If one were to perfectly describe the 1980’s in regards to the St. Louis Cardinals, it would simply be: Whiteyball.
Have only one or two power hitters, and let the patient speedsters do the rest of the work. And throughout the decade, it did work. Three National League pennants, and one World Series title, the Cardinals were one of the best teams in baseball.
There were plenty of notable players who were a part of it, and one that comes to mind is Vince Coleman. Coleman is the last man in baseball to have stolen 100 bases in a season (he accomplished the feat in 1987). He’s also an inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
So is it time for him to be in another Hall of Fame?
Welcome to this week’s episode of The Cooperstown case, and we’ll look at the potential case Coleman has.
First, let’s go over his eligibility.
Coleman received 0.6 percent of the vote his only year on the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot for Cooperstown (back in 2003). Under the Veterans Committee’s new format regarding players per era, Coleman will first be eligible with the committee in 2019.
Now, before we delve deep into the statistics, here are some of the notable accomplishments accumulated by Coleman in his career:
- Sixth all-time in career stolen bases (752)
- National League Rookie of the Year (1985)
- Most stolen bases in a season by a rookie (110) in 1985
- Holds three of the top six stolen base seasons: #3 (110 in 1985), #4 (109 in 1987) and #6 (107 in 1986). The three seasons were consecutive.
- The last man to steal 100 bases in a season, in 1987.
- Two-time All-Star (1988–89)
- Led the Major Leagues in stolen bases four times (1985–87, 1990)
- Led the National League in stolen bases six consecutive years (1985–90)
- Holds the MLB record with 50 consecutive stolen bases without being caught stealing (September 18, 1988 through July 26, 1989)
While those sound like nice accomplishments (and they are), there’s not much more around him. He had an 81% success rate when it came to stealing bases, getting caught just 177 time in his 13-year career. Coleman hit .264 lifetime and had 1,425 hits, but if he were to be inducted in the future, he would have one of the bottom two OPS+ of any position player (the lowest is at 82 by Rabbit Maranville while Coleman’s is at 83).
To make matters worse, he did have some career blunders, and we’re not just talking about the time in 1985 when Busch Stadium’s artificial turf crushed his leg. Coleman once stated in an interview he didn’t know who Jackie Robinson was (during his rookie season). Yea… that’s just not smart. No other way to put it.
There isn’t any doubt that Coleman, who retired in May 1998, was a successful baseball player. But there’s plenty of debate over whether he is Cooperstown worthy.
So, what do you think?
Feel free to discuss below, and tune in next week for another edition of The Cooperstown case.