The Milwaukee Brewers have just sent former Cardinals outfielder Jim Edmonds to the Cincinnati Reds for outfielder Chris Dickerson. No analysis will come close to matching the emtional reactions across Cardinals Nation, so I’m not even going to try. I suspect that Jim Edmonds will be accused of being a traitor (as if he had any role in the trade) and the Reds will suddenly be a Leviathon that devours every team crossing their path. Of course, none of this is true, but it does help to vent frustrations and fears, sometimes in a public forum. It also helps to maintain a bit of perspective heading into a critical away series, especially when the Cardinals haven’t played well on the road.
The fact is that the Cincinnati outfield is somewhat loaded with talent, and the 2010 version of Chris Dickerson does not play a role. He is an exciting young player, and one that could easily fit in the St. Louis outfield – except for Jon Jay, Allen Craig, and if it got that far, Jim Rapaport and Joe Mather. Dickerson suffered a serious injury and has spent most of 2010 on the disabled list. He has been tearing the cover off the ball in his rehab starts in Louisville (AAA) and looks ready to play, if there was a spot. And there’s the rub – there is not spot for Dickerson on this team. In return for Dickerson, the Reds got a veteran player that knows a lot about the Cardinals. Well, at least up to the 2008 Cardinals. Fortunately, that doesn’t extend to Jaime Garcia, Jake Westbrook, most of the bullpen, and certainly none of the current outfield or most of the infield. OK, he knows Tony La Russa and the coaches. Heck, La Russa has been in St. Louis for so long, everybody should know him by now.
Should we fear Jim Edmonds ? Not one bit. Sure, he is having a good year – his best since 2006. And he will be reunited with former Cardinals MV3 member, Scott Rolen. In 2004, MV3 might have been evenly divided, but not any longer. Albert Pujols is now *THE* MVP and the other two guys would be just backup singers. It’s not like we don’t have out own MV3 working this year, it’s just a bit different. Now an MV4: Albert Pujols is joined by Matt Holliday, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright.
Is Jim Edmonds a catalyst ? Absolutely. We learned that from his time in St. Louis. The real question is, does he make the Reds any more formidable. We will know the answer to that in October, but there aren’t many players that help out a team that has to face Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. If you are a left handed hitter, expect to wrestle with Jaime Garcia. If the schedule doesn’t allow the Cardinals to throw their 3 best arms at you, Jake Westbrook has been impressive in his first two starts and looks like he can hold his own against any other team.
Are the Reds any better with Jim Edmonds ? I don’t think so. I do love the move for what it will do to the Cardinals fans, but we’re not the ones that play the game. I don’t think there is a single pitcher on the roster that will be afraid of pitching to Jim Edmonds, nor are there any hitters or baserunners that will do anything differently because Jimmy E is manning the outfield. In the end, it will all come down to whether or not the Cardinals offense shows up. If they don’t, Weird Uncle Harold or Mickey Mantle could be manning centerfield and hitting cleanup for the opposition and it wouldn’t matter.
There’s a far bigger story to this rivalry, and it involves an important number. Jim Edmonds came out of retirement to surpass 400 home runs – hoping that would give him some legitimacy and leverage when it comes time to consider him for the Hall of Fame. Just as the two teams are battling for the lead in the NL Central, two individuals in this series are approaching the magical 400 home run milestone. One is hoping to bump into it while the other expects to blow past it without even noticing that it happened. The chart below shows how each of them is progressing, and it is a beautiful thing to see.
You know, if we changed the numbers on these axes, this looks chart could pass as a World Series title comparison with the Cubs, circa 1926.
I wish Jim Edmonds great success in Cincinnati, just as I did in Milwaukee. I hope he hits another 10 home runs to reach his goal – but please do it against some other team and in a losing cause. More importantly, I hope that he enjoys watching the Cardinals post season run on TV.
Hall of Fame for Jim Edmonds ? Not until Curt Flood gets his rightful place in Cooperstown. Then we can talk and you can try to convince me that Edmonds belongs.