Jim Edmonds has always been a favorite player of mine, and there were times that he could have been, and perhaps should have been, a Yankee. In the spring of 2000, it was rumored that the Angels would trade their Gold Glove center fielder and that the Yankees were in on the bidding. Those rumors were greeted by press commentators with an odd kind of revulsion. They seemed to think that acquiring Edmonds would be an insult to Bernie Williams, and could not conceive of a universe in which one or the other did not play center field. Defensive positions, it seemed, were God-given. Alas, it was not to be. Edmonds was dealt that March, but to the Cardinals (for Adam Kennedy and Kent Bottenfield, a miserable deal), but not before I wrote this reaction to the coverage of the rumors.
As rumors of the possible acquisition by the Yankees of the Angels’ Jim Edmonds floated through the media last week, the predominant reaction seemed to be one of incredulity. This was not because Edmonds is not worthy of wearing pinstripes, but because Bernie Williams is already on hand. Somehow, the idea of the Yankees possessing two Gold Glove-quality centerfielders was difficult to process. Commentators grimaced at the thought, as if they had just been asked to swallow the conceptual equivalent of a peanut butter and onion sandwich. Two centerfielders on one ballclub. It seemed like a potion for anarchy: how the heck do you make the both fit? A great deal of head-scratching ensued.
It was obvious that both men could not play center at once. The factuality of that statement was easily established (a call to the Commissioner’s office was made), but its implications were mysterious. No one was sure what would happen to the odd man out. Would the destination be, as the majority had it, left field, or could it be someplace else? Perhaps Edmonds would vanish into the corn field, a la the victims of Billy Mumy in the Twilight Zone episode "It’s a Good Life."
Well, it is a good life, and left field or corn field there’s no reason that it can’t get better. Left field at Yankee Stadium is a very big place. On a baseball scale it’s about the size of the Gobi desert. Although the left field power alley is not quite the yawning maw that stymied Joe DiMaggio back during the Roosevelt administration, it is still roughly one and a third football fields from home plate to the wall. It remains the deepest left field alley in the major leagues. For anyone who claims that Jim Edmonds OR Bernie Williams would be "wasted" in left field, a simple message: don’t think of it as left field. Think of it as Centerfield North. There is not an outfielder alive who is overqualified to play left field in the Bronx.
You can put it another way, one that has nothing to do with the Stadium: if you have two good outfielders and someone offers you a third, you don’t say no because the guy will be such a good defender in left that he might embarrass your centerfielder. That is the quintessential good problem to have.
There are those who are still holding out for Ricky Ledee to blossom. He very well might, but he also might not. Ledee (1) is 26 going on 27; most great players have established themselves by this age; (2) is very capable of striking out 150 times in a full season of at bats; (3) fielded .943 in left field last year. The average major league left fielder was at .980. Ledee undershot the average by making 8 errors in just 541 innings of defensive play. Of all players who appeared in left field in the majors last year, only two had more errors. They both had more than twice as much playing time as Ledee.
Jim Edmonds is a proven commodity, a left-handed hitter with a .290 career average and 30-homer power. No guesswork here; the guy would be an asset. Yet there are those who will continue to inveigle against the trade on the basis that you can’t shoehorn a centerfielder into left field. Along the same lines of thinking, here are some other reasons why Edmonds would be a bad idea for the Yankees:
• Left field at Yankee Stadium is positively charged; Jim Edmonds is negatively charged. If Jim Edmonds sets foot in left field, the resultant collision of matter and anti-matter will start a chain reaction that will cause the universe to blink out of existence (this happened on an episode of the original Star Trek, and it was pretty scary).
• Playing left field at Yankee Stadium would cause Edmonds, a devout Muslim, to face West, away from the holy city of Mecca.
• Jim Edmonds is allergic to Bernie Williams’ aftershave.
• Jim Edmonds is allergic to Bernie Williams.
• Jim Edmonds is allergic to grass.
• An angry Bobby Bonilla once threatened to "show Edmonds the Bronx," and now the traumatized outfielder shakes uncontrollably whenever he leaves the borough of Manhattan.
• Converting Jim Edmonds to left field can only be done with the express written consent of the Commissioner’s office, and as we all know, the Commissioner’s office never gives it’s express written consent to anything.
• It makes too much sense.