Monday, March 16, 2009

UCB Roundtable: The next to be honored

It's my turn to ask a question of my fellow bloggers for the Roundtable, and after being inspired by an article from Derrick Goold earlier this off-season, I decided to ask this: 

We all know (and have discussed) the rich history and tradition that the Cardinals have. A lot of the greatest Cardinals have had their numbers retired and have been immortalized on the wall in Busch Stadium. Who should be next? 

And speaking of jersey numbers, how soon can numbers like 32 and 57 (that is if you didn't choose one of them as the next to be retired) be put back into circulation, if ever? 

Jeff (5 O'Clock Blogger) Number 51 should be next to join the pantheon of retired numbers. He may not have the Hall of Fame pedigree, but Willie McGee is universally beloved. At least by Cardinals fans. And number 25 should be put back into circulation. 

Daniel (C70 at the bat) I'd rather see 51 saved for special fan-favorite players (not the Bo Hart flavor-of-the-month, but someone that's put in their time with the Cards, like say if Ankiel returned) as a honor. Worn occasionally by the right people. Willie definitely needs a statue out front of the park, though. I really don't know that we'll see another one retired until number 5 goes up on the wall. 57 is basically retired now and I don't think we'll see it come off the wall. I think 32 may go back quietly into circulation within the next 2-3 years. Hancock's death, while tragic, doesn't have the long-term resonance that DK's does. As for 25, I'd keep it back a while longer until we figure out exactly how we want to immortalize this era. If Mac gets into the Hall, I think you go ahead and retire the number. If it looks like he never will--and, right now, that's the stronger possibility, you may make it available in a few years. 

Mike (Stan Musial's Stance) Completely agree with 51 being the next number to retire. Is the "Retire #51" petition still active? #32 should be put back in the hopper. The appropriate amount of time has passed to mourn the memory of an idiot who killed himself driving drunk. #57 is more difficult. I don't think that number will return to service until all his teammates from the 2002 Cardinals have left the team or retired. That means, I hope, until AP retires. Completely disagree with bringing #25 back. McGwire is a Hall of Famer, despite the petulance of the BBWAA. 

Scott (Cardinal Nation Globe) I really like this question. [Ed. note: Why, thank you!] I'm going along with the consensus that Willie McGee's #51 should be formally retired and take it's place along the scoreboard and left field wall at Busch Stadium. As for #57, I don't think it needs to be officially retired like Musial's, Brock's, Gibson's, etc. but maybe just leave it the way that it is, as a memorial. Number 32 should be put back into circulation... maybe not this year, but maybe in 2010 or 2011. Number 25 is a sticky situation... I say put it on the back burner for about 10 years and then reevaluate the situation. Keep it in storage... like his statue:

Haedar (Redbird Ramblings) I'll have to go with the greatest cardinal centerfielder of all time, #15, mr. jimmy edmonds. I think he was a main cog in the cards lineup for a long time and provided spectacular defense night in and night out over the span of, what, 9 seasons? it'll probably have to wait until he officially retires though. I'm not too sure about it, but I think the cards unofficial policy to only retire numbers of a player when he gets into the hall of fame. can anyone confirm this? still, I think 15 should someday, during edmonds life, be retired and placed on the wall. I don't think the number 57 should be back into circulation because of the situation and the circumstances...I'm not sure about 32, but does the significance of the player or his impact on the team contribute to the effort of retiring his number when the player's death was sudden and unfortunate? I don't know, but come to think about it, now that I have recalled the events that occurred, both numbers should be retired. 

Josh (Redbirds Row) Give me Jimmy Ballgame, but do it at the same time 51 gets his due. Edmonds doesn't lose points in my book for wanting the opportunity to start everyday, and heck, he could still be a lefty off the bench for some teams. 

Mike (Stan Musial's Stance) Good call on #15. 

Trey (The Cardinal Virtue) I have to adamantly disagree with Edmonds. He didn't play enough of his career with the Cardinals, and he played too much of it (i.e., more than zero games) with the Cubs. On the more objective side, he was a good player, but I think an overrated one because of his Sports Center highlights. He made many memorable plays in the field and was a very good offensive player in his prime, but he's not an all-timer. I think he's remembered fondly for how exciting he was, but I don't think the numbers totally support him. 

Erik (Play a Hard 9) Edmonds not an all timer? I don't think the numbers support you on that. He is certainly the Cardinals' all-time center fielder, and considering they had Flood, Lankford and McGee for long periods of time, that is saying something. 

Aaron (The Rundown) Really? Got to disagree with you on Edmonds. Look at his numbers at his peak; they aren't good. They're ridiculous. Edmonds' peak years represent the best stretch of offensive output by any center fielder ever not named Willie, Mickey or the Duke (to coin a phrase). Okay, or DiMaggio. Add that unreal output to the perennial award-worthy defense, and Jimmy Baseball was as good as anyone to ever play the position in a Cardinal uni, and pretty much any other uniform, too. Now, if you want to argue longevity, be my guest. But to say Edmonds is just good, and overrated, well, I'm going to have a hard time letting that stand. 

