Having read a lot of discussions lately about Gil Hodges, the baseball Hall of Fame and what makes a Hall of Famer, it got me thinking: “How many current players are Hall of Famer?”
I came up with my own list and I broke it down into five categories: No-Brainer Hall of Famers, Likely Hall of Famers, Off to a Good Start for the Hall of Fame, They Have a Shot at the Hall of Fame … and the fifth category is … David Ortiz. I came up with two “No-Brainers,” four “Likely Hall of Famers” and a whole slew of “Too Early to Tell, but Off to a Good Start” and “They Have a Shot” Hall of Famers. Ortiz is a unique situation that I’ll explain.
Hall of Fame discussions fascinate me. There are obviously easy picks for the Hall of Fame — guys like Randy Johnson and next year Ken Griffey Jr. are slam dunks, then there are the guys that are a bit borderline, guys like Craig Biggio or Barry Larkin. They’re the ones who create interesting debate. One thing that cracks me up in a Facebook discussion group are people who get sincerely angry over what they see as “unworthy” people in the Hall of Fame — somehow thinking that guys like Biggio and Larkin or Don Sutton somehow “disgrace” or water down “real Hall of Famers” like Babe Ruth and Henry Aaron and Lou Gehrig. I honestly don’t understand that view. I truly don’t. I feel like there’s bigger things in the world to be angry about — like great players like Dick Allen or Gil Hodges who for whatever mystifying reason simply cannot get in the Hall … or global warming … or Citizens United. Those are things worth getting angry about. I think there are probably some unworthy guys in the Hall, mostly old-timers put in via the Veterans Committee back in the day when the committee was beset by too much cronyism.
There are more than 17,000 men who have ever played Major League Baseball, and a whopping 215 of them are in the Hall of Fame as players. That’s 1.2 percent. That’s one player out of 80 who has ever played. That means 98.8 percent of the guys who have ever played in the entire history of baseball are not Hall of Famers. I don’t think it somehow detracts from Babe Ruth or Henry Aaron’s accomplishments if that number is 1.3 or 1.4 percent. They’re all the elite of the elite no matter what.
Anyway, here is my list of current players. Tell me what you think.
No-Brainer Hall of Famers
Already has 500 home runs, has won a Rookie of the Year award, three MVPs and a .317 lifetime hitter. He’s a first-ballot lock. His numbers have dropped off in recent years, but he should still make it to 3,000 hits. He is at 2,500 hits and is still only 35. He should also crack 600 home runs.
Simply the best Japanese player ever. He is 41 and is sitting at 2,844 hits, so he may not make 3,000. I don’t think he needs to get 3,000 hits to make the Hall of Fame. If you include his Japan League numbers, he actually has more than 4,000 hits. In one 10-year stretch, he averaged an incredible 224 hits a year. And he has stolen nearly 500 bases and has an MVP and Rookie of the Year award and 10 Gold Gloves — add to that a .317 lifetime average. I’m a little critical of his low OPS (.771), but that won’t hurt his HOF vote.
Likely Hall of Famers
Really, I probably could have put him in the No-Brainer category, but he simply hasn’t played enough years yet. He already has three Cy Young awards. He is 98-49 for his career and incredibly is still only 27 and has only pitched seven years. He could win 150 games before the age of 30. He has also struck out over 200 batters five times.
A rare triple crown winner, three-time batting champ, has won two MVP awards, .320 lifetime hitter, led the league in home runs twice, 390 home runs and 2,186 hits and he is still only 32. Barring major injuries, he should easily reach 3,000 hits (he should do it by the time he is 37) and 500 home runs. Even if he doesn’t hit those milestones, he likely gets in the Hall of Fame.
A lot of people seem to forget about this guy. He is a .310 hitter with 218 home runs as a second baseman. He has won two Gold Gloves and has finished in the top six of the MVP voting six times. He is also only 32. In another five years (at the age of 36), he could have over 300 home runs, 2,500 hits and 1,300 RBIs.
Barring injury, Beltre should actually reach 3,000 hits before Pujols. He is at 2,600 hits and will be 36 in April. He also has 395 career home runs and four Gold Gloves. If he stays healthy, he should reach 3,000 hits by the age of 38. When he does, he will be only the ninth player ever with 3,000 hits and 400 home runs (one of those is Alex Rodriguez). I doubt he gets to 500 home runs, but he doesn’t need to. 3,000 hits is automatic Hall of Fame, but if he falls short, he should get in anyway. It just might take him longer.
