Balloting got underway Monday for the second round of fan balloting for the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame.
It's a chance to fix the division among Redbirds rooters caused by the first round of enshrinement last year when fans chose to add Jim Edmonds and Willie McGee to the Hall of Fame over luminaries including Ted Simmons, Keith Hernandez and Steve Carlton.
But it's also a fresh chance to create arguments that pit one Cardinals fan against another.
I was fine with the Edmonds and McGee selections. I think Edmonds is probably one of the top 30 or 40 Cardinals players of all-time. He was overshadowed during his time here by Albert Pujols and Mark McGwire who got lots of headlines. But, in the history of baseball, how many centerfielders have there been with Edmonds' defensive skills AND his power/RBI bat. He was a money player and still think, had he not played in the steroid era, he'd be a baseball Hall of Famer, not just a Cardinals Hall of Famer.
McGee, similarly was somewhat overshadowed by Ozzie Smith as the Cardinals' brightest star during his playing days. He also played superior defense to his peers. He didn't have Edmonds' power, but he has a pair of batting titles and a National League Most Valuable player award to bolster his case. But he was a shoe-in because he is one of the all-time fan favorites in St. Louis.
The only guy left on the list who I think is a shoe-in for the Cardinals Hall of Fame who wasn't chosen already is Simmons who ranks as one of the best-hitting catchers in National League history. He'll almost certainly get in this year, I would imagine.
The other candidates are great players. But this is the CARDINALS Hall of Fame. Many have impressive resumes that were largely compiled while wearing different uniforms.
Yes, Simmons was moved to the Milwaukee Brewers in his prime. But in his 21-year career he played 13 seasons with St. Louis and 10 of the 15 years he was a starter came in Cardinals red. If he ever got to the MLB Hall of Fame, which a lot of people think he merits, he would surely be enshrined wearing a Cardinals cap.
For the other guys, I'm not so sure they wouldn't be sporting another team's lid.
Keith Hernandez won a batting title and an NL Co-MVP award with the Cardinals in 1979. But he became a media darling in New York with the Mets after his trade there in 1983. I think, nationally, more people probably think of him with New York than they do with St. Louis even though he played here longer. Plus, there is the whole unseemly situation with his drug problems while a member of the Redbirds and the fact that the Hernandez-led Pond Scum Mets were the Cardinals biggest rivals during the mid 1980s. It was a period of time when players from both teams -- and their fans -- didn't like each other very much.
Steve Carlton was a great pitcher. One of the best lefties in the mlb record books. But, thanks to the most unfortunate trade in St. Louis history, he ended up wearing the Philadelphia Phillies uniform for more than twice as long as he wore the Birds on Bat. All four of his Cy Young Awards came after he left town as did all but 77 of his 241 career wins. He's as certain a baseball Hall of Famer who has ever toed the rubber. But putting him in the Cardinals Hall of Fame almost seems like trying to steal accolades from the Phillies.
I believe the Mark McGwire mutual lovefest came to an end when the controversial slugger departed the Cardinals to take the same job, hitting coach, with the Los Angeles Dodgers. While McGwire had his most spectacular seasons in St. Louis, including his 71-homer, 162-walk campaign of 1998, he played 12 years in Oakland compared to five in St. Louis and hit 363 of his 583 dingers there. Fans were deeply divided about McGwire when he returned to St. Louis to coach. So I wonder if they'd still be too divided to create a consensus needed to elect him this year.
Joe Torre is another guy who had some big years in St. Louis -- but he's best known wearing the cap of another team. Six of Torre's 18 seasons came with St. Louis where he replaced the very popular Orlando Cepeda in the middle of the lineup. Torre hit .308 as a Cardinal -- 14 points higher than his average with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves where he spent the bulk of his career. His time in St. Louis included his signature season, 1971, in which he led the National League with a .363 batting average and 137 RBIs. But I think Torre was tainted in the minds of many St. Louis fans because of his years managing a very mediocre team with a tiny budget at the end of the Anheuser-Busch ownership period. After that, he went on to the New York Yankees where he won a fist full or championship rings. There he not only proved what he could do without one arm tied behind his back, but also cementing his image as a member of another club. He might be the other guy besides Simmons to make it this year -- if the old timer vote is strong.
Unlike most of the other candidates, Bob Forsch was a Cardinal through and through and he'll probably get my vote along with Simmons. But I wonder if he was enough of a personality for younger St. Louis fans to remember. Still, he won 163 of his 168 victories for the Redbirds, the balance coming in a playing-out-the-string season and a quarter with the Houston Astros. Forsch was the only pitcher to hurl two no-hitters in a Cardinals uniform. But he wasn't a big strikeout guy and he won as many as 20 games only once. He wasn't flashy. But he was a guy the Cardinals could always count on as a middle of the rotation starter and he was a super teammate.
Matt Morris was a great talent and a "money competitor." He was also a personal favorite during his playing days. But his career was severely limited by arm troubles. Edgar Renteria might have been considered one of the top three Cardinals shortstops of all time if he had not decided to take slightly more money to defect to the Boston Red Sox.