Cincinnati Reds GM Walk Jocketty, who made his name with the St. Louis Cardinals last decade, made his presence felt today as he engineered a waiver trade with the Milwaukee Brewers. Cincinnati gets veteran - and formal Cardinal - Jim Edmonds in exchange for the relatively young, injury-addled outfielder Chris Dickerson. (He's 28.)
Here in Chicago, the name "Jim Edmonds" conjures a cornucopia of emotions. In his years with the Cardinals, he was a Cubs killer who wore down North Side pitchers, popped bombs into the bleachers with regularity and ran down fly balls with sometimes-suspiciously dramatic tumbles in center field. But all that changed in 2008 when the Cubs snagged him to platoon in centerfield with Reed Johnson after Edmonds was released by the San Diego Padres.
Many Cubs fans derided the move as ridiculous - not only because Edmonds was a hated former rival, but also because he appeared to have lost his ability to hit a baseball in any sort of productive manner. Jimmy Ballgame proved all those blue-clad naysayers wrong: Hitting 19 home runs with the 97-game winners - good for a .568 slugging percentage to accompany a .369 OBP.
And once the Cubs had clinched the NL Central that season (with Edmonds himself catching the last out of the clinching game, no less), many Chicago fans felt the best was yet to come. Here was a guy who had been to the postseason six times with the St. Louis Cardinals - including a World Series win in 2006. He was the coveted playoff veteran, whose sage presence would steady the nerves of a team trying to overcome a century-long championship drought.
None of us fans know exactly what role Jim Edmonds played in the Cubs clubhouse in October of 2008. We don't know what he said or whether he even tried to step over team leaders such as Derrek Lee and Carlos Zambrano when things started to go awry with the very first NLDS game vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers. But we do know that the Cubs failed miserably in the postseason that year, losing three straight to L.A. And we know Jim Edmonds wasn't even asked to rejoin the team the following year.
Which brings us to today. Once again, after taking a year off from baseball in 2009, Jim Edmonds has resurrected himself to hit .286/.350/.493 (.843 OPS, .369 wOBA) with the Milwaukee Brewers this season. And he brings his power, patient at-bats and veteran wisdom to the Cincinnati Reds, who have surprised many by getting - and staying - contention this year.
But will it matter? Will his presence make more difference in Cincy than it did in Chi-Town, assuming the Reds hold off the Cardinals to win the NL Central? He'll get plenty of credit if the Reds do make and succeed to any extent in the 2010 postseason. And, at an even-steven 40 years old, he'll likely be just as quickly cast aside if he doesn't. But as Cubs fan look longingly and, in some cases, bitterly at what Cincinnati and its all-too-familiar manager do this year, you can bet they'll be gazing wistfully at Jim Edmonds and remembering a season not too long ago that rose to dizzying heights and fell to staggering depths.
(As a parting, parenthetical side note, we also must ask: If the Brewers had indeed made Edmonds available, and apparently they did, should the White Sox have considered him? They still need a more consistent, left-handed, middle-of-the-order bat. Could Kenny Williams have dealt an outfield prospect to the Reds? Something else? No sense crying over spilt milk, we suppose. But one wonders.)