Picking the Tenth Man

Jim Edmonds

One of the things I intended to do with my series on center fielders was to drop a list of my ten all-time best center fielders. Well, you’ll note it isn’t around. There’s a reason for that and it involves the tenth man.

It took almost no time in producing a list of nine players that I thought worked as nine of the top ten center fielders ever. In fact, it was, at least to me, rather easy. I, as usual, excluded players like Oscar Charleston who played in the Negro Leagues and guys like King Kelly who played back when baseball was two words. But I still ran into a problem, who’s number ten? Or to be more precise who’s the tenth man without reference to whether he’s number ten or not?

It all revolves around a choice between Jim Edmonds and Andruw Jones. Both were terrific center fielders. Jones glided to the ball and Edmonds threw himself at it. Both hit well. Joe DiMaggio they weren’t, but they hit well. Jones had more pop, but there was a small steroid cloud on his horizon when he went over 50 home runs. He played for more winners, but he had a better team around him. Edmonds only won it all once, exactly the same number of times as Jones. I don’t know that either was ever considered the best player on his team (well, maybe Jones the year he popped 50), but both were major contributors to their team’s success. I looked at their sabermetric numbers. They’re a mixed bag.

So I’m not doing a list until I decide which I want. I’ll read your opinions if you want to give them, but I don’t promise to take your advice. How’s that for honesty?

Andruw Jones

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8 Responses to “Picking the Tenth Man”

  1. Vinnie Says:

    While I might have to give Jones a slight edge in the field, from the offensive side, I’d have to go with Edmunds for the fact that he not only has the superior OPS plus, but that he walked far more times and burned up far fewer outs. If you like the more conventional stats, he leads Jones in those too.

    Here are the 162 game averages.
    Jones.
    162 654 574 92 147 29 3 33 98 12 5 67 129 .256 .338 .488 .826 111
    Edmunds.
    162 643 552 101 157 35 2 32 97 5 4 80 139 .284 .376 .527 .903 132

  2. The Baseball Idiot Says:

    What’s wrong with a list of the 11 best centerfielders of all time?

    Is there any reason to actually limit it?

  3. sportsphd Says:

    I always preferred Edmonds, though I’m not sure I have a great reason for it. Jones felt, to me, like he should have been better than he was. Remembering the 2 home runs against the Yankees in 1996 at age 19, he should have been an all time great. In many ways, Andruw Jones suffered from Al Kaline disease in my mind. So much greatness at such a young age makes me expect it to last, and the player feels disappointing if it doesn’t. Edmonds did not come up until he was 23, and his career did not nosedive at age 30 like Jones. So I’d vote for Edmonds, but I would not fault someone for picking Andruw Jones over him.

  4. William Miller Says:

    I’d take Edmonds over Jones. Jones was perhaps the best defensive center fielder ever for about six years, but as a hitter, well, he swung hard. Edmonds was a top 10-12 defensive center fielder, but a much better hitter. Jones career OPS+ is 111, about the same as the immortal Hal Morris. Edmonds’ is a HOF worthy 132, same as Tony Gwynn, Al Simmons, and Joe Morgan.
    Jones went into serious decline both offensively and defensively by age 30. Edmonds remained highly productive through age 35.
    Having said that, both are (were) better than any currently active regular center fielder.
    Bill

  5. vinnie Says:

    Where would you place Wally Berger? 14? 18? 20?

    • verdun2 Says:

      As the next post after this one indicates, I ultimately went with Edmonds. I stuck Jones at 11 and beyond that Ididn’t put an order to my list. To me he goes in a list about the same place as Earl Averill, Hack Wilson etc (short but productive careers with power). Off the top of my head I’d guess that puts him in the teens somewhere, but further study might change that. Big fan of his?
      v

  6. vinnie Says:

    Ever since I read about his rookie home run record on the back of one of my 57 baseball cards, I was intrigued with the guy. It was amazing how he seemed to flourish as a power hitter in that gigantic park in Boston, with the winds blowing in against him to boot. Not only that, he started for the NL in the first two all star games and must at the time have been considered by his contempories to have been pretty special, playing as he did on all those rotten Brave teams of the era. He happened to have his best year during the Braves horrible 1935 season and he accounted for almost a quarter of all their offense.
    Another intriguing thing is how little there seems to be written about him. He appears suddenly in the high minors and puts up some terrific numbers before being purchased by the Braves. I’ve even heard that the Yankees might have been able to sign him, along with Chuck Klein. Just imagine an outfield of Ruth, Berger, Klein and what that might have looked like?

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