15 and 51: Two Numbers That Aren’t That Different

Recently my father and I have come to disagree on who the greatest Cardinals center fielder of all time is. He is standing firm in his belief that it is Willie McGee. I however, am confident that it is Jim Edmonds.

McGee was not noted for his power but he hit some big home runs in the early 80’s, helping the Cards claim a world title in 1982. McGee also made some very tough catches while patrolling the astroturf in Busch Stadium II. McGee did a few things that set him apart from Edmonds however. He (McGee) won both the National League MVP and the National League Batting Title in 1985. (That year ended with the Cards falling to the Royals in the World Series…known as the I-70 Series).

Both Edmonds and McGee hit some clutch home runs and made game saving catches. McGee hit two home runs in Game 3 of the ’82 World Series and made a spectacular catch in that game to seal the victory and a World Series Title. Edmonds hit a walk-off home run in Game 6 of the ’04 NLCS and made game a game saving catch in Game 7 to helps send the Cards tot he ’04 World Series. Edmonds was also a member of the 2006 World Champion Cardinals, helping secure the title by contributing with 4 RBI’s.

Unable to reach an agreement, I thought I would do some number crunching and compare statistics. (Note: The stats are only taking into account games in which both men played for the Cardinals and played as an outfielder).

The Case for #51

McGee played 13 of his 18 professional seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals. As a member of the Cardinals he hit .294 with 83 Home Runs, 693 RBI’s, and 760 Runs Scored. He had an On Base Percentage of .325 along with 301 Stolen Bases.

In the Field, McGee converted most of his opportunities helping him attain a Fielding Percentage of .975. He had 93 assists and only committed 86 errors in 3,471 chances.

McGee was a member of three National League Champion teams (’82,’85,’87) and won one World Series Title (’82) as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. McGee was honored many ways. He was a 4-Time All-Star, a 3-Time Gold Glove Winner, was awarded the 1985 NL Batting Title and 1985 Silver Slugger award, along with the 1985 NL MVP award.

“I like being on the edge, but staying within your abilities. I donít try to jump over buildings. I go to the same park, where I know the terrain. I know what I can do and canít do. I eliminate as many risks as I can.” – Willie McGee

The Case for #15

Jim Edmonds played in St. Louis for 8 seasons. As a member of the Cardinals he hit .285 with 241 Home Runs (more than any other Cardinals centerfielder), 713 RBI’s and 690 Runs Scored. His 711 walks helped him record an On Base Percentage of .402. Edmonds did not run well however and as a result only had 37 Stolen Bases.

Edmonds became a fan favorite for his theatrics in the field. His dramatic diving catches paired with a strong and accurate arm helped him produce a fielding percentage of .987. He recorded 74 assists with only 34 errors in 2,550 chances.

Edmonds was also honored numerous times as a member of the Cardinals. He won 6 Gold Gloves and a 2004 Silver Slugger, and was also a 3-Time All-Star Selection. He played on two National League Champion teams (’04,’06) and was a member of the most recent World Series wining team in 2006.

“Offensively and defensively, he’s (Jim Edmonds) a great, great player. He amazes me every day. You talk about players, he’s a player. It’s not just the numbers that you put up. It’s on both sides of the ball. It’s understanding the game. He’s as good as it gets.” – Scott Rolen

Verdict

Both of these men were spectacular players. They performed in the clutch and were leaders both on and off the field. This thought led me to the following conclusion:

It honestly does not matter which of them is better. I shouldn’t be comparing them and separating them. Regardless of opinion, I should consider myself lucky to have watched two very skilled outfielders play baseball. So even though many people will continue this argument, I am done with it. I will stop and say that I am lucky and say thank you…thank you Willie McGee and thank you Jim Edmonds. Thank you both!

I say retire both numbers…Retire 15 and Retire 51….after all, they may just have been mirror versions of each other in a different time period with slight differences.

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