Cardinals 1st Hall of Fame fan ballot set

Cardinals 1st Hall of Fame fan ballot set

On Wednesday, the St. Louis Cardinals will announce the eight players to appear on their Hall of Fame ballot for fan voting.

As the new St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame is moving from concept to reality, the actual fan voting process is almost upon us. Of course, one important prerequisite remains – the ballot of names to consider.

What began as a large group of former Cardinals greats from the modern era (the last 40 years) has been whittled down to eight names. Via an online voting process that will run from this Friday, March 7 until April 22, fans will select the two from the eight who will be among the first elected class to be enshrined into the new Cardinals Hall of Fame in August.

The eight nominees for the fan vote include six position players and two pitchers:

Jim Edmonds, Keith Hernandez, Willie McGee, Mark McGwire, Ted Simmons and Joe Torre were drawn from the former group with Bob Forsch and Matt Morris representing Cardinals modern era mound standouts.

Simmons
The voting

In conjunction with online voting at the team's official website, cardinals.com/HOF, fans will be encouraged to use social media to lobby for the candidate(s) of their choice. To register your opinion via Twitter to @Cardinals and its over 420,000 followers, add the pound sign, followed by the player's last name, then the initials HOF. For example, #SimmonsHOF. Full details of the voting process are expected to be announced on Wednesday.

The two winners of the fan vote will join one or two others in making up the first elected induction class.

By secret ballot, a "Red Ribbon" committee of Cardinals baseball experts voted in one individual from the "veteran player" category – those having completed their careers more than 40 years ago. That player may be joined by an important figure from team history, such as a coach, broadcaster or member of the front office. This latter selection, if made, will be done at the club's discretion.

This first elected induction class – the two modern era players selected by fan voting, the veteran player inductee and important figure (if chosen) - will be announced later this spring. The formal enshrinement ceremony will be held on Saturday, August 16, as part of the 2014 Cardinals Hall of Fame Induction Weekend.

Big Mac
The selection process

I was among the members of the "Red Ribbon" committee charged with voting for the veterans and the names to appear on the modern era ballot. I will share more about the veteran process and my views when that inductee is announced.

None of the votes were taken lightly by the selection panel, as numerous angles on each player were considered in depth. Detailed career metrics were at our fingertips, but at least as important to me was to understand the first-hand perspectives of committee members who had worked directly with many of the players under consideration.

When all was said and done, each panel member was allowed to submit via secret ballot up to 10 names of modern players, all of equal priority. The decision to bring forward the top eight onto the fan ballot was made by the club as they evaluated the natural break in the number of votes received by the various candidates.

A personal perspective

Like the others, I imagine, I walked into the selection panel meeting having done my homework. Yet I am glad we did not vote until after every serious candidate was evaluated in detail. I kept an open mind throughout the discussion of each and learned plenty.

For most, the process cemented my feeling coming in, but in at least one case, I was swayed to move a new player onto my top 10. Of course, that meant another had to drop off.

Morris
I had underrated second baseman Tommy Herr's many contributions as a table-setter and run-producer for the 10 years of 1979-1988, a period of considerable success for the club. As a result, pitcher Matt Morris, who actually delivered eight more WAR in two fewer years as a Cardinal than Herr, just missed my ballot. As it turned out, Morris made the top eight anyway, while Herr did not.

I voted for the other seven that made the fan ballot, but two other players I also backed fell short of receiving the necessary votes. They will get another chance in 2015.

Outfielder Ray Lankford was the club's offensive star during some lean years through the first half of the 1990's, but made just one National League All-Star team. Some may look back and Lankford's career and wonder, "What if?" I see it differently, however. Of the players on the modern era ballot, only Simmons and Edmonds logged higher WARs as a Cardinal.

Even 43 years after Steve Carlton left St. Louis, he remains a sore subject for me. In the seven seasons before "Lefty" was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies in a salary dispute following the 1971 season, he had already amassed 77 wins and almost 1000 strikeouts to go with a 3.10 ERA.

