The Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee Class of 2012 is scheduled to be announced on Monday. While every major sport’s annual class is always something that can be debated for weeks, months and years, nothing quite compares to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The can of worms that the steroid era provided the game both on and off the field had been weeded out for the most part (until Ryan Braun allegedly slipped up). The shadow that hung over the game for nearly a decade continues to hang over the Hall of Fame voting, balloting and induction process.
There are dozens and dozens of former players that had truly blessed careers from an individual statistical perspective, and they coupled that with some real team success. Household names that abused their power, took advantage of the system and cheated. They may never get in, and a strong case can be made that they never should.
That being said, here are 10 current superstars that (at the moment) have played the game cleanly, beautifully, and are locks for the Hall when their time comes.
Not much of an argument here. Doc Halladay has been one of the game’s most elite and dominating forces for a decade now, and he shows no signs of letting up.
Halladay spent his first 11 seasons in the big leagues playing for the AL East’s bottom feeder Toronto Blue Jays. Despite being on a