Jason Heyward is an oft-injured mediocre hitter, who has a reputation as a great defensive right fielder. Jim Edmonds was the single greatest defensive center fielder of his generation and an outstanding hitter who provided a rare combination of power, hitting for average and spectacular catches over a 17 year career than included numerous All-Star appearances and eight Gold Gloves. Edmonds was a career .284 hitter with 393 home
Yet, for reasons that defy logic, Heyward was the number one sought after non-pitcher free agent this off season, eventually garnering a massively overpriced eight-year, $184 million deal from the Cubs, who will regret this long after the memory of the last fly ball to hit Heyward’s glove has faded from memory. Conversely, those geniuses who have had bestowed upon them the noble task of choosing among baseball’s elite and picking the best of the best for enshrinement in Cooperstown, have, according to reports, thoroughly disregarded the talents and accomplishments of Edmonds, apparently rejecting his name from any semblance of real consideration.
At a time when defense seems to be given so much importance, disdaining below average offensive abilities, how can this be the case with a true defensive star who also was at the very top level of power-hitting outfielders? How many star center fielders in history who are NOT in the Hall of Fame averaged 36 home runs per season over a six-year streak or ever had even one of those magic 40 HR – 100 RBI – .300 Avg. seasons, as did Edmonds?
Things are definitely out of sync. Defense perhaps above all else fueled the success in recent seasons of the Tampa Bar Rays, in large part the success of the resurgent Pittsburgh Pirates, and along with its lights-out bullpen, the amazing development and 2015 World Championship of the Kansas City Royals. It seems that defense may never have been considered as important as it is now, and Heyward’s contract is just a single example of that.
So then, why not give Edmonds the due he deserves? Check out this brief highlight video, culminating in “The Catch”, still, many years later, perhaps the greatest ever: