In light of St. Louis media members highlighting the offensive and defensive struggles of Jon Jay so far this season, I decided to write a piece on the top five center fielders in the history of the St. Louis Cardinals.
A quick disclaimer: The top five list is strictly my opinion. It is based on statistics for the players that played before my time and my personal evaluation of players that I have been able to see firsthand. I appreciate any comments regarding my list–it does not matter if you are for or against my picks.
5. Terry Moore (1935-1948)
Cardinal Career: .280 batting average, .340 on-base percentage, 263 doubles, 80 home runs, 513 runs batted in, 4 time All-Star, 2 World Series titles
4. Ray Lankford (1990-2001, 2004)
Cardinal Career: .273 batting average, .365 on-base percentage, 339 doubles, 228 home runs, 829 runs batted in, 1 time All-Star
3. Willie McGee (1982-1990, 1996-1999)
Cardinal Career: .294 batting average, .329 on-base percentage, 255 doubles, 63 home runs, 678 runs batted in, 3 Gold Glove Awards, 4 time All-Star, 1 World Series title, 2 Batting titles
2. Curt Flood (1958-1969)
Cardinal Career: .293 batting average, .343 on-base percentage, 271 doubles, 84 home runs, 633 runs batted in, 7 Gold Glove Awards, 3 time All-Star, 2 World Series titles
1. Jim Edmonds (2000-2007)
Cardinal Career: .285 batting average, .393 on-base percentage, 234 doubles, 241 home runs, 713 runs batted in, 6 Gold Glove Awards, 3 time All-Star, 1 World Series title
The real battle of this list was between Edmonds and Flood. I have Edmonds at number one on the list for a variety of reasons–including a couple videos for you to watch. Edmonds was probably the best center fielder in all of baseball from 2000 through 2005. In those six seasons, he averaged 35 home runs and 98 runs batted in per season.
That is incredible production, especially from a center fielder. He was named an All-Star three times during that span–in 2000, 2003, and 2005. Lastly and most memorably, he won six straight Gold Glove Awards from 2000 through 2005–dazzling fans with diving catches and accurate throws to all bases.
You really want to check out this video to remember just how good Jim Edmonds was at patrolling center field.
Also, who could forget this memorable long-ball in Game 6 of the 2004 NLCS against the Astros?
Performances like these cemented the thought of putting Edmonds over Flood on my list. Sure, I was not around to see Flood play, and I know he made dazzling plays in center as well, but “Jimmy Ballgame” was the complete package for the Cardinals.
In four less seasons in St. Louis, Edmonds had 157 more home runs and 80 more runs batted in than Flood. Flood may have had one more Gold Glove Award as a Cardinal, but Edmonds had 8 total for his career–6 of them being while on the Cardinals. Thus, with fielding being an essential toss-up, I felt it was only right to pick Edmonds, the better hitter, over Flood.
Unlike the top two spots, the 3, 4, and 5 spots were relatively easy to choose. McGee, a long-time fan favorite, made my 3 spot over Lankford because, to me, he was the more complete player. McGee hit for average, as shown by his two batting titles, and patrolled the outfield with ease, as shown by his three Gold Glove awards.
Lankford was a fantastic player as well, but he was more known for his offense than his defense. Also, he was never part of a World Series Championship team (not really his fault, though), so that also affected his ranking. I placed him ahead of Moore, largely due to the fact that he was one of the best power hitting center fielders in the league from 1994 through 2000. It also helps that I was able to watch him play in person, unlike Moore.
Needless to say, all of these players were great center fielders, and it should be seen as an absolute honor to be named in the top five of a position on a team with as much history as the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Future of List:
Oscar Taveras, the top prospect in the MLB, who is currently at Triple-A Memphis has the talent to make this list eventually. However, his health and durability already is proving to be an issue. Also, many scouts project him as being a right fielder in the future. Thus, his future is unknown, but he definitely has the skills to top this list.
I will come to the defense of Jay and his recent media scrutiny. If he is able to turn his hitting back around for the second half of the season, and the Cardinals do not re-sign Carlos Beltran, he will most likely still see a lot of time in center field for the Cardinals next season.
Fans must not forget that before this season Jay was a .300 hitter with decent speed and run production. He may not have the best range and for sure has a below-average throwing arm, but he still finds a way to make some dazzling plays as well. Thus, if he turns things around and has a couple more solid seasons, he may have an outside shot at cracking this list as well. This is a long shot, I know, but it is hard to completely overlook a center fielder with a .289 career average who has a World Series title under his belt.
Until next time…