Edmonds returns amid controversy

Edmonds returns amid controversy

ST. LOUIS -- Like he's done for the past nine years, Jim Edmonds walked into Busch Stadium on Friday, got dressed and headed out to the dugout.

Only this time, he did it -- to the dismay of Cardinals fans -- in a red, white and blue uniform with a titanic "C" over his heart.

Making his first appearance in St. Louis as a member of the Cubs, Edmonds not only had to answer for himself as a member of the Cardinals' arch-rival, but also for statements he made earlier this year. Since he joined the Cubs, it appeared -- at least to Cardinals manager Tony La Russa -- that Edmonds was trying to distance himself from his old team.

They were statements La Russa wasn't too pleased with.

"I'm just disappointed in his comments," La Russa said Friday. "I just really ignore them. If I was our fans, our media, our teammates ... if that's what he wants, then just ignore him.

"He was very clear, he made several quotes. He wants to be identified with the Cubs during the 2008 season. I don't see anything wrong with that, but I wouldn't go out of our way to put him in a tough position. He wants to deal with the present, that's OK."

La Russa initially made his views clear in an article with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that ran on Friday. Prior to the game, he went so far as to say the Cardinals should not honor Edmonds until he retired.

It was a strange misunderstanding because, for eight years, Edmonds and La Russa respected each other and helped lead the franchise to two World Series appearances.

La Russa said he interpreted Edmonds' comments as saying he wanted to distance himself from the organization and forget about his eight years in St. Louis. Edmonds said the quotes were taken out of context.

"Why would I do that?" Edmonds said. "I spent the best years of my life here. Why in the world would I ever do that?

"The thing that disappoints me is he would believe I would say anything about the organization in a negative light. ... Did I ever say anything about not wanting to be a Cardinal? All I said was, 'You guys leave me alone, I'm a Cub now, hopefully I'll be accepted.'"

Edmonds was dealt to the San Diego Padres in the offseason for prospect David Freese. Wanting to play on an everyday basis, Edmonds was told the Cardinals would keep him but he would have to split time in the outfield.

Instead of being a part-time player, Edmonds agreed to the trade, and began to start a new career there. The move lasted for a little more than a month.

He was injured in Spring Training, and started the season batting .178 with one home run. The Padres released Edmonds, and he considered retirement. Then, the Cubs called. A rejuvenated and healthy Edmonds was a candidate for NL Player of the Month in June, leading the team with a .319 average.

What was supposed to be an important game between two division foes who are battling for first place now has become something more: A misunderstanding between friends and an awkward return.

"What are you going to say?" Edmonds said. "Obviously, I hope I made a mark in Cardinals history. I tried to do everything I can for this city, and I hope I left a mark. For all the negativity to come out in the last day or two, it's a shame. This is just a baseball game and an employment opportunity for me.

"This blue color doesn't change who I am," Edmonds said.

In his first at-bat in the second inning, Edmonds received a standing ovation from the Busch Stadium fans, and he tipped his helmet.

Lee Hurwitz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.