and I thought it was intentional.) The Cardinals would not score that inning but Edmonds took Zambrano deep into the seats for a two-run homer in his next at-bat in the 4th inning. As he was wont to do, Edmonds was a bit slow out of the batter's box for his home run trot, and an enraged Zambrano screamed at him as he circled the bases. Edmonds appeared to be completely oblivious to the fact that a physically imposing man was merely feet away and basically threatening his livelihood. And that's why this moment captured Edmonds so well. He was probably thinking about anything other than the idea that someone could possibly be angry with him at that moment. It wasn't until a teammate in the dugout told him that Zambrano was none too pleased that Edmonds realized something was amiss and he seemed to shrug his shoulders and go on about his day. Five seconds later he had probably already forgotten about it.
Come the 6th inning, Zambrano struck out Edmonds and wagged his finger at him like Dikembe Mutombo would have done if he was a pitcher. (Personally, I'll always hold preference to Dennis Eckersley's finger-pointing pistol firing following a strikeout but that's not important here.) Edmonds was now part of a storyline that was going to eclipse the final score and there was a very good chance he remained unaware or unconcerned.
By the 8th inning, Zambrano was still on the mound and gave up another two-run home run, this time to Scott Rolen, which broke a 3-3 tie. Edmonds was up next. As Zambrano stomped around, anyone who was rationally watching the game up to that point knew what was going to happen. That Dusty Baker didn't immediately yank Zambrano was ridiculous in its own right since he had already thrown 107 pitches. But nope, Zambrano stayed out there and that he drilled Edmonds for a second time on his very next pitch surprised no one - except maybe Edmonds, who I'd like to think still didn't even know Zambrano's name or that it was the same pitcher that had hit him a few hours earlier. Edmonds didn't put up much of a protest - he took his base with a look of amusement and the Cardinals soon won the game.
(While having zero bearing on his case for the Hall of Fame, per Baseball-Reference, Edmonds is one of only 94 players to be hit by a pitch twice in the same game in which he also homered. The only other Cardinal to do it was Del Rice in 1953. Edmonds also holds the distinction of being hit by Zambrano more than any other player with three hit by pitches (he shares this esteemed mark with Rickie Weeks and Craig Wilson). In 56 total plate appearances, Edmonds had a slashing line of .227/.393/.409 vs. Zambrano.)
Following the second plunking, Zambrano didn't even wait to be thrown out of the game but instead immediately stormed off the mound towards the Cubs' clubhouse like a defeated, petulant child. This was not new territory for Zambrano. Like plenty of ballplayers before him, he was often a jerk when he was on the mound (sometimes in the dugout, too!). After the game he rattled of the gamut of stupid quotes:
"I told him, ‘Run the bases, don't try to be cocky."
"I didn't try to hit him. I just tried to make my pitch and the ball went out of my hand."
"I don't have to apologize to anybody. This is not a baby's game. This is a man's game."
Jim Edmonds seemed cocky because he seemed carefree. He likely does care whether he falls off the Hall of Fame ballot following his first year of eligibility. Anyone who has a vested interest in baseball should care when talking about a player with a career wRC+ of 132. On that day in 2004 though Edmonds didn't care about Carlos Zambrano and it was pretty great to watch.