I’m fairly certain Edmonds won’t come close to getting the votes necessary for the Hall of Fame, but he has a very good case and is perhaps one of the most underrated players of this era. He’s an eight-time Gold Glove winner with 391 career homers and a .902 lifetime OPS that ranks 10th all time among center fielders. Few people seem to recognize it, but Edmonds is likely one of the dozen best center fielders in baseball history.
I didn’t rate Edmonds when I ran my look at similar players after the 2005 season and don’t have time to do a full run of those numbers now, but I’d agree that he deserves a look; his issue is durability. If you isolate his 11-year prime from 1995-2005, you get an excellent hitter (.293/.388/.554, 141 OPS+) and fielder over enough years to make the core of a Hall of Fame career; quality-wise, my guess is he stacks up pretty well in the company of Earl Averill, Bernie Williams, Kirby Puckett, Larry Doby and Earle Combs, four of whom are already in Cooperstown on the basis of 9-10 year primes. But then look at their plate appearances per 162 scheduled games: 699 for Averill, 649 for Bernie, 678 for Puckett, 630 for Doby, 682 for Combs; Edmonds, at 560, is more in the league with Reggie Smith, Jimmy Wynn and Fred Lynn, all of whom were also Cooperstown-quality talents. The plate appearances largely reflect a lost 1999 season, although he also missed extensive time in 1996 and played fewer than 145 games in 1997, 2002, 2003 and 2005, notching 600 plate appearances only five times in a 17-year career. Edmonds’ per-162 line for 1995-2005, age 25-35: 135 games, 560 PA, 94 Runs, 88 RBI, 30 HR, only 8 GDP. Fairly or not, he’s also lacking the extensive postseason heroics of guys like Bernie and Puckett, although his .274/.361/.513 line in the postseason, two pennants and a World Series ring (all with the Cardinals) aren’t too shabby.
I’ll need to look at his candidacy more closely down the line, but the lost time chips away at his credentials in a fairly substantial way. I know I’ve belabored this point, but far too much statistical analysis overlooks the value of in-season durability. Edmonds deserves a look and maybe on further reflection he belongs in, but he’s going to be a borderline candidate, in my view.