The last time we were here, Bill made a strong case for Jim Edmonds as a Hall of Famer. It's fair to say that there was a lot of disagreement in the comments. The recent passing of Duke Snider, however, gives us an important reason to revisit the debate.
Snider spent 18 years in the majors, almost all of them with the Dodgers. In that time, he posted a .295/.380/.540 batting line, and a 140 OPS+. He hit 407 homers, which was 10th all time by the time he retired. Between 1940-1975, he produced the 13th-highest Wins Above Replacement of any player in baseball. As you can see from this list, every single player in front of him is an inner-circle Hall of Famer. But during his career, Snider was pretty clearly the third-best center fielder in the game, behind Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. Heck, between Mays and Mantle, he was the third-best center fielder in his own city.
But does anyone really want to argue that Duke Snider doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame? Of course not -- his statistical record is overwhelming. And so was his impact on the game in the 1950s, when he played in five World Series.
But here's the crazy part, you know who was almost exactly as good as Duke Snider was? Jim Edmonds. Roughly the same number of homers, the same batting average, OBP, and slugging percentage. Edmonds played in a better offensive era, so his OPS+ is roughly 8 percent worse than Snider's, but his excellent defense makes up the difference. In fact, according to Baseball Reference, Edmonds barely edges Snider in Wins Above Replacement, 68.3 to 67.5, despite playing a full year less. And both Snider and Edmonds tallied six seasons in which they finished in the top 10 in their league in WAR.
What's the problem with Edmonds' candidacy? Aside from the "milestones" problem, there's the prevailing notion that Edmonds was never the best player in the National League. But just as you can't hold it against Snider that he wasn't better than Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle, two of the 20 best baseball players of all time, you similarly can't hold it against Edmonds that he wasn't as good as Barry Bonds or Ken Griffey Jr. Because those players are so good, so transcendent, that they rise above even "ordinary" Hall of Famers like Snider and Edmonds. Plus, that analysis doesn't even take into account how much more difficult it is to be one of the best players in today's game, given that Hall of Fame candidates are competing against roughly twice as many players, due to baseball's expansion.
Duke Snider debuted on the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot in 1970 and got 17 percent of the vote. It took Duke Snider 11 years before the voters fully recognized his greatness. And today, that greatness is universally celebrated and recognized as we celebrate his full life and career (which included these fun appearances on the old "What’s My Line?", by the way). Hopefully, Jim Edmonds will get that same chance to prove his worth and gain your recognition for everything he did on the diamond too.