David Ortiz’s own special category
I couldn’t figure out what category to put David Ortiz in, so I just put him in his own category because Ortiz creates a unique debate. I’ve seen in a baseball group on Facebook that he is the most polarising player in the game other than Pete Rose, which surprised me, because I’m used to Boston fans who love him. Ortiz is pretty close to Hall of Fame numbers just looking at his raw stats, including 466 regular season home runs and 17 postseason home runs (His postseason resume includes a World Series MVP and an ALCS MVP). He also has 10 All-Star appearances and has finished in the top five of the MVP voting five times. I think it will help his case a lot if he can reach 500 home runs. Look at Fred McGriff at 493 home runs who can’t get in the Hall of Fame.
However, Ortiz presents a bit of a conundrum for two reasons. One is he’s been a DH most of his career and secondly, there are pretty strong suspicions that he has juiced. Looking at the DH question, I’d respond that there’s already two players in the Hall of Fame who played a lot of games at DH — Frank Thomas and Paul Molitor. Thomas played over half of his games (1,300) at DH while Molitor played more than 1,100 games at DH. I don’t understand the Hall of Fame bias against the DH. It’s a position that has been around for more than 40 years now, and guys like Reggie Jackson and Harmon Killebrew didn’t get in the Hall of Fame because they played the field.
The bigger issue with Ortiz is going to be the PED suspicions. Ortiz tested positive for something in 2003. He insists it was a supplement. No one knows what it is; that information has never been released. I try to point this out when people say Ortiz tested positive for steroids — “No, you don’t know that for a fact, you don’t know what he tested positive for.” I think the suspicions will hurt his Hall of Fame vote, but one thing that I think will help Ortiz a LOT is if Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell are voted into the Hall of Fame ahead of him. There are also strong suspicions about Piazza (in fact, Piazza admitted he took Andro in the 1990s, back when it wasn’t against the rules of baseball and it could be bought off a shelf) and Bagwell. Piazza got 69 percent of the Hall of Fame vote in 2014 and I predict he gets in the Hall in 2015. Bagwell got 59 percent of the vote in 2014 and I think he has a legitimate shot at the Hall of Fame in 2015 when the only shoo-ins are Ken Griffey Jr. and Trevor Hoffmann. With Piazza and Bagwell, who aren’t in the Hall for one reason and one reason only — suspicion — finally making the Hall of Fame, that will help Ortiz’s case, I believe. Hall of Fame voters are starting to ignore suspicions.
Too Early to Tell, but Guys off to a Good Start
He’s only in his fourth year, but he has a Rookie of the Year award, an MVP, and two second-place MVP finishes. His numbers dipped slightly last year, but he is off to such a spectacular start to his young career, he certainly looks like a Hall of Famer already.
Hernandez to me is close to the “likely” category. I think he needs a few more strong years to make his case. He has a Cy Young (he could have won another one last year, IMO) and has already won 125 games before the age of 29. He has twice led the league in ERA and struck out over 200 batters six times. He could pitch another 10 years and he could win another 125 games at least. We’ll see. 250 is the new 300, I believe. One of the things that has hurt him a bit is a lack of run support in Seattle, but the Mariners are putting together a better team behind him. Another thing that hurts him is for an elite pitcher, he ends up with a ton of no-decisions (86 no-decisions in 10 seasons. Again, I think lack of run support is part of the reason for that. ); It might be completely unfair, but wins is something voters look at. Hernandez has only won more than 15 games once.
A Rookie of the Year, MVP winner, batting champion (as a catcher), three-time World Series winner, .308 hitter and he’s only been in the league five years. He is still only 28.
I’m not a big fan of the saves stat, but he has an incredible 186 saves in his first four full seasons. And an incredible 476 strikeouts in 289 innings. He won’t be 27 until May. A Rookie of the Year award winner and already has won two Rolaids Relief Pitcher awards. Top five in the Cy Young voting twice (though relief pitchers virtually never win Cy Youngs anymore).
Has an MVP and two other top-3 MVP finishes. .299 career hitter with power (128 home runs) and speed (143 steals) in only six years. He is only 28 and has a lot of years left.
Honestly, if not for his World Series exploits, I don’t know if I would put him on the list, but you can’t ignore what he has done in the postseason so far (and I believe postseason play helps with the voting). He’s been on three World Series winners, has a World Series MVP, an NLCS MVP and is 4-0 with a mind-blowing 0.25 ERA in the World Series. He is 67-49 overall in five seasons, but he is still only 25. He could have a lot of years left.
