Just as his Cardinals centerfield predecessor Ray Lankford did, Jim Edmonds wants to return after a year out of the game.
Jim Edmonds’ ambush of Tony La Russa’s ARF “Stars to the Rescue” benefit on Sunday night to announce his desire to come back after a year out of the game and challenging La Russa to hire him was one of Monday’s biggest stories across The Cardinal Nation.
Unlike La Russa’s recent dream of sending new hitting coach Mark McGwire up to the plate as a late-season pinch-hitter, this proposal was neither of his making nor immediately completely shot down by general manager John Mozeliak. That didn’t mean that both the manager and the GM weren’t surprised.
The only commitment given the 39-year-old was that the idea would get a fair hearing in organizational meetings scheduled this week in St. Louis. While the club needs a reserve centerfielder, Edmonds hits left-handed like starter Colby Rasmus, so isn’t a perfect fit.
Edmonds did all he could to eliminate objections, though. He first volunteered to play for free, but then modified his stance. Edmonds still said he is willing to play for the major league minimum salary.
Edmonds’ move reminded me of a similar situation six years earlier when former Cardinals centerfielder Ray Lankford returned to the club after having been out of the game for a year.
Another similarity is that both players left St. Louis via trades to San Diego. After a season and a half with the Padres, Lankford did not play in 2003. As 2004 spring training camp was about to open, the Cardinals announced the signing of the then-36-year-old Lankford to a make-good deal. He earned a spot on the club as a non-roster invitee.
During that 2004 season, Lankford ended up leading the club in starts in left field with 43, but his involvement declined as the season went on. He suffered a wrist injury in late July that just preceded the arrival of Larry Walker from Colorado. Lankford returned when rosters expanded at the start of September but was not named to the post-season roster. He then became a free agent but retired for good.
Lankford first qualified for the Hall of Fame balloting this year, but failed to receive a vote and will be removed from future ballots. Whether it is in four years or perhaps six, Edmonds is assured of collecting more support in his first year of eligibility.
Lankford’s final season didn’t add much to his long and distinguished Cardinals ledger, but at least he ended his career wearing the Birds on the Bat. If for no other reason other than to do the same, I would be in favor of bringing Edmonds to spring training and if he could actually contribute to the 2010 Cardinals team, all the better.