Recently, the Cardinals announced their ballot for the 2020 Hall of Fame class. You can vote on it here and we’ll get into this year’s ballot in a little bit. However, this will be the seventh year of the fan voting and I thought it might be worth looking at how folks have fared in the past.
For instance, did you know that out of the 12 players that have been on the ballot before this season, six of them were elected in their first year on the ballot? Obviously the original class of Willie McGee and Jim Edmonds, but also Chris Carpenter (2016), Tim McCarver (2017), Vince Coleman (2018), and Ray Lankford (2018). Which means that Tom Herr, the only new addition to this year’s ballot, has a 50/50 shot of wearing the red jacket this summer.
For those that didn’t make it in their debut season, how long did they wait? Typically, a little bit. Jason Isringhausen and Scott Rolen both were elected in their fourth try in 2019. That’s the same as Mark McGwire before he was elected in 2017. Joe Torre was on the ballot three years, going into the Hall in 2016. Bob Forsch and Ted Simmons only had to wait a year, making up the second class in 2015.
You’d also think that once a player was on the ballot, they’d stay on it until they got elected. That’s not really been the case. Matt Morris was on the first three years, off the next two, then returned last year and is on the 2020 ballot. Steve Carlton is even more erratic, on in 2015, 2017, and then again this year. Lee Smith and Edgar Renteria also have off years in their history. Only Keith Hernandez and John Tudor have been on every ballot since they made their debut and have yet to be elected.
The inconsistency of the players would make a little more sense if the ballot stayed at a set number, but it doesn’t. From 2014-2016, there were eight players on the ballot. That dropped to seven for 2017-2018. Last year only had six and this year is back up to seven. I’m not sure what the requirements are in that red ribbon committee for getting players on the ballot, but if the Cardinals ever want to add me to the group, I’m available.
With all that as background, let’s look at the current ballot for the Hall of Fame:
Years: 1965 – 1971
Stats: 77-62, 3.10 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 66 CG, 16 SHO, 1265.1 IP (190 Games Started)
Press release blurb: After reaching the big leagues as 20-year old, “Lefty” became a three-time All-Star during his seven seasons in St. Louis. He won 14 games as a starter for the 1967 World Series championship team, and followed up with 13 wins the following season as the organization claimed its second consecutive pennant. Carlton finished second in MLB with a 2.17 ERA in 1969 and was a 20-game winner in 1971.
Years on ballot: 3 (2015, 2017, 2020)
Carlton is a Cooperstown inductee, of course, but the biggest part of his career was in Philadelphia. There’s no doubt it’s one of the worst trades the Cardinals ever made, all because of a disgruntled owner. (Perhaps this is a reason why Bill DeWitt tends to not be overbearing with his front office.) Carlton has shown up for the various anniversaries of the 1967 and 1968 teams so he’s still proud of his Cardinal roots.
Years: 1974 – 1983
Stats: .299/.385/.448, 1217 H, 265 2B, 81 HR, 595 RBI, 662 R (1165 Games)
Press release blurb: Keith Hernandez played 10 seasons with the Cardinals, winning six straight Gold Gloves from 1978-1983 at first base. He was a National League co-MVP in 1979, batting a league leading .344 with 48 doubles, 11 home runs and 105 RBI. The two-time All-Star was a member of the 1982 World Championship team and batted .299 that season with 94 RBI. Hernandez’s .385 on-base percentage ranks fifth all-time among Cardinals hitters to have played at least 10 seasons with the club.
Years on ballot: 7 (2014-2020)
Hernandez is one of only two players on the original ballot not to be inducted as of yet. There’s no doubt that he had a very good career with the Cardinals, but the way that it ended and his many years with the Mets have probably kept him out. As I always say, he’s more of a Mets HOF guy to me than the Cardinals because I really started following baseball around 1987, when he was well gone from St. Louis. His Cardinal stats are better than his time in New York, though he did win his only World Series with the Mets. He seems to have been more vocal about his Cardinals stint recently, writing a book about his trip through the minor leagues.
Years: 1979 – 1988
Stats: .274/.349/.354, 1021 H, 179 2B, 31 3B, 498 R, 152 SB (1029 Games)
Press release blurb: Making his debut the same night Lou Brock clubbed his 3,000th career hit, Tom Herr made his mark on one of the most popular eras of Cardinals baseball. He led the National League in both fielding percentage and assists as a second baseman in 1981 and finished in the top-three in double plays turned in six of his 10 seasons in St. Louis. Herr’s finest offensive season came in 1985 when he was named to the All-Star team and finished fifth in NL MVP voting after finishing in the league’s top-ten in on-base percentage, batting average, hits, doubles, runs batted in and walks. That season he had 110 RBI and only eight home runs, making him the last player in NL history to reach 100+ RBI with less than 10 HR.
Years on ballot: 1 (2020)
With Coleman, McGee, and Ozzie Smith enshrined already, it’s not surprising we’re getting to Herr (and I gotta think Terry Pendleton might be on here in a couple of years). Herr was a key part of those ’80s teams that were so successful, providing some of the thump that drove the jackrabbits in. It’s still hard to believe that a guy that tied into a great era could get dealt just a few months after the World Series to the team that had beaten them. He also got on Twitter and followed almost everyone, but hasn’t used it since 2015 it doesn’t seem.
