February 18, 2011: Jim Edmonds retires

At age 40, Jim Edmonds hoped to tack one more year on the end of a major-league career that had spanned 17 seasons and more than 2,000 games. Unfortunately, just two weeks after Jim Edmonds signed a minor league contract to return to the Cardinals, a lingering Achilles injury forced him to announce his retirement.

In early February 2011, Edmonds signed a deal that would have paid him $1 million for the 2011 season.[1]

Edmonds had followed a winding journey back to St. Louis. After the Cardinals traded him to San Diego in 2008 in exchange for David Freese, Edmonds played just 26 games with the Padres before he was released. He signed with the Cubs for the remainder of the season, then sat out all of 2009 before signing with the Brewers. They, in turn, reunited him with former Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty that August by trading him to the Reds for Chris Dickerson.

Though Edmonds played just 13 games with the Reds, he injured his Achilles tendon while running out one of his three home runs with Cincinnati, and the injury had caused severe foot pain throughout the offseason. The pain had been so bad, in fact, that he was unable to fly to St. Louis that winter to be honored at the annual St. Louis Baseball Writers’ dinner.[2]

“There is still some uncertainty about where he is physically,” Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said. “I’m not writing him in any way yet. It’s an opportunity.”[3]

“I know the last time I talked to him, he was hobbled,” manager Tony La Russa said one day before pitchers and catchers were due to report. “You’ve got to see when he’s available to show what he can do – and then you start figuring. I don’t think he’s playable yet.”[4]

The Cardinals already had a starting outfield in place with Matt Holliday in left field, Colby Rasmus in center, and Lance Berkman in right, with Jon Jay in the mix as a backup outfielder capable of playing all three positions.

“It will be interesting to see how the Edmonds signing will impact center fielder Colby Rasmus,” wrote St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz. “Edmonds is also another lefthanded bat for the outfield, and the Cardinals have plenty of those. But I’ll say this: If his skills are intact, it will be fun to have him back, because Jimmy Baseball is all about big moments, drama, and entertainment.”[5]

Edmonds originally came to St. Louis in 2000 in a trade for Kent Bottenfield and Adam Kennedy. After seven seasons with the Angels, Edmonds immediately made his presence felt in the Cardinals’ lineup, batting .295/.411/.583 with 42 homers and 108 RBIs in his debut season with the Cardinals.

He had arguably his best season in 2004, when he hit .301/.418/.643 with 42 home runs and 111 RBIs, leading the Cardinals to the National League pennant. In Game 6 of the NLCS against the Astros, Edmonds hit a game-winning, two-run home run in the 12th inning off reliever Dan Miceli to send the series to Game 7.

In that contest, Edmonds made an incredible diving catch in the left-field gap that saved at least two runs in the Cardinals’ 5-2 win.

In eight seasons in St. Louis, Edmonds hit .285/.393/.555 with 241 homers and 713 RBIs. Along the way, he placed among the top five in the National League MVP voting twice (2000 and 2004), won six of his eight career Gold Gloves, and won the Silver Slugger Award in 2004.

Despite his hopes for 2011, Edmonds would not return to play a ninth season in St. Louis. On February 18, 2011, he announced his retirement.

“I feel good (about retirement),” Edmonds said. “I don’t have a choice. It’s over with. I can go on with my life like everybody else does. … Probably the best thing to do is take it easy and get it healed and not do something crazy by tearing it completely. I was done, I knew I was done, and that’s why I made my decision.”[6]

Edmonds retired as the Cardinals’ franchise leader with 61 postseason games played and his 241 homers wearing the birds on the bat ranked fourth in team history. For his career, Edmonds retired with 393 homers and 1,949 hits.

“If he were to walk away, it should be as a Cardinal,” said Albert Pujols, who was part of the Cardinals’ “MV3” alongside Edmonds and Scott Rolen. “He’s done so many great things for this organization. When I had the opportunity to play left field and right field, he helped me to get better out there,” Pujols said. “He didn’t have to, but he knew if I would get better, it was going to help the ballclub. That’s something he cared about. It was about winning.”[7]

Upon Edmonds’ signing, Dr. George Paletta, the supervisor of the Cardinals’ medical staff, consulted with the physicians in California who gave Edmonds platelet injections to treat his foot. Paletta warned Edmonds that if he tried to play in 2011, he might rupture his Achilles tendon.[8]

A Cardinals official told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that given the likelihood Edmonds would fail the physical exam at spring training, it didn’t make sense for him to even make the trip to Florida.[9]

“We knew going into this that there were some medical issues that were in play,” Mozeliak said. “We were hopeful that they could be resolved … but we decided it was a situation where he was not going to be able to play and it didn’t really make sense (for him) to come down here and try to rehab.

“As much as we were excited about trying to bring him back and certainly thought it would be fun to get him back in uniform, we certainly respect his decision. He brought us a lot of great memories. He was just a great personality with tremendous baseball talent. He could fill a highlight reel with the impact he had.”[10]

Chris Carpenter, who won the 2006 World Series alongside Edmonds, said he was “an unbelievable player – the best center fielder I’ve ever seen. He had that extra level, too. In those big games, he could pick it up that one extra notch and do something special.”[11]

Edmonds said that he still had the ability to play at a high level, even as he approached his 41st birthday. Unfortunately, the Achilles injury robbed him of the opportunity to prove it.

“The only thing I regret is I should have shut it down last year when I was hurt,” Edmonds said. “If I would have stayed in Milwaukee, I would be fine right now. Really, it was a favor to (the Reds) and Walt. I kind of put myself at risk and allowed myself to be vulnerable (to further injury). It was the worst decision I made, but it is what it is.”[12]

Edmonds wasn’t the only one disappointed by the news.

“He was the best veteran for me when I came up,” said Skip Schumacher. “For all the guys to help me out, the last guy I expected was Jim Edmonds. He was a guy I idolized growing up and watching him play. He meant the world to me, early on in my career. … He was very good in the mental side of it and never hesitated to help a young guy out. He would have been a huge addition to this clubhouse. It’s too bad it ended this way.”[13]


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[1] Joe Strauss, “Edmonds back for try with Redbirds,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 5, 2011.

[2] Rick Hummel, “Ailing Edmonds may not be ready for training camp,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 14, 2011.

[3] Joe Strauss, “Edmonds back for try with Redbirds,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 5, 2011.

[4] Rick Hummel, “Ailing Edmonds may not be ready for training camp,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 14, 2011.

[5] Bernie Miklasz, “Strong case for Faulk,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 6, 2011.

[6] Rick Hummel, “Persistent injury forces Edmonds out of the game at 40,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 19, 2011.

[7] Rick Hummel, “Persistent injury forces Edmonds out of the game at 40,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 19, 2011.

[8] Rick Hummel, “Persistent injury forces Edmonds out of the game at 40,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 19, 2011.

[9] Rick Hummel, “Persistent injury forces Edmonds out of the game at 40,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 19, 2011.

[10] Rick Hummel, “Persistent injury forces Edmonds out of the game at 40,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 19, 2011.

[11] Rick Hummel, “Persistent injury forces Edmonds out of the game at 40,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 19, 2011.

[12] Rick Hummel, “Persistent injury forces Edmonds out of the game at 40,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 19, 2011.

[13] Rick Hummel, “Persistent injury forces Edmonds out of the game at 40,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 19, 2011.

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