The ballot for the Cardinals Hall of Fame Class of 2023 was released on Thursday, with voting continuing through April 21. Fans will have the opportunity to vote for one of Joaquin Andujar, Steve Carlton, David Freese, Matt Morris and Edgar Renteria to take their place alongside the team’s numerous legends inside Ballpark Village. 

This year’s honor will almost certainly go to Freese, and it’s easy to see why. While he may statistically be the “weakest” candidate on this year’s ballot, the Wildwood native is responsible for arguably the greatest moment in team history, and his story as a hometown kid who went on to become 2011 World Series MVP for the team he grew up rooting for has made him the folk hero of an entire generation of Cardinals fans. 

There is a case to be made for each of these players, all of whom have contributed greatly to the team’s legacy and storied history. The beautiful thing about the Cardinals Hall of Fame is that all of these players will likely get in at some point or another, but as Edgar Renteria enters his eighth year on the ballot, I feel as though the former Cardinals shortstop has waited long enough to receive his red jacket. 

After spending the first three seasons of his career with the Florida Marlins, Renteria was traded to the Cardinals ahead of the 1999 season, and quickly became the team’s starting shortstop and leadoff hitter. Renteria was not an unknown player when he arrived in St. Louis, having helped the Marlins win the 1997 World Series and serving as the team’s lone All-Star representative a year later. But it was with the Cardinals that Renteria would develop into one of the best shortstops in baseball at the time, during a time when the franchise would begin an era of National League dominance. 

In six seasons in St. Louis, Renteria was a three-time Silver Slugger, a two-time Gold Glove winner, and a three-time All-Star. The early 2000s Cardinals introduced fans to Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen and Chris Carpenter, players who became the faces of the franchise during one of its longest runs of sustained excellence ever, the Midwest answer to the New York Yankees’ Core Four.

But for all of the greatness of Carpenter and the MV3, Renteria was arguably the most underrated player on those Cardinals teams. Revered by his teammates, Renteria remains the only shortstop in team history to win Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards in back-to-back seasons. Among Cardinals shortstops, Renteria ranks first in OPS, second home runs and stolen bases, as well as third in hits, extra base hits, RBI and batting average. 

The 2003 season is largely remembered by Cardinals fans as a disappointment, as the team finished third in the NL Central and missed the playoffs for the only time in a seven year span from 2000 to 2006. But during this otherwise underwhelming season, Renteria delivered arguably the greatest season ever from a Cardinals shortstop, batting .330 with 194 hits, 47 doubles, 13 home runs, 100 RBI and 34 stolen bases, good for a career-high 6.3 fWAR and a 128 wRC+. 

Renteria left St. Louis in free agency after the 2004 season and remained a productive player for the final seven years of his career, putting together an All-Star season with the Atlanta Braves in 2006 and winning 2010 World Series MVP honors as a member of the San Francisco Giants. He retired in 2012 a year after embarking on the customary Walt Jocketty Reunion Tour with the Cincinnati Reds that so many early 2000s Cardinals (including Scott Rolen) were part of in those days. 

For as great as Renteria’s Cardinals career was, his time in St. Louis has been largely overshadowed by his legendary teammates, and as a result, his support on the Cardinals Hall of Fame ballot has been tepid in his first several years of eligibility. I believe this is unfair to Renteria, arguably the greatest shortstop in Cardinals history not named Ozzie Smith, and a player who was absolutely vital to the team’s transformation into a yearly World Series contender rather than just a place for Mark McGwire to hit home runs.

While I was first introduced to Cardinals baseball during McGwire’s home run chase of 1998, my formative years as a Cardinals fan began with those early 2000s teams powered by Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds and Carpenter. Each of those teams was stabilized by the offensive spark, the steady defense and the leadership of Edgar Renteria. For me, he was the bridge from the Cardinals who were just a fun thing to watch in the summer, to a team that became an obsession of mine. 

Three of those players have already received their red jackets, with Pujols to follow in a few years. It’s time for Renteria to do the same.

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