He’s only 25 and already has 154 career home runs. He’s had three 30+ home run seasons out of five full seasons. He needs to stay healthy. He’s had two major injuries so far. He finished second as an MVP last year. He could have over 300 home runs before he hits 30.
Guys with a Shot — get back to me in five years
I would say probably most of these guys will not make the Hall of Fame but I am throwing their names out there for the heck of it. I see these as guys who have had solid careers so far but are probably currently short of the Hall of Fame. However, with another four or five excellent years, some of them might have a chance. What I keep thinking is, honestly, five years ago, I would not have thought of Adrian Beltre as a Hall of Famer, but he has had a nice resurgence of his career in his early- to mid-30s. These guys are all capable of a similar kind of resurgence. These are people that I put in the category of “get back to me in five years and we’ll see where they’re at.”
Simply the best defensive catcher of his generation. Seven straight Gold Gloves. He doesn’t hit a lot of home runs or drive in a lot of runs (his best RBI year is 80) so his offence gets overlooked, but he’s hit over .300 four times and is a career .284 hitter. An outstanding defensive catcher hitting over .300 is nothing to sneeze at. If he ends up with 10-12 Gold Gloves and has at least a couple more years hitting over .300, you have to take him seriously for the Hall of Fame.
Believe it or not, he is still only 34 and already has 208 wins. His productivity has gone down the last couple of years and he’s had some injuries, but if he regains his health, pitches effectively for another five or six years and ends up with 260 to 270 wins, you have to take him seriously for the Hall of Fame. He has won a Cy Young and finished in the top five of the Cy Young voting four other times.
Has won three batting titles and an MVP and is a career .319 hitter. He is still only 32, so another five or six years over .300, he has a chance for the Hall of Fame. Plus, Steve Lardy gets mad if I don’t include at least one Minnesota Twin. Last year, his numbers dipped.
A .299 hitter who has won an MVP and a Rookie of the Year award. His power numbers have dipped because of a bad thumb, but he has had surgery on the thumb. He is also an outstanding defensive player. Four Gold Gloves and amazingly has made a total of 40 errors in eight full seasons — at second base. Steve Sax once had 30 errors at second base … in one season. Pedroia averages five errors a year … at second base. His offence declined last year and he needs to regain his offensive form he had earlier in his career to have a good shot at the Hall of Fame. He’s still only 31.
152 wins in 10 seasons, an MVP, a Rookie of the Year award and a Cy Young (as well as second-place and third-place Cy Young finishes two other seasons). Led the league in strikeouts three times. His velocity and productivity have really dropped in the past two seasons, however. He is still only 32. If he can regain some of the form he had earlier in his career, gets over 200 wins, he has a shot at the Hall of Fame.
He is still only 30. He has a Cy Young and is 91-50 in six full seasons with over 200 strikeouts three straight seasons. I wouldn’t bother mentioning him, except Washington just gave him $210 million over seven years … they must know something.
He is only a .267 career hitter, and the only reason I’ve included him on this list is, believe it or not, he actually has a plausible chance at 3,000 hits. Jimmy Rollins is only 35 and has 2,306 hits. If he averages 140 hits over the next five years … he is at 3,000, and deserves to be in the Hall of Fame discussion. Rollins has won an MVP and once had an incredible season in which he had 30 HRs, 20 triples and 40 stolen bases. No one else has ever done that in the history of baseball. Add to that four Gold Gloves.
A somewhat underrated player, I believe. He has a batting title, led the league in triples four times and led the league in steals three times and led the league in hits once. And a .291 career hitter. He is still only 32 and could easily end up with more than 2,500 hits and 600 steals in another five years.
He has finished in the top 3 of the Cy Young vote four times. Has won 20 games twice and 19 or more games four times. He has 119 wins at 33, and a career ERA of 3.01. If he wins about 70 games over the next five years … time to talk.
He is still just 31. He had a down year last year, but before 2014, he had five seasons over .300 and five seasons with 24 or more home runs. He has won an MVP and came in sixth two other years. .310 career hitter who walks a lot (he has led the NL in OBP four times), hits a ton of doubles and has a career OPS of .950. An all-around solid player, but he needs to do more to get in the Hall.
Honourable mentions for discussion — Chase Utley, Troy Tulowitzki, Mark Buehrle, Mark Teixeira, David Price, Zack Greinke, Carlos Beltran, Evan Longoria, Tim Hudson, Justin Morneau, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester. I’m sure there’s LOTS of others who could be mentioned that I didn’t think of.