The 2018 Cardinals Hall of Fame ballot was released yesterday including seven players.
Three players return to the ballot: Keith Hernandez, Jason Isringhausen, and Scott Rolen. The other four are first timers: Ray Lankford, Vince Coleman, John Tudor, and Lee Smith.
According to Fox2now, media members and former Cardinals managers chose the nominees. Fan voting starts on March 1st and the top two vote-getters, the new Hall of Famers, will be announced on May 4th.
These nominees are interesting. You’ve got a truly veteran outfielder, a ridiculously fast outfielder, a proven starter, two electric closers, and two corner infielders. How do they add up? Well let’s do the usual tradition of looking at the stats.
I’ll admit that I’m partial to Scott Rolen. Mostly because I grew up watching him at the hot corner. He’s the best Cardinal third baseman that I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. He was brought to the Cardinals in July of 02 and lasted through the 2007 season. In his time he won three Gold Glove’s, made the All Star Game four times, and finished 4th in MVP voting in 2004. He batted .286 with 111 home runs and 453 RBI’s in his Cardinals career. His bat isn’t even what made him special. The lowest fielding percentage he ever had as a Cardinals was .958. But stats don’t show all the plays he made that would be errors for most. He was special on the hot corner, and he should certainly be in the Cardinals Hall of Fame one day.
Izzy! Again, I’m a tad partial. I grew up watching him close out many games. His last season with the team was ugly. But in six years prior, the lowest save percentage he ever posted was 76.7%, followed by 86.5%. From 2003-2005 he had save percentages of 88, 87, and 90.7. 2004 saw him post 47 saves and he made the All Star Team in 2005. He nearly averaged a strikeout per inning pitched every year he was with the Cardinals. The man is the all time saves leader in Cardinal history with 217. Simply, the guy was nearly automatic.
Admittedly not knowing much about this guy, his stats shocked me. He was a 42nd round draft pick by the Cardinals in 1971, made his debut in 1974, and played for the Cardinals until he was traded in June of 1983. He won five straight Gold Glove’s as a Cardinal, six if you count the 1983 season, he was an All Star twice, and he won the MVP award in 1979 where he posted a .344 batting average. That is absurd. He wasn’t powerful, which is to be expected for a guy who’s 6’0 and 180 lbs. But he was a pure contact hitter. His lowest batting average as a Cardinal was .250, which was in his second season. He posted three straight .300+ AVG seasons and finished with a .299 Cardinals average. So his bat was special, but his fielding? The lowest fielding percentage he ever had in a season was .973 in his rookie season. After that, .990 and above the rest of his career. He could hit, he could play his position, and he spent 9 and a half years with the team. Get this man in the Cardinals Hall of Fame.
This selection is unique because Smith only spent three total seasons with the Cardinals. It was actually four but it was two full years and two half years. But man he made a name for himself in that short amount of time. This man gave definition to the term “closer”. In 1991, he posted 47 saves and a 2.34 ERA. That helped him finish second in Cy Young voting and 8th in MVP voting. I repeat, this guy was a closer. 160 total saves in THREE YEARS, second most in Cardinals history. The guy was good, but he also spent the first eight years of his career with the Cubs. Yuck.
Here’s another pitcher with a short Cardinals stint but, again, he was very effective in his time. His best season as a Cardinal came in his first season with the team, 1985, with a 21-8 record, 1.93 ERA, and 10 SHUTOUTS. You will never see a pitcher ever have even 10 complete games in a single season in this day and age. Unfortunately, he fell just short of the Cy Young due to being opposed by Dwight Gooden in the best year of his career. He was traded by the Cardinals in 88 but came back for the last year of his career in 1990. In that last season, he casually posted a 12-4 record with a 2.40 ERA at 36 years old.
Speed. Demon. 1985 was a special year for John Tudor, and it was also a special year for this man. A .267 batting average and a ridiculous 110 stolen bases helped him win Rookie of the Year. He would go on to post two more 100 steal seasons before his speed started to regress. In his six year Cardinal career he amassed 549 stolen bases which is second in history behind Lou Brock.
How is it this man’s first year on the Cardinals Hall of Fame ballot? Seriously? He spent all but two and a half years of his career on the team, one of them being because he didn’t play due to injury. Aside from a poor 1993 season, the lowest batting average he ever had was .251. You want to talk about surprising power? Ray Lankford is your man. Remember when I made an excuse for Keith Hernandez for not being a power guy because he was 6’0, 180? Lankford was 5’11, 180. He still had six 20+ homer seasons, two 30+ homer seasons, and two other seasons he just missed the 20 mark with 19. I’m a short guy so I can say this, but short guys aren’t supposed to do that. Not only that, he excelled defensively as well. Ignoring the last two seasons he was with the Cardinals where he started to fall to father time, the lowest fielding percentage he put up was .971, only four times did he finish under .980, and finished .990 or better three times. For an outfielder, that’s pretty damn good.
Now that I’ve broken all these guys down, where would I rank them?
1 – Ray Lankford. A guy that you can pretty well say was a true Cardinal. He spent a year and a half away from the team, but he was special. No way should this man not see himself in the Cardinals Hall of Fame.
2 – Keith Hernandez. I hate to do this to Scott Rolen, but just re-read Hernandez’ stats if you have to. The guy was unreal. It’s not by a large margin, but I’ve got to favor him.
3 – Scott Rolen. He will be in the Cardinals Hall of Fame one day, and deservedly so. But based on the top two, I wouldn’t vote for it to be this year. Like I said, he’s the best Cardinals third baseman I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. I’m sure a lot of people can say the same.
4 – John Tudor. 10 shutouts in one year is nuts. He never really had a career regression point. He didn’t spend a large amount of time with the Cardinals. But when he did, he was simply incredible.
5 – Jason Isringhausen. The competition is stiff when I’ve got to put the all time saves leader at the number 5 slot. The guy, like Rolen, was my childhood. We will never see another closer like him.
6 – Vince Coleman. He was really fast, no doubt. But he never really put up too flashy numbers. He will always be in the conversation as a historically good Cardinal. But Cardinals Hall of Fame? I don’t know if I’d go that far.
7 – Lee Smith. Smith was incredible while he was with the Cardinals. It’s very rare that a closer finishes in the top 4 in the Cy Young race two consecutive years. But, at the end of the day, he spent about three years with the Cardinals. He had an 18 year career. You’re going to need to be with the team a little bit longer before I’d consider putting you in the team’s Hall of Fame.
Overall, there’s some pretty solid candidates this year. Smith and Tudor weren’t with the team long, but they were studs. Vince Coleman was quicker than me after I clock out at work, Izzy is the all time saves leader, and the top three are just incredible. It all goes to show, the St. Louis Cardinals have always been in pretty good hands.