Injury forces should-be Hall of Famer Jim Edmonds to retire

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Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that Jim Edmonds has decided to retire rather than attempt a comeback with the Cardinals because the Achilles’ tendon injury he suffered late last season “has not come around.”

It’s a shame too, because Edmonds remained a very productive player last season even after sitting out all of 2009. He hit .276 with a .342 on-base percentage and .504 slugging percentage in 272 plate appearances for the Brewers and Reds, and was set to compete for a bench spot with the Cardinals after signing a minor-league contract last month.

My sense is that Edmonds has little chance to actually convince the voters that he’s deserving of a place in Cooperstown, but to me he’s a pretty clear Hall of Famer. He finishes as a career .286/.376/.526 hitter with 393 homers and his relatively modest total of 1,949 hits is due in part to his outstanding total of 998 walks. Those numbers are impressive in any context–he has a higher OPS and more homers than recent Hall of Fame inductee Jim Rice, for instance–but they really stand out among fellow center fielders.

Edmonds is one of just seven center fielders in baseball history with more than 350 homers and the others are Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Mickey Mantle, Andruw Jones, Duke Snider, and Joe DiMaggio. He also ranks among the top 10 center fielders of all time in RBIs, walks, slugging percentage, OPS, and extra-base hits. Oh, and he’s an eight-time Gold Glove winner (for whatever that’s worth).

Add it all up and Wins Above Replacement (WAR) on Baseball-Reference.com pegs Edmonds as 68.3 wins better than a replacement-level center fielder for his career, which is the seventh-highest total of all time sandwiched in between Griffey (78.5 WAR) and Snider (67.5). If you think the Hall of Fame should probably include the 10 best center fielders in baseball history, then Edmonds belongs.

Sandy Koufax to be honored with statue at Dodger Stadium

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Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports that Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax will be honored with a statue at Dodger Stadium, expected to be unveiled in 2020. Dodger Stadium will be undergoing major renovations, expected to cost around $100 million, after the season. Koufax’s statue will go in a new entertainment plaza beyond center field. The current statue of Jackie Robinson will be moved into the same area.

Koufax, 83, had a relatively brief career, pitching parts of 12 seasons in the majors, but they were incredible. He was a seven-time All-Star who won the National League Cy Young Award three times (1963, ’65-66) and the NL Most Valuable Player Award once (’63). He contributed greatly to the ’63 and ’65 championship teams and authored four no-hitters, including a perfect game in ’65.

Koufax was also influential in other ways. As Shaikin notes, Koufax refused to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series to observe Yom Kippur. It was an act that would attract national attention and turn Koufax into an American Jewish icon.

Ahead of the 1966 season, Koufax and Don Drysdale banded together to negotiate against the Dodgers, who were trying to pit the pitchers against each other. They sat out spring training, deciding to use their newfound free time to sign  on to the movie Warning Shot. Several weeks later, the Dodgers relented, agreeing to pay Koufax $125,000 and Drysdale $110,000, which was then a lot of money for a baseball player. It would be just a few years later that Curt Flood would challenge the reserve clause. Koufax, Drysdale, and Flood helped the MLB Players Association, founded in 1966, gain traction under the leadership of Marvin Miller.