Years: 1997 – 2005
Stats: 101-62, 3.61 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 18 CG, 8 SHO, 1377.1 IP (206 Games Started)
Press release blurb: A first-round draft pick, Matt Morris made his Major League debut less than two years after being taken 12th overall in the 1995 amateur draft. In his 1997 rookie season, Morris made 33 starts and finished with a 12-9 record and a 3.19 ERA, tying him for second among Rookie of the Year balloting. A National League All-Star in 2001 and 2002, Morris finished third in Cy Young voting in 2001 after winning a Major League-best 22 games. In his eight seasons with the club, Morris recorded at least 11 wins six times, won four division titles and started 11 postseason games. Matt’s 986 strikeouts ranks sixth on the team’s all-time list and his .620 winning percentage is seventh-best in club history.
Years on ballot: 5 (2014-2016, 2019-2020)
I was always a big fan of Morris, who came up while the Cards were more focused on McGwire’s homers than pennant races. Things went downhill somewhat after 2002 but he still went out there and gave the team innings while winning a lot of games. I always thought the Cards should have brought him back on a minor league invite late in his career but his time in Pittsburgh kinda showed he didn’t have anything left. Morris recently returned as they honored the 2004 team but, given he lives in New York I believe, doesn’t get back to Busch all that often.
Years: 1999 – 2004
Stats: .290/.347/.420, 451 RBI, 207 2B, 148 SB (903 Games)
Press release blurb: Edgar Renteria played six seasons with the Cardinals and was named a National League All-Star three times (2000, 2003, 2004). The Colombian shortstop won two Gold Gloves while with St. Louis in 2002 and 2003, and three Silver Slugger Awards in 2000, 2002 and 2003. Renteria batted .330 in 2003, a franchise single-season record for a shortstop, as are the 47 doubles he hit that season. His career high 100 RBI in 2003 ranks second among all St. Louis shortstops for a single season. Renteria’s 37 stolen bases his first season with the Cardinals are the most in a single-season since that time and his 148 steals while with St. Louis rank second in franchise history among shortstops.
Years on ballot: 5 (2015-2017, 2019-2020)
If it was up to me, they’d induct the entire 2004 team en masse because that may have been the best overall team the Cards have had in history. Renteria was a large part of that, blending offense and defense in a way that hadn’t been seen in Cardinal shortstops very often. Leaving for Boston right after losing that 2004 Series did leave a stain on his legacy here (especially since the Red Sox offer was, if I remember right, about $1 million more per year) and it backfired on him as well. I don’t remember if he returned when they honored the team last year or not, but he’s a guy that it’d be great to see more often. Also, he’s five days younger than me, which isn’t depressing in the least.
Years: 1990 – 1993
Stats: 160 Saves, 2.90 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 209 GF, 266.2 IP (245 Games)
Press release blurb: Known as one of the most feared closers in baseball history, Lee Smith recorded at least 43 saves in three of his four seasons with the Cardinals, leading the league in 1991 and 1992. During his Cardinals career, Smith earned three All-Star selections and finished in the top-four of Cy Young voting twice. His 160 saves stood as a club record until Jason Isringhausen surpassed that total in 2007.
Years on ballot: 2 (2018, 2020)
Smith probably doesn’t register as highly in Cardinal fans’ minds because he spent all of his career in red during the doldrums of the early ’90s. He was one of the best things on those teams but when the closer is that big of a star compared to everyone else, that might be an issue. His induction into Cooperstown might give him a boost here. Always remember two things about big Lee: being in my freshman dorm room when I heard about the trade of Smith to the Yankees (for trivia answer Rich Batchelor) and that he and I share a middle name.
Years: 1985 – 1988, 1990
Stats: 62-26, 2.52 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 22 CG, 12 SHO, 881.2 IP (125 Games Started)
Press release blurb: During his five seasons in a Cardinals uniform, John Tudor accumulated a .705 winning percentage and 2.52 ERA over 125 starts, both of which still stand as all-time Cardinals records (minimum 750.0 IP). The left-hander’s finest season came in 1985 when he won 21 games (went 20-1 after June 1) with a miniscule 1.93 ERA, including 10 complete game shutouts, and finished second in National League Cy Young voting. A member of two National League pennant winning teams in 1985 and 1987, Tudor won at least 10 games in each of the four full seasons he pitched for the Redbirds.
Years on ballot: 3 (2018-2020)
It’s still amazing the run that Tudor went on in 1985 and it’s been good to see him around the ballpark while honoring those ’80s teams. (Will they have them back for the 15th anniversary of 1985 this year? Wouldn’t be a surprise if they did.) That he was traded for Pedro Guerrero underscores the desperate need for power with Jack Clark being injured and then gone. Who knows what his time in St. Louis would have been like had Barry Lyons not come careening through the dugout.
It feels like there’s no overwhelming choice this year. There’s no Ray Lankford, who had been denied even being on the ballot while being the best player of the 1990s. There’s no Willie McGee, the player this whole thing was created for (that’s my opinion but when people are pushing to retire #51, you need to come up with something). There are just a lot of quality players, all of whom would be worthy of going into Ballpark Village and most likely all will at some point. My vote? I’d probably go with Edgar Renteria and Steve Carlton, but I’m perfectly willing to admit that those are just personal gut feelings, not necessarily the best options. If you’ve got other thoughts, click on the link up there and go vote!