2015 is Simmons’ Best Chance for Cards Hall

St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame candidacies of Edgar Renteria and Ted Simmons illustrate a potential gap in voting coverage.

Many, many people across the game of baseball believe that Ted Simmons should have already been enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame Cooperstown by now. The reality that he has not yet even been voted into his own team’s Hall of Fame is disappointing, but still very correctable.

Yet, I fear that if Simmons’ omission from the Cardinals Hall is not righted in 2015, it may not be addressed time soon.

I do not like to encourage not voting for someone for anything, especially the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame, for which 2015 fan voting runs through April 20. So, what I am going to suggest is a variation - that you wait a year or two to throw your support behind a new player on the ballot. The reason is that I believe another is more deserving.

There is logic behind this that I hope you will understand and support.

The general concern is a really a fear - that older Cardinals will be by-passed in the fan Hall of Fame vote in favor of more recent, more familiar names. It is not a bad or devious thing; it is simply human nature to vote for those players we know best.

My specific worry for this year’s balloting is that Edgar Renteria, the Cardinals shortstop from 1999 through 2004, could outpoll catcher Simmons, who last played for St. Louis 35 years ago, in 1980. As the most-recently retired player on this year’s ballot, Renteria may see strong fan support, as did the youngest retiree among the 2014 nominees, Jim Edmonds.

If Simmons does not get in the Cardinals Hall in 2015, I believe he will have to wait a number of years more for another, better chance for induction. I will explain why.

First, a refresher. Two “Modern Era” players, those whose careers ended within the last 40 years, are annually elected to the Cardinals Hall solely through fan voting. Each voter is allowed to cast up to one electronic ballot per day for two nominees from among a group of eight finalists.

Again, I am not suggesting the fan voters are doing anything wrong. They will be doing what comes natural. After all, how many more voters saw Renteria play as a Cardinal in the early 2000s compared to Simmons, who last wore the birds on the bat a quarter century earlier?

Yet, anyone willing to look at the numbers or read up on their relative contributions would give the nod to Simmons in a landslide.

My suspicion is further fueled by a feeling that those fans willing to cast a Hall of Fame ballot for the daily maximum each year would trend toward youth – both themselves and their voting selections.

Last year, in the first year of voting, Edmonds and Willie McGee won the fan balloting and entered the Hall in August.

Based on their Cardinals careers, my 2014 choices were Edmonds and Simmons. However, the “fan favorite” status of McGee powered him to the top vote total in the balloting. The outcome was certainly not a bad choice – it just was not the best, in my opinion – and the numbers support that point of view.

Note the results in relation to the most recently-retired players as well as their wins above replacement (fWAR) as a Cardinals player only. (As an aside, I am not intending to do a thorough comparison of these players’ careers, as that information is presented very well in multiple places, such as here at The Cardinal Nation and on the Cardinals official site.)

  St. Louis St. Louis
2014 Winners Last year WAR
Willie McGee 1999 21
Jim Edmonds 2007 42
Back on the Ballot Last year WAR
Bob Forsch 1988 27
Ted Simmons  1980 49
Mark McGwire 2001 22
Joe Torre 1974 25
Keith Hernandez 1983 34
Matt Morris 2005 23
New Additions Last year fWAR
Edgar Renteria 2004 18
Steve Carlton 1971 24
Just Ahead Last year fWAR
Chris Carpenter 2012 27
Scott Rolen 2007 27
Jason Isringhausen 2005 5
Jeff Suppan 2010 4

My underlying concern is a more general one with Simmons as the current, glaring example. I am guessing that last year’s top vote getter to fall short of induction, Bob Forsch, could easily move up and rank among the top two in 2015. Compared to Simmons, who was gone before the peak of the Whiteyball years, Forsch’s 1980 successes are likely more familiar to more voters. For those reasons, I see Forsch’s 2015 candidacy less at risk than Simmons’.

Keith Hernandez is another former Cardinals star who is likely more remembered for his post-St. Louis career as a New York Mets star and later, broadcaster, hence his poor results on the Cards Hall of Fame ballot. Look at his St. Louis fWAR total, aggregated on some bad teams of the late 1970’s. Hernandez would not be among the also-rans on my list for sure. (I recently wrote more about Hernandez here: Keith Hernandez Should Not be Considered a Met Only.)

Carpenter and Rolen

Looking Ahead

Before you suggest that this issue can be addressed “next year” or even the years after, take a look at what is just around the corner.

In 2016, the pressure on the older “Modern Era” players by younger ones being added to the population for Hall consideration will increase substantially. Chris Carpenter and Scott Rolen will lead a class that will also include Cardinals career save leader Jason Isringhausen and 2006 post-season hero Jeff Suppan.

Maybe not all four will initially make it past the “Red Ribbon” nominating committee of Cardinals experts and onto the fan ballot, but at least two of them should very soon. And when they do, they will become immediate favorites to win due to the familiarity factor.

There seems no way under the current rules that a Simmons would ever secure more fan votes than a Carpenter. It would not be any more likely than Simmons beating out McGee, for example, and that race within a race in 2014 was not even close.

As a result of the first-time eligibility of La Russa-era players just ahead, if Simmons does not get in the Cardinals Hall in 2015, I predict it will be some time until he has a better chance of ranking in the top two than he does right now.

Please consider this when making your vote(s). I am not against Renteria’s candidacy, but would rather see him compete with his contemporaries next year than to knock out an older star who I believe to be more deserving in Simmons.

Process tweaking – Make “Modern” more modern?

We will have to see what happens in this year’s fan balloting. If Simmons is one of the winners of the fan vote for the Cardinals Hall of Fame Class of 2015, my immediate concern will be erased. If not, some tuning to the process may be required.

The good news is that Cardinals are open to suggestions.

This specific concern has been raised to them. Initially, it was feared that this could result in a proposal to increase the number of annual inductees. That should not be the case. The current four-per-year total entering the Hall should not grow, in my opinion. If anything, over time, it might need to be limited, but that is a discussion for another day.

Another approach, which the team would consider, is including a player caught in-between - such as Simmons potentially - among the population under consideration for the “owner’s choice” fourth Hall of Fame slot. The spot was how Mike Shannon entered the Hall in 2014. For a Simmons, it would be a bit of a force fit, but perhaps it could work if needed in a few years.

My proposed solution is different, however. I have suggested adjusting downward the 40-year line between the “Modern Era” and “Veteran Era.” A change to 30 or 35 years, for example, could make a big difference. Moving several candidates to the older group would not take away any of the fan favorites from the “Modern Era” vote.

The “Veteran Era” players are added to the Cardinals Hall at the rate of one per year, selected by a vote of the “Red Ribbon Committee,” of which I am a member. I believe a player like Simmons would get a fairer shot in that forum, a group that elected the late Marty Marion in 2014.

At least I know Simmons would have one strong supporter there.

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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