Trey (The Cardinal Virtue) Edmonds had a stretch where for 9 out of ten years (stretching from 1995-2004), he had a great offensive season. The one "bad" year was an injury-plagued 1999 campaign were he only played 55 games in Anaheim. Five of his great years were with the Cardinals. Five great years, and we retire a number? Here's some stats on Edmond's career: played 150 games or more: 4 times. Average games played per year (not counting his rookie year of 18 games): 127. Yes, I think durability and longevity matter. Another thing I didn't like about Edmonds: struck-out way too much. .87 SOs per game played over his career. In his first year as a Card (2000), Edmonds hit 42 homers and drove in 108. Career best numbers, but he also struck out 167 times that year. In 2004 he again hit 42 dingers and drove-in a career high 111, but struck out 150 times. Yuck. 

Willie McGee (who, granted, was even less durable than Edmonds), only cracked 100 SOs once in his career, and struck out over 400 times less in almost 300 more career games. Certainly, with a player of Edmond's power ability, SOs can be a price you pay, but it was often a very high price with him. I know I'm focusing on only a couple of stats here, but my point is that we tend to overlook some of the negative aspects of Edmond's career, because when he played, and when he played well (which wasn't always true for either aspect with him), he was so spectacular to watch. Sorry to drag on, but I feel strongly about this one. What if Griffey Jr. or Andruw Jones had had a few great years with the Cardinals? In their primes, they were probably better than Edmonds. Would you want them on the wall? Edmonds wasn't great long enough in his career and especially not in a Cardinal uniform to warrant retiring his number. That's just how I feel. 

Nick (Pitchers Hit Eighth) The next (or current) number up for discussion in my mind is 25. However, barring a resolution to the "did he or didn't he" questions surrounding McGwire, I think that having 25 on the wall will follow the path of his statue. If the BBWAA finally sees fit to put Mac in the HoF, bring em both out. If by some stroke of luck an exoneration of sorts comes on McGwire, bring em both out. Personally, I'm not holding my breath. Beyond that, I don't think 32 or 57 will ever be retired. 57 will likely remain on the wall in the bullpen, and that will be enough to keep anyone from wearing it. The first time a "big-time" or "name" player comes to town that has worn 32 for his career prior to landing with the Cardinals, that will be the end of the moratorium on that one. For me, and I realize this will get me in hot water with a lot of you, retired number does not equal life-long fan favorite. I'm not sold on 51 being retired. Willie had some great years, he was a good player – but he's got no means of comparison to the guys already on that wall at Busch, IMO. To more directly answer the question, and agree with a previous opinion, it may be until #5 goes up before we see another retired number at Busch. The only other possible candidate, and I hesitate to open this can of worms, would possibly be #10? [Ed. note: Ooooooh...

Pip (Fungoes) With all due respect to Edmonds, his claim to being the greatest Cardinal centerfielder of all-time is not undisputed. Curt Flood, #21, had more win shares in a Cardinal uniform (221) than Edmonds (195 by my count) and played 99% of his career with the team. Yes, Edmonds had some exciting years, but he's also playing in an offensive (among other things) era. Besides Flood, one could make a good case for some Hall of Famers: Frankie Frisch (196 Cardinal WS), Joe Medwick (212) and Sunny Jim Bottomley (214). Frisch wore #3 late in his career, but he could be honored sans nombre, like Hornsby. Ditto Bottomley, who was born and died in the region, and played the majority of his career in St. Louis (the last two as a Brownie). Joe Medwick is a lot like #37 Keith Hernandez: He played the first half of his legendary career in St. Louis but played a substantial second part in New York, which is probably a strike against him. 

Mike (Stan Musial's Stance) This discussion raises an interesting question, at least in my mind: with all the player movement now normal in baseball, how much time spent with a team qualifies a star player to be immortalized with a retired number? Should it be measured in years? Percentage of time spent in the majors with one team? Based on how many of the player's best 5 (or some other arbitrary number) seasons were spent with a team? Today guys who play their whole careers with one team like AP, Ripken, Gwynn are extremely rare. Should great players be punished for 'following the market'? Maybe this is a UCB question for another time... Remember, Nolan Ryan's had his number retired by three different teams (Angels, Astros, Rangers).

Pip (Fungoes) That's an interesting question you raise, Mike. A few quick responses from my point-of-view: 1. Percentage of career spent with team should still matter. Yes, it's rare (but obviously not unheard of). So are retired numbers. 2. I'm not sure that I'd want to use the Nolan Ryan example. First, it's an exception. Second, the teams who retired his number are, to put it mildly, lacking the tradition of the Cardinals. When you have a long tradition of greatness, you can afford to be more selective in choosing your franchise's representatives.

(The Cardinal Virtue) I agree 100% with what you said Pip. I'm not disputing that Edmonds is good enough to be on someone's wall. Just MAYBE not ours. 

My response Personally, I think it probably will be Albert whose number next graces the scoreboard and wall at Busch, and I look forward to it. McGee would be a nice edition, but the more years that pass, the less likely it seems that'll happen. McGwire also belongs there, as far as I'm concerned, but I don't see it happening at all, not realistically. Oh, and I would gladly sign a petition/march in the streets/burn my bra/whatever it takes to get #44 on the wall. But you probably knew that. Regarding the can of worms, I wholeheartedly support this. Tony for president. The other issue that I brought up, concerning Kile and Hancock, is one of memorial. I agree with most of the rest of the group that #57 stays on the wall whether it's ever officially retired or not. #32, as Daniel said, can make its way back into the crowd any year now. As to whether anyone will want to wear it, that's another story. (Purely out of respect, of course.)