To most, Carlton is thought of as a National Baseball Hall of Famer from Philly. To me, he is the reverse Lou Brock – the greatest Cardinal ever to be traded away before reaching his prime. Yet his numbers with St. Louis stand on their own. In those seven years as a Cardinal, Carlton delivered more WAR than did Morris in his eight seasons with the club.

Best of the best

In all likelihood, none of these players would make the top two in the fan vote this first year, anyway. The initial eight are a very strong group, with the competition expected to be fierce. Yet two stand alone at the top of my personal list – Simmons and Edmonds.

"The Catch"
The two are literal bookends of the modern era nominees. Edmonds played with the club most recently, in 2007, while Simmons made his debut the longest ago, in 1968. For the sheer reason of fan familiarity with his greatness, I believe Jimmy Ballgame will receive his fair hearing at the virtual ballot box.

I can only urge the younger voters who never saw Simmons play to take the time to fully appreciate his offensive contributions - delivered while catching every day. Despite having played during the entire down decade of the 1970s, the six-time NL All-Star and Silver Slugger Award winner in 1980 is most deserving.

Many believe Simmons is one of the most competitive candidates on the veterans' committee ballots for Cooperstown, but as of yet, "Simba" has not received the call. Hopefully the Cardinals will be on his line soon.

An earlier take

Back in 2007, another "Red Ribbon" committee member, Rob Rains, joined me and two others in an in-depth exercise to select the top 40 Cardinals players of all time. Here is how we ranked the eight current Cardinals Hall of Fame nominees and several other eligibles.

Cards HoF nominee TCN All-time ranking
Ted Simmons 11
Jim Edmonds 14
Mark McGwire 22
Willie McGee 23
Bob Forsch 25
Keith Hernandez 26
Joe Torre 28
Matt Morris  NR
   
Others  
Ray Lankford 20
John Tudor 29
Steve Carlton 33

Please click on the player name links on the All-Time Top 40 index page to read more about each of these players' accomplishments.

McGee the instructor
Everyone knows what Mark McGwire's home runs meant to St. Louis, but his team tenure of just five years means his lack of longevity may put him behind others initially. My guess is that the steroids issue, which is apparently keeping Big Mac out of Cooperstown, will not be a show-stopper for a considerable segment of the Cardinals Hall voters.

Willie McGee remains a huge fan favorite, but like McGwire, the 1985 National League MVP and current special instructor may have to wait a year or two to get into the Cardinals Hall. Then again, McGee's fan support runs deeply, so don't count him out.

Ever-underrated, Bob Forsch is the only Cardinal to throw two no-hitters and is second in team history in starts and third in wins.

A pair of Most Valuable Player first basemen round out the list. Keith Hernandez was a defensive star, with six Gold Gloves plus a batting title and a co-MVP award in 1979. Earlier, Joe Torre also led the NL in hitting and took home the MVP in 1971.

At the rate of two inductees per year, all of these deserving individuals may eventually be enshrined.

Of course, the binding decision of which two will enter in 2014 will be left in your hands as you evaluate the many contributions of each of the eight great Cardinals to appear on the ballot. Here is hoping you participate in the process!

The Inaugural Class

As a reminder, the Inaugural Class of the Cardinals Hall of Fame was announced in January. These 22 are enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame as Cardinals and/or their number has been retired by the club. They will automatically enter the Cardinals Hall and will be honored as part of the dedication of the new Cardinals Museum and Hall of Fame on Opening Day in St. Louis on April 7th.

Each member of the Cardinals Hall of Fame will be permanently enshrined in the new Cardinals Hall of Fame Gallery presented by Edward Jones. It will be located on the second floor of Cardinals Nation in Ballpark Village. The Hall of Fame Gallery will be free and open to the public.

Tentative renderings of the Stan Musial and Branch Rickey plaques follow.





Links to related articles:
DeWitt III: Ballpark Village in home stretch
Cardinals put details into Hall of Fame plan
St. Louis Cardinals All-Time Top 40



Have an opinion? Of course, you do! Share your view with the author and a group of knowledgeable Cardinals fans on The Cardinal Nation free message board. You can also vote in a straw poll, prior to the opening of official balloting on Friday, at The Cardinal Nation blog.



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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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