For the third year in a row, the Cardinals have opened the voting for the new class of Cardinal Hall of Famers to the public after providing a quality ballot. The top two in the voting will be added to the 2016 HOF class and inducted in August.
Many of the names on the ballot are the same, as the club seems to be taking the route of leaving a player on if he didn’t get enough votes in the past to make the cut. For the most part, at least. Steve Carlton was removed from the year’s ballot, which would lead me to believe he will be selected as the veteran’s committee pick this year. Keith Hernandez, Joe Torre, Mark McGwire, and Matt Morris are all getting their third crack at getting in while Edgar Renteria is back for his second. The newcomers this year are fairly legendary in their own right: Chris Carpenter, Jason Isringhausen and Scott Rolen.
Before we get into this year’s group, let’s review who was elected by the fans the last couple of years. In 2014, outfielders Jim Edmonds and Willie McGee made the cut. (McGee was so obvious that you’d almost swear they came up with the HOF concept just to honor him.) Last year, things went a little more historical with Ted Simmons and the late Bob Forsch getting the nods.
So after two years, there’s been a good mix between positions and eras. How would I rank this year’s ballot? This is just my personal opinion, not a guess how it will shake out.
8) Keith Hernandez. I know that Hernandez started out in St. Louis and had his first bit of success here, sharing the 1979 MVP with Willie Stargell and helping win the 1982 World Series. However, I really can’t help but thinking of him as a New York Met. He had his best years there, won another World Series there, and is still one of their broadcasters. I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve to be in the Cardinal Hall of Fame, just that I’d put a few folks in before him. Sorry, Pip!
7) Joe Torre. Another quality guy that gets associated with a lot of different teams. Obviously, he made the Cooperstown Hall as the Yankees manager, he played longer with the Braves than the Cardinals, and he was a Met as well. Torre’s managerial stint in St. Louis was not necessarily overwhelming, though when you factor in all the variables it could have been worse. He won the 1971 MVP in St. Louis, but only had about three or four good years under the Arch. Again, I think others have stronger cases.
6) Matt Morris. I was a huge fan of Morris when he was playing, as he was one of the first homegrown pitching prospects to pan out when I started paying more attention to the sport. Morris was one of the reasons the club moved into contention in the early 2000s. Things started to go downhill in 2004 and he wound up with a little time in Pittsburgh and San Francisco to end his career, but he was a great representative of this club for most of his career. Plus, we’ll never forget how the loss of Darryl Kile impacted him. Morris was the only Cardinal representative to the 2002 All-Star Game (and wasn’t eligible to play due to health) but took the DK 57 jersey with him to honor Kile on a larger stage.
5) Edgar Renteria. Those early 2000s teams had a lot of players that captured the fan base’s imagination and Renteria was right in that mix. Acquired from the Marlins, for which he already had a legendary World Series-winning hit, for Braden Looper and two other players that never amounted to much, Renteria became a key supporting player in the MV3 era. He never hit fewer than 10 home runs in a season while in St. Louis (for comparison, you could about combine the numbers of the starters between him and Jhonny Peralta and come up with 10 total) and hit over .300 twice for the club. Renteria’s six years with St. Louis were more than anywhere else, but he won World Series in Florida and San Francisco. Add to that the fact that he left for Boston right after the 2004 World Series for a minimal amount of more money and he’s probably one that gets in at some time, but not this year.
4) Mark McGwire. There’s no doubt that McGwire has a mixed legacy in St. Louis, given the revelations that came out after his playing days. However, there’s no doubt that 1998 and 1999 were some of the most exciting times in St. Louis and made his imprint on the city. When you think of Mark McGwire the player, you don’t think of him as an Oakland A, but rather a Cardinal. He was also a pretty good hitting coach and it seems like a lot of fans would like to see him back in that role, even though he’s now the bench coach for the Padres. For just the impact he had on baseball history–perhaps positively and negatively–I’d like to see him in. Of course, I’ve always been a McGwire fan and apologist, so I realize I may not be in the majority here.
3) Jason Isringhausen. We tend to remember the wild and crazy Izzy, the guy that could put the winning run on base before getting the last out. Some may remember some relief when he went on the disabled list in 2006, letting a guy named Adam Wainwright be the closer for that postseason run. That’s all fair, but we also should remember that Isringhausen holds the career saves lead for St. Louis, a club that has had a lot of premium closers pass through town. (To continue to be fair, folks like Lee Smith, Bruce Sutter, Tom Henke et al didn’t spend as much time in St. Louis as Izzy did.) Isringhausen had seven years of at least 30 saves, including a then-record 47 in 2004, a record Trevor Rosenthal just topped last season. Isringhausen has stayed around the organization, doing a little TV for FOX Sports Midwest here and there as well as continuing to make appearances in spring training. He definitely should get in one of these days.
2) Scott Rolen. I’m a complete Scott Rolen homer, because I’ve never seen defense like the way Rolen played third base, especially when he was in St. Louis. (Defense so strong that, even in just a season and a half in Toronto after leaving St. Louis Blue Jay bloggers could put up a top 10 list from his time there.) Whether it was throwing out a runner from the seat of his pants, snaring anything that came into his airspace, or just basically making anything hit to third an automatic out, Rolen was a joy to behold in the field. It’s not like his offense was anything to sneeze at either, of course. There’s a reason they called it MV3 not MV2. I will always claim that if David Eckstein was anything other than the definition of scrappy (and, as such, providing a wonderful narrative), Rolen would have been the World Series MVP in 2006 and should have been anyway. I hated the Rolen trade at the time (though I’m still impressed that John Mozeliak was able to get such value in Troy Glaus for a guy that everyone knew he had to trade) and I still wish Rolen had spent a long, fruitful career under the Arch. It would be wonderful to see him again in St. Louis this summer.
1) Chris Carpenter. Nothing has to be said about Carp, honestly. He was the fire of this franchise for a significant amount of time. When he was healthy, they won. When he wasn’t, they didn’t for the most part. The only Cy Young winner the club has had since Bob Gibson, if you ever wanted to see the competitiveness and fire and absolute ability Carp had, the 2011 NLDS Game 5 is on DVD and on YouTube. People pointed to Carpenter as the face of the Cardinals (along with Albert Pujols, I guess), which was either a positive or a negative depending on the person doing the pointing. If there’s a slam dunk on this ballot, Carpenter is it. Get that man a red jacket.
If you want to do your own voting, you can head over to the official site and cast your ballot. You really can’t make a wrong choice with this great group of nominees!