Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Today's Episode: He's Not Ernie Broglio, but he's close. Or: Put Jim Edmonds in the Hall.

I picked up a rather amusing card this past week featuring the signature of one Kent Bottenfield.  Angels fans should stop reading at this point and find something else to read.  I suggest this article, but everyone else may continue reading.  So, first hear is the spectacular autograph of Kent Bottenfield. 

2000 Skybox Autographics Kent Bottenfield Autograph

In all sincerity, I really like looking at Bottenfield's signature.  He's got a really nice looking graph and takes a lot of time to sign cards, balls, or anything else that you can bring him.  Somewhere I have a ticket stub he signed for me once at a game back in 2004.  It was the slowest moving autograph line I have ever waited in, but well worth the wait.  Bottenfield does not disappoint on cardboard either.  In fact, this is his only autograph issue, but they are rather easy to find.  I just got around to getting this card now.  

So, who is Kent Bottenfield and why is he almost Ernie Broglio?  Bottenfield came up through the minors with the Expos, was traded to the Rockies, and then was released by a bunch of teams before ending up with the Cubs for two seasons.  Eventually he turned up on the Cardinals during the 1998 season which set the stage for a few head scratching turns.   

First off, I am not saying Kent Bottenfield was ever on steroids.  Mediocre player suddenly has a magically awesome year out of nowhere....  Check out the physique, but after being a journeyman long reliever/spot starter he won a spot in the Cardinals rotation during the 1999 season, at the age of 30, and posted a line of 18-7 with a 3.97 ERA.  He was named to the National League All-Star team too. 

Most people would probably place Bottenfield's 1999 season along side the 2006 postseason run of Jeff Weaver and the 1990 27 win performance of Bob Welch as resume pieces for Dave Duncan to be the first coach, non-manager to be in the Hall of Fame.  Duncan was a stickler for details as a coach and got a lot out of players who probably were fringe Major League pitchers.  Jason Simontacchi comes to mind too.  

Even crazier than the fact that Bottenfield went from a fringe starter to National League All-Star is the fact that the Cardinals were able to parlay Bottenfield's 1999 performance, along with Adam Kennedy (shown below dressed as a homeless guy next to Kip Wells) into a trade for Jim Edmonds. 

Adam Kennedy on the right.  Is that a mustard stain?

While most Cardinals fans will always put the Lou Brock and Ernie Broglio trade into the top spot on the franchises greatest fleecings, the Bottenfield and Kennedy for Edmonds trade is not far behind.  Broglio had been a twenty game winner for the Cardinals once and nearly dulicated the feat again before being dealt to the Cubs for Lou Brock and was on the south side of thirty.  In parts of four seasons with the Cubs Brock was hitting below .260 with only 50 steals.  Actually seems like the Cubs were getting a pretty good deal at the time.

Meanwhile, in 1999 Bottenfield was a fringe player having a career year.  Kennedy was a decent second base prospect, but was blocked after the 1999 season when the Cardinals signed Fernando Vina who had a good run with the Cardinals.  So, going into the trade the Cardinals were giving up a decent prospect and a journeyman pitcher for Jim Edmonds who, at the time of the trade, had already won two Gold Gloves while hitting more than 20 home runs four times.  Outstanding considering there are not many center fielders that can hang with Edmonds defensively and few that can out slug him on offense.   

As a Cardinal Edmonds posted a .947 OPS in 8 seasons with an OPS+ of 143.  Add in a few more Gold Gloves, a few Silver Sluggers, a top 5 MVP finish, six playoff appearances, three NLCS appearances, and a World Series ring in 2006.  Edmonds did bounce around between the Padres, Cubs, Brewers, and Reds his last few years, but has almost 400 home runs to go with his 8 Gold Gloves.  The players ahead of him in the Gold Glove count are guys like Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Ichiro, and Roberto Clemente.  Some of his comparable offensive players at Baseball Reference are Duke Snider, Larry Doby, and Carlos Beltran.  

While I am not suggesting that Edmonds is a first ballot Hall of Famer, his defense was incredible and his offensive numbers, given the fact that he played centerfield at a high level, should give him some serious consideration.  He did not have the same impact on the game defensively that a player like Ozzie Smith had, but he was not far behind.  Obviously, Edmonds is a far better offensive player than the Wizard though.  If I had a ballot I would put him in.  Now, my favorite Edmonds play and no he's not a Cardinal at the time:  

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