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Overlooked Cardinals for the Cardinals Hall of Fame

There are a few curiously ignored players when it comes to the Cards Hall of Fame.

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Philadelphia Phillies Photo by St. Louis Cardinals, LLC/Getty Images

On Friday, the Cardinals announced its three new members of the Cardinals Hall of Fame. Given the choices available, it was not a great list, although everyone inducted would probably have made it eventually. The best choice was not chosen by the fans, which makes sense if you’ve ever seen a starting All-Star team. Bill White, who to be fair wasn’t even an option on the poll, was a Cardinal 1B for seven seasons. Tommy Herr was the longtime starting 2B for the Whiteyball 1980s teams and John Tudor was the ace pitcher for a shockingly short amount of time for the Cards.

Of White’s seven seasons, four of them are All-Star caliber, and two of them were below average, but only barely and he didn’t actually play in a full slate of games in either season. His 24.8 career fWAR ranks 27th among Cardinals hitters in MLB history. The only people ahead of him who aren’t already in the Cards Hall are players who played before World War I, Matt Holliday who hasn’t been eligible yet, and a player I will mention later but who you can probably guess. Oddly enough Bill White, 86-years-old, doesn’t seem to think he deserves it, although he also mentions he didn’t have the stats of a Stan or Red. So I can’t tell if that’s a joke or not, because one standard is absurd and the other player is a much, much lower standard that he actually reaches (Red played in 4 more seasons as a starter and a few more as a bench player and only had 5 more WAR).

The other two players are basically opposite types that could get in the Hall. You have John Tudor, who was barely here, but when he was here, he was great. Well, he was great in 2 of the 4 years really, but he was Cy Young caliber in one of them. His 16.5 bWAR as a Cardinal ranks low enough on the all-time list that I’m not going to bother searching that, but he’s clearly here for his 1985 season mostly.

Then you have Tom Herr, who was just kind of solid for a while rather than great. Over his 9+ seasons with the Cardinals, Herr had 18.2 fWAR, which is 42nd among Cardinals hitters. I’m willing to give some leeway on his WAR number, because from what I’ve been told by my dad basically, he was a good defender, and that’s not really reflected in the WAR number. I mean overall, he ended up basically average, and if he was actually good, that WAR number would rise quickly. This is great news for Kolten Wong, who is likely to end up with eerily similar numbers to Herr, although I am skeptical he’ll get the same treatment personally.

These wouldn’t be bad choices except for who was on the ballot with them, so I thought I’d use this opportunity to highlight deserving Cardinals Hall of Famers who have so far been overlooked starting with....

Keith Hernandez - 33.9 fWAR, 17th

I wish I got to experience the 1980s Cardinals for more reasons than one, but my #1 reason is probably that there’s a sizable contingent of Cardinals fans who are extremely attached to the 1980s Cardinals and the players who were on the teams, and while that’s understandable, you guys know you’re overrating these players, right?? Except for Keith Hernandez, who you all still hold a grudge against apparently.

Cause Keith Hernandez is way better than anybody who played during the 1980s except for Ozzie Smith. And I mean as a Cardinal. Hernandez has the 17th most fWAR as a Cardinal hitter, and the next highest player who played during the 1980s is Willie McGee, who is all the way down in 33rd. What’s happening here guys? Someone inform me if you still hold Keith doing a lot of coke against him, because he wasn’t the only one.

Max Lanier - 29 fWAR , 6th

Lanier seems like a very obvious Red Ribbon Committee selection sometime soon in this writer’s opinion. He’s got the highest WAR of anyone not named Adam Wainwright who isn’t already in the Cards Hall. He played a big role in the 1942 and 1944 World Series winning squads and he was able to accumulate that WAR despite missing three seasons due to jumping to the Mexican League for more money and subsequently getting banned from baseball. The ban was lifted eventually, but it did cost him most of the 1946 season, about half of the 1949 season, and two other seasons. And we should hardly hold it against him that he left for more pay at a time when the reserve clause was alive and well.

Larry Jackson, 28.7 fWAR, 7th

I’ve already written all I have to say on Jackson, but while I fully expect Lanier to get his due in no time, I’m positive Jackson will not, because he’s a no-name guy. Anybody who follows Cardinals history is going to know the name Max Lanier, but Larry Jackson played on irrelevant teams, teams that are going to be skimmed over and not talked about much and it made Jackson very, very underrated.

Bill Sherdel, 26.1 fWAR, 10th

Pitchers in general seem weirdly underrepresented in comparison to hitters, which we can probably chalk up to the fact that there just weren’t that many great pitchers who pitched in the 1980s. The one who was even sort of close just got voted in too! Sherdel was mostly hovering around average most of his career with the Cardinals, but seemed to take a step up in 1925, when he was 28, and he had a pretty good run from 1925-1928, which not so coincidentally lines up with the Cardinals making two World Series and winning one. He seems to check all the necessary boxes for inclusion, except he played in the 1920s so nobody remembers him.

Bill Doak, 25.4 fWAR, 11th

If Sherdel has a fighting chance, it’s that he was among the better players when the Cardinals won a World Series. Bill Doak on the other hand, doesn’t have that. Doak was at his best when the Cardinals were terrible, with a 1.72 ERA in 256 IP in 1914, which isn’t as impressive as it sounds because Deadball, but still a fantastic season. Basically Doak just lasted with the Cardinals forever and sprinkled in enough great seasons among the mediocrity to justify an inclusion in my opinion. Basically the pitcher version of Tommy Herr really.

Matt Morris, 24.6 fWAR, 13th

As a person who came into my Cardinals fandom proper in the 2000s who doesn’t remember the 1990s that well, I have to say that Morris is a lot better than I remember, and that’s because my main memory of him at this point was him struggling through innings. I don’t remember the dominant version of him, I remember the version of him who seemed to work hard for every single out he got and it never came easy. But prior to 2004, and I think that being a particularly memorable year has something to do with my memories, because it’s also his worst season as a Cardinal, Morris was a really great pitcher when he managed to stay healthy.

He had a great rookie year, played only half a season in his sophomore season, but still managed 2+ fWAR in it, missed the 1999 season and was relegated to the bullpen for a another half season in 2000, before having a career year in 2001. Then he more or less followed the normal pitching aging curve at this point. I’m utterly amazed that he managed two above average seasons with the Giants, because again my memory of Morris as a Cardinal is Morris just being done as a pitcher. But he had a little bit of fight left in him apparently.

Ed Konetchy, 28.1 fWAR, 22nd

Pre-Babe Ruth, Konetchy could probably be called a power hitter in his time. His career numbers would fit in with modern day numbers, although the .127 ISO that made him a power hitter in the early 1900s would make him a slap hitter now, and the 9.2 K% with the Cardinals that would get him called a strikeout hitter then would be a contact hitter now. He’d be a very unique player, with 14 triples a season, but it’s not impossible to imagine his numbers being able to exist on some player nowadays. (Jimmy Rollins hit 10+ triples five times and had 20 in a season once; Yadi has had multiple seasons with that low of a K%)

Konetchy was a 1B who was an elite hitter, with a 125 wRC+ from 1907 to 1913. He placed 10th in HRs in the majors in both 1912 and 1913, with 8 homers in both seasons. He averaged 4.4 fWAR a season while a full-time starter, with a low of 3.3 fWAR and a high of 5.3 fWAR. Seems like a pretty clear cut case to me

And then, well then it gets pretty tricky. There’s more than a few Cardinals players who should make it but I don’t know if they’re being counted as Cardinals players. Because when they played on the Cardinals, they were not called the Cardinals. The Cardinals became the Cardinals in 1900, but prior to that they were called the St. Louis Browns and St. Louis Perfectos. Which is very confusing because the St. Louis Browns existed with the St. Louis Cardinals in the first half of the 20th century. (They’re now the Baltimore Orioles)

Anyway, the point is that there’s a few players who should make it if those guys do indeed count. Tip O’Neill was an outfielder who played on the Browns from 1884-1889 and accumulated 27.4 fWAR in that time, and this is even more impressive than it sounds, because he did it in an average of 109 games per season. There will only 140 games per season. He was a part-time player for his first two seasons and then as a full-time starter, he had at least 4.9 fWAR in every season. He’s also in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, because he’s Canadian, so that’s pretty cool. Easy inclusion if this era counts.

Arlie Latham was the Browns star 3B from 1883-1889 and had four seasons with 5+ fWAR. Now to be fair, he was a average hitter, but his real benefit was whatever Fangraphs uses for defense in 1880, where he was Scott Rolen-esque for some seasons. He graded out as a +11.6 fielder on average during his seven seasons with a peak of +26 runs. He was a very up-and-down hitter with a low of 66 wRC+ and a high of 122 wRC+ - and those two seasons were back-to-back. Overall, he was a 97 wRC+ hitter who was carried by his defense and was an All-Star caliber player whenever his bat showed up and possibly average if his bat didn’t. I can see an argument against him, because a lot of the case for him is reliant on 1800 defensive data, and calling that not reliable feels like an understatement.

Silver King played with the Browns for only three seasons, but what a three seasons it was. He did enough in those three seasons to place 14th overall in Cardinals pitching WAR. And Baseball-Reference likes him more, if you’re inclined to use that for pitching WAR. I was going to call his stats video game stats, but honestly, you couldn’t even do this in a video game. In 1888, he started 66 games and pitched 585.2 IP with a 1.64 ERA. He had 11.1 fWAR, 14.7 bWAR, and 21.2 RA/9 WAR. He pitched the equivalent of 7 seasons in those 3 years with the innings he pitched, which is how he got to 24.4 fWAR and 26.1 bWAR. We already have precedent with John Tudor making it, so I don’t see a good argument against him since only playing here for 3 seasons is not a good one.

And lastly, we have Bob Carruthers, who was basically Babe Ruth in his day. He played with the Browns from 1884-1887 and functioned as both a pitcher and outfielder. As a pitcher, he ranks 19th in Cardinals pitching fWAR and in his three full seasons as a pitcher, he had 6.2 fWAR per season... and again bWAR likes him more with 25.6 bWAR as a pitcher for the Cards. If that wasn’t enough, he also played part-time as an outfielder and had 4.3 fWAR and 5.2 fWAR seasons. Part-time outfielder I repeat. He had back-to-back seasons of a 172 wRC+ and 160 wRC+. Honestly this guy has a case for the actual Hall of Fame with 44.8 bWAR as a pitcher and 17.1 fWAR as a hitter. Again they played 140 games a season then so while he may technically be a bit short on the WAR, he wouldn’t be with a more modern slate of games played.

And there you have it. I don’t think the majority of the people I’ve mentioned will be put on a fan ballot, so it’s up to the Red Ribbon Committee to induct most of them. And like I said, I’m not even sure the Browns part of Cardinals history “counts” even those it’s the same franchise so it’s entirely possible my suggestions here are for naught. Nonetheless, I liked going down the rabbit hole on those players and am happy to learn about how good they were, so no harm, no foul either way. But seriously, let’s induct Keith Hernandez next year please. This is getting absurd.