Edmonds? Carp? Izzy? The next Cardinal plaque in Cooperstown will belong to …
ST. LOUIS — Of the 213 wins and 154 saves that John Smoltz piled up in his now official Hall of Fame career, exactly one win was recorded when he pitched for the Cardinals.
Even though it was his final win in a big-league uniform, I’m guessing it wasn’t enough to warrant that his plaque in Cooperstown comes with a Cardinals instead of a Braves logo.
Which leads to a good question: Who will be the next inductee to enter the Hall of Fame sporting a Cardinals logo?
The short answer: It looks like it will be a while, even though a couple of Cardinals greats remain on the ballot and numerous others will debut in the coming years.
A quick rundown:
Lee Smith. Since he spent more time and saved more games with the Cubs, I’m not sure he would go in as a Cardinal even if he were to be elected. And it’s looking like he won’t make it in the writers’ vote. Smith received 30.2 percent of the votes announced Tuesday, barely up from 29.9 percent last year. The Hall requires 75 percent for induction. Smith has two more years on the ballot before his case is turned over to the Expansion Era committee.
Mark McGwire. I’m pretty sure he would enter as a Cardinal, but I’m also pretty sure he won’t have to worry about that decision. His support dropped to a low of 10 percent in his ninth year on the ballot; McGwire has yet to receive as much as 24 percent in a year.
Jim Edmonds. You’ll be hearing a lot about his credentials as he is due to appear on the ballot for the first time next winter. While his offensive numbers are not quite borderline — 393 homers, 1,949 hits and a .284/.376/.527 slash line — his defense certainly was Hall of Fame worthy. Put his bat and glove together and he has a case that should be lively debated. Anyone who believes defense truly is as important as offense will have a tough time leaving him off their ballot. Still, gaining 75 percent of the votes will be a long shot.
Edgar Renteria. He played nearly three times as many games with St. Louis as any of the six other teams he was with, so a Cardinals logo would be appropriate. Of course, he first has to make it. Though he made five All-Star teams and won three Silver Sluggers and two Gold Gloves, his chances are considerably less than great.
Chris Carpenter. He had the ability and certainly the heart, but too many injuries will cost him his chance. He’s a shoo-in for the Cardinals Hall of Fame, though, the first time he is up for that vote.
Scott Rolen. His case also will pay the price of too many injuries, unfortunately. Again, though, if enough voters truly value defense, he has a chance. And though he played more games for the Phillies than the Cardinals, he feels much more like a Cardinal to me.
Jason Isringhausen. Like Carpenter and Rolen, Isringhausen is scheduled to debut on the ballot in 2018. The Cardinals’ all-time saves leader, Isringhausen enjoyed an excellent career, but not a Hall of Fame career.
As for active players, at least two have enjoyed careers that should land them in Cooperstown, Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina. But as much as Pujols accomplished with the Cardinals, there’s still a chance he could do a Tony La Russa or enter as an Angel depending on how the rest of his career unfolds.
Unless Edmonds squeezes in, that makes Molina the player most likely to next reach Cooperstown donning a Cardinals logo. Molina should have no trouble making it, either, despite offensive numbers that don’t measure up to Hall standards on their own. His catching is that special. Another season or two like he enjoyed in 2013 and he might even make it on the first ballot.
Still, if you’re a Cardinals fan, you hope that won’t be for a long time. As much fun as Cardinals would have seeing Molina enshrined in Cooperstown, watching him play is more enjoyable.