On Wednesday night, the St Louis Cardinals announced the 2020 candidates for the club’s Hall of Fame. Seven players representing Cardinal teams from five decades were selected by the Red Ribbon committee comprised of media members and former managers.
Your 2020 Cardinals Hall of Fame Ballot pic.twitter.com/sDedAcHcLe— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) February 6, 2020
Hall of Fame inductees will be decided by fan voting, starting on March 1 at cardinals.com/HOF. Fans should be able to vote for up to two candidates and the top two in the voting will be elected to the Hall.
Let’s take a look at the candidates. I’ll provide a few interesting points about the player and then give my opinion on their candidacy. I fully expect many of you to disagree with me. So, let me know what you think about my takes in the comments.
Carlton spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Cardinals, producing a 3.10 era and 21.2 fWAR as a Redbird. Carlton was a four-time Cy Young award winner, a ten-time All-Star and was elected to the baseball Hall of Fame in 1994 with 96% of the vote. Carlton was infamously traded from the Cardinals to the Phillies after a salary dispute for starter Rick Wise.
Does he belong in the Cardinals Hall of Fame? Carlton is one of the tougher cases on this list. His career performance is among the best of all time. But, as a Cardinal, he only ranks sixteenth in club history in WAR, just a little behind Matt Morris. I certainly would not object if Cards fans vote him in, but, in my opinion, there are more intriguing candidates for the Cardinals Hall of Fame on this ballot.
Did you realize that Keith Hernandez spent nine and a half seasons with the Cardinals? He won the 1979 MVP award as the Cardinals’ first baseman with a .344/.417/.513 line. Hernandez was known for his excellent defense, winning five Gold Gloves as a Redbird. He was an integral part of the Cardinals 1982 World Series championship club. Unfortunately, Hernandez had a falling out with Manager Whitey Herzog and was traded to the Mets. Just like that, Hernandez went from World Series champion and MVP to “pond scum”.
Does he belong in the Cardinals Hall of Fame? Hernandez has 33.9 fWAR as a Cardinal, good for sixteenth among team hitters all-time. Most of the players ahead of him on the team’s fWAR leaderboard are in the MLB Hall of Fame. He seems to fit perfectly in that “really good not great” range that we reserve for team-centered honors like this one. Spit on Roger McDowell if you want to hate the 80’s Mets. Let’s reclaim Hernandez as one of our own. I’m voting for him.
Herr was fixture at second base for the 1980’s Cardinals. He played on all three World Series teams of that decade. He produced a deceptively poor .274/.349/.354 line by today’s standards, but that was good enough for an average 99 wRC+ at the time. Herr was the prototypical player for that era of Cardinals baseball. He provided very little power, but he could run and play better-than-average defense. Herr’s claim to fame came in 1985 when he drove in 110 runs with just 8 HR’s.
Does he belong in the Cardinals Hall of Fame? Can a player be great by association? Herr’s production by itself doesn’t really scream “Cardinals Hall of Fame” worthy. With just 18.2 fWAR as a Cardinal, Herr sits just above definitely-not-a-Cardinal-Hall-of-Famer J.D. Drew on the career team list. Still, because he played alongside Cardinal legends in one of the greatest eras of Cardinal baseball, Herr’s sentimental and historical value probably outweigh his actual on-the-field production. He’s still a “no” for me.
Matt Morris was a horse of a starter for the Cardinals in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Morris started 206 games for the Cardinals, producing 28.9 fWAR. He finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1997 and third behind Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in the 2001 Cy Young voting.
Does he belong in the Cardinals Hall of Fame? Morris was one of my favorites. In some ways, he was Adam Wainwright before Wainwright. Except, of course, that Morris’ peak was lower and his career was much shorter than Wainwright. I’m a Morris fan, but I don’t think there is a compelling argument for voting him into the Cardinals Hall of Fame. At least not on this ballot.
Renteria came to the Cardinals in 1999 at the end of the Royce Clayton era. Up to this point in franchise history, Ozzie Smith was near the franchise lead in home runs from a short-stop. Power at that position was simply non-existent. While no one would confuse him with Alex Rodriguez, Edgar provided consistent double-digit homers as a Cardinal, along with flashy defense and base running. His 6.3 fWAR in 2003 is still the best season from a short-stop that I’ve watched on a daily basis.
Does he belong in the Cardinals Hall of Fame? Renteria is one of my all-time favorite Cardinals. The problem here is that his career production isn’t that far off from Tommy Herr’s (18.2 fWAR for Herr and 17.4 for Edgar). Herr has a slight advantage in longevity. Renteria in peak production. If I was consistent, neither of them would earn my vote. Guess what? I’m not! Dang it, I’m a fan and this is a fan vote. I shamelessly copied Renteria’s stance as the starting short-stop for my co-ed church league softball team back in ‘02-’06. That’s how much I loved the guy. So, for me, it’s a no to Herr and a yes to Renteria. Lots of you will disagree. I don’t care. This particular vote is not about logic.
It’s difficult to evaluate relief pitchers in an environment like this. The nature of their role limits their production stats — like fWAR — and enhances their baseball card stats — like ERA and saves. Smith did lead the league in saves twice as a Cardinal, providing 47 saves in ‘91 and 43 in ‘92. Even though Smith only spent parts of four seasons as a Redbird, he produced his highest save totals with the club. His 478 career saves earned him election in the baseball Hall of Fame by the veterans committee in 2019.
Does he belong in the Cardinals Hall of Fame? The save totals are in Smith’s favor. As are some impressive fWAR and ERA totals for a reliever as a Cardinal. However, Smith really only had two start-to-finish seasons with the Cardinals and those clubs didn’t reach the playoffs. Ultimately, this is about the Cardinals Hall of Fame. Even though Smith’s peak production likely came as a Cardinal (at least by save totals), his run with the club is too short for me to overlook. My answer is no.
Tudor came over to the Cardinals from Pittsburgh in 1985. The slop-balling, side-arm slinging lefty promptly produced one of the greatest seasons by a Cardinals pitcher since the dead ball era. His 6.4 fWAR is the 11th best season by a Cardinal starter since 1919. Seven of those other eleven performances were provided by either Bob Gibson or Dizzy Dean. He would lead the Cardinals to the ‘85 Series and finish second in the Cy Young voting to Dwight Gooden (and his 8.9 fWAR). Tudor’s peak was short-lived. In ‘86 and ‘87, he produced 2.1 and .9 fWAR respectively.
Does he belong in the Cardinals Hall of Fame? For Tudor, the peak performance is certainly there, as is the history. He was part of two World Series teams. A long-time fan favorite, I suspect Tudor will receive a lot of support in the voting. For me, his overall Cardinal career is just not long enough or impressive enough when I put him up against other Cardinal “very goods” this season. Tudor (and Carlton) will be high on my list in ‘21. But, he’s behind Hernandez and Renteria for now.