The 2023 ballot for induction into the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame is loaded with talent, big moments, historical prominence and star power.
Here are your candidates, listed in alphabetical order: starting pitcher Joaquin Andujar, starting pitcher Steve Carlton, third baseman David Freese, starting pitcher Matt Morris and shortstop Edgar Renteria.
During their time as Cardinals, the five players played on teams that won a combined eight National League pennants and three World Series titles. The fantastic five represented the Redbirds in a combined 11 All-Star games. The two position players, Renteria and Freese, competed in a combined 84 postseason games for St. Louis. The three pitchers made a combined 18 postseason starts. This group collectively appeared in 45 postseason games won by St. Louis.
I fully expect Freese to win the vote and receive the red jacket during the annual Hall of Fame ceremony on Aug. 20. Freese has the recency-bias advantage. He’ll have the largest natural voting block because two or three generations of Cardinals fans witnessed Freese’s epic 2011 postseason. The cherished memories are deeply embedded in their hearts and minds. A vote for Freese is understandable and reasonable and requires no apology.
No one asked for my opinion but here’s how I would rank the candidates:
1. EDGAR RENTERIA. Renteria is one of the greatest shortstops in franchise history. And that’s a meaningful compliment; through the decades the position has been handled by the likes of Ozzie Smith, Marty Marion, Solly Hemus, Leo Durocher, Dick Groat, David Eckstein and Garry Templeton.
– Among shortstops that made at least 1,500 career plate appearances as Cardinals, Renteria ranks second in OPS, home runs, stolen bases and slugging percentage and is third in hits, extra-base hits, runs batted in, runs scored, batting average and doubles. He also ranks fourth among shortstops in onbase percentage
– Renteria’s slash line as a Cardinal featured a .290 batting average, .347 OBP, .420 slug and .768 OPS. The only Cardinal shortstops in the modern era to post a career WAR higher than Renteria are Ozzie Smith, Marty Marion and Solly Hemus.
– Two of the three-highest RBI totals in a season by a Cardinal shortstop were produced by Renteria. His 103 RBI in 2003 were the most by a Cards shortstop in a single season, and his 83-RBI total in 2002 ranks third.
– In six seasons with St. Louis was a three-time NL All-Star, won two Gold Gloves and three Silver Sluggers, and was the starting shortstop for four postseason teams including the 2004 NL champion. He’s the only Cardinal to win a Gold Glove and the Silver Slugger in the same season multiple times. He did that in consecutive seasons, 2002 and 2003.
– And while Renteria’s overall postseason stats for the Cardinals were nothing special, he had his moments. In the 2004 World Series loss to Boston in four straight games, only three Cardinals hit worth a damn: Renteria, Larry Walker and Albert Pujols. In the four games Renteria batted .333 with a .412 OBP and .533 slug for a .945 OPS.
– From 2000 through 2004, with Renteria as their shortstop, the Cardinals ranked fourth in the majors in regular-season winning percentage, made the playoffs three times, and led the NL with 17 postseason victories. His leadership was so strong that Tony La Russa called him “The Captain.” That’s quite a statement from the manager when you pause to consider that those teams had Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, etc.
– During that excellent five-year stretch Renteria was voted to three All-Star teams, collected two Gold Gloves and three Silver Sluggers, and received MVP votes in two seasons. And over the same five seasons he led NL shortstops in batting average (.293), RBI (.388) and WAR (16.2) and was second in OPS (.797), OBP (.325) and slugging (.425.)
I’ve written a lot here on Renteria, and I’ll be more economical in my words for the other nominees. I just feel strongly about Renteria’s Hall of Fame resume and want to bring more attention to it. Renteria needs to be more of a priority with voters. If he doesn’t make it soon — over the next two or three years — the credibility of the Cardinals Hall of Fame will take a hit.
2. MATT MORRIS. With a 101-62 record, Matty Mo is one of only 13 pitchers in Cardinals history to bank 100-plus wins. His 101 victories as a Redbird are tied for 11th all-time. Morris as a Cardinal ranks 10th in most career starts and is 13th in most innings by a starter.
— Among Cardinal pitchers that worked at least 1,000 innings for the franchise, Morris is 12th with a 117 ERA+ which translates into 17 percent above league average. That 117 ERA+ puts him just behind Adam Wainwright (118), just ahead of Carlton (114), and is better than that of Baseball Hall of Famer Jesse “Pop” Haines (109), Andujar (108), and Cardinal Hall of Famer Bob Forsch (101).
— Morris was credited with 22 wins in 2001, tied for the second-highest total by a Cards starter during the post-expansion era (1962-present.) Bob Gibson won 23 games in 1970 and had 22 in 1968.
— Morris has the fifth-best career ERA+ by a Cardinal starting pitcher in the post-expansion era. The only starters that topped him were Chris Carpenter (133), Gibson (130), Curt Simmons (118) and Wainwright (118.)
— Morris was a two-time All-Star and pitched in five postseasons. His overall postseason ERA (4.05) was disappointing but he often pitched through injuries. A lot of guys would have never taken the ball, but Morris did. Why? Because the rotation would usually run out of gas, and he believed he owed it to his team to give it a go. Morris ranks second in Cardinal postseason history with 11 starts and is third for most postseason innings.
— How much did the Cardinals rely on Morris? In his seasons with the team (1997-2005), his 101 wins were 56 more than the next guy on the list (Woody Williams), his 1,377 innings were 788 more than the next starter on the list (Williams) and his 24.6 WAR was more than twice as high as the next starter on the list (Williams.)
— Morris had a 3.61 ERA as a starter which was top-20 caliber for a pitcher during the frenzied peak of the steroid era. From 1997 through 2005, Morris had a better ERA than Roy Halladay, Kerry Wood, Mark Buehrle, Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina, CC Sabathia and Al Leiter.
Morris was an underrated ace for the Cardinals and absolutely belongs in the team’s Hall of Fame.
3. DAVID FREESE. Spectacular. The 2011 postseason is enough to earn a coveted red jacket for the hometown hero. I know that some folks will dwell on his somewhat limited time as a Cardinal – less than five full seasons, and only 466 regular-season games – but he made history and gave the fans a World Series parade in 2011. As the seasons go by without another World Series triumph for the Cardinals – 11 years and counting the more Freese stands out for his massive performance in the 2011 postseason.
— Freese was voted MVP of the six-game 2011 NLCS by punishing the Brewers for a .546 average, .600 OBP and 1.091 slugging percentage. His damage in that series included three doubles, three homers and nine RBI.
— In a dramatic World Series conquest of the Texas Rangers, Freese was named series MVP after batting .348 with a .464 OBP and .696 slug. He had three doubles, a very famous triple, a home run, and seven RBI. I don’t have to tell you about his heroics in Game 6. You were there to see it at Busch Stadium or were watching it – feverishly – on television. Shorthand: saved the season with a game-tying triple; won it on a solo-homer blast to the greensward in center in the 11th inning. Freese struck again in Game 7, firing a two-run double to tie the score 2-2. That got the Cardinals rolling to a 6-2 victory and their second World Series title in six seasons.
Freese’s gargantuan Game 6 home run had Cardinal manager Tony La Russa floating in the dugout … or at least he felt that way.
“In situations like that, it’s almost as if the ball has some gravitational pull on you,” La Russa said. “As it climbs, it lifts you up, body and spirit. The guys at the rail rose up on their feet, craned their necks and raised their arms above their heads. They were uplifted and exultant, as was I, experiencing what I imagine weightlessness must be like.”
TLR spoke for many.
— For the 2011 postseason Freese set MLB records with 21 RBI and 14 extra-base hits. To go with that, Freese batted .397 with a .465 OBP and .794 OPS in the 18 postseason games.
— Freese had another strong postseason in 2012, putting up a .447 slug and .774 OPS with six extra-base hits in 13 games. In Game 5 of the NLDS at Washington and the Cardinals down by two runs in the ninth inning, Freese worked the count to draw a tense, two-out, two-strike walk to prevent the team from sinking. And St. Louis rallied for a 9-7 victory and a spot in the NLCS.
— From 2011 through 2013 the Cardinals won a World Series, an NL pennant and 27 postseason games. Over the three postseasons they won six series, a wild-card game and lost only two series. For his part during the three-postseason stretch, Freese had 48 total hits, including 23 for extra bases, and drove in 29 runs. He walked 18 times, batted .289, had a .357 OBP, a .518 slug, and posted a .875 OPS. His 29 RBI were the most by a MLB hitter during the 2011-13 postseasons.
In his 1,755 regular-season plate appearances for the Cardinals, Freese batted .286 with a .356 OBP and .427 slug and was 15 percent above league average offensively per OPS+. In 2012, he homered 20 times, knocked home 79 runs and was voted onto the NL All-Star team by the fans.
4. STEVE CARLTON. Before being traded to Philadelphia where he perfected his slider, won four Cy Young awards and pitched his way into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Carlton was a three-time All-Star selection as a Cardinal.
In seven seasons (1965-1971) in St. Louis Carlson pitched in 190 games, starting 172. He was 24th in WAR (20.9) among MLB starters over the seven years – and crafted a 3.10 ERA that ranked 33rd among qualifying big-league starters. In his final five seasons with the Cardinals, Carlton went 74-59 and was a terrific No. 2 starter behind Bob Gibson.
In his three-year peak with St. Louis — 1967 through 1969 — Carlton made two All-Star teams, pitched in two World Series, won 44 games, and fashioned a 2.69 ERA. During those three seasons Carlton ranked fourth among NL starting pitchers in fielding independent ERA (2.57), seventh in standard ERA (2.69), seventh with a 121 ERA+ that was 21 percent above the league average. And he was 10th in the NL in strikeouts over the three seasons. Carlton provided this excellent pitching in his age 22, 23 and 24 seasons. Oh, what could have been had he not been traded to the Phillies before the 1972 season.
Lefty pitched in two World Series for the Cardinals (1967 and ‘68), making one start and two relief appearances. He had a 2.70 ERA in 10 innings. Even though the Cardinals lost Game 5 of the 1967 World Series to the Red Sox by a 3-1 score, don’t blame Carlton. He allowed only one unearned run in his six innings of quality work. In ‘68, Lefty was hit by the Tigers for three earned runs and seven hits in four innings.
5. JOAQUIN ANDUJAR. One thing up front: a case can be made for Andujar to rank fourth, and Carlton fifth. It’s a close call, and I obviously have no problem with anyone who chooses to put Andujar above Carlton.
Andujar got a lot done for the Cardinals in his four-plus seasons with St. Louis including back-to-back 20-win seasons in 1984 and 1985; he finished fourth in the NL Cy Young voting in both seasons. Until Andujar emerged, a St. Louis starting pitcher hadn’t won 20+ games in consecutive years since Bob Gibson in 1968-69. (And before that Gibby pulled off the 20-20 in 1965-66.)
In 1982 Andujar won 15 regular-season games for the World Series-champion Cardinals, capping the campaign by going 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA in three postseason starts against the Braves and Brewers.
Andujar was huge in the 1982 World Series. In Game 3 he gave the Cardinals a 2-1 series lead by giving up only three hits and no runs in six innings, with visiting St. Louis winning 6-2 at Milwaukee. Andujar returned for the clincher, allowing only two runs in seven innings as the Cardinals prevailed with a 6-3 win in Game 7.
Andujar wasn’t nearly as successful during the 1985 postseason, pitching to a 7.53 ERA in four starts, with the Cardinals going 1-3 in those games against the Dodgers and Royals. Andujar was notoriously volatile. His embarrassing blow-up in Game 7 at Kansas City was his low point, and ownership ordered a trade that ended his Cardinal career.
In his four full seasons as a Cardinal, Andujar received MVP votes three times, was named to two All-Star teams, and won a Gold Glove. From 1982 through 1985, he ranked second among National League starters in wins (62), had the most starts (145), and was No. 2 for most innings. Moreover, he was eighth among NL starting pitchers with 13.5 WAR over the four years.
I slotted Carlton ahead of Andujar for a few reasons: (A) three All-Star teams to Andujar’s two; (B) a higher WAR value than Andujar as a Cardinal; (C) more wins than Andujar as a Cardinal; (D) a better ERA+ than Andujar as a Cardinal. But Andujar has a check marks over Carlton in some areas including the number of Cy Young votes as a Cardinal and his elite performance in the 1982 postseason.
I was part of the committee that cast votes to form this five-player ballot. And now the rest is up to the fans. The 2023 Hall of Famer will be elected through online voting that begins on Saturday – cardinals.com/HOF – and ends April 21. Fans can vote multiple times. Enjoy.
Thanks for reading …
Have a wonderful weekend …
Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS-AM. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at 590thefan.com or the 590 app.
Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz
Listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast on the Cardinals, featuring Will Leitch and Miklasz. It’s available on your preferred podcast platform. Or follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.
All stats used here were sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Prospectus, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball Net and Spotrac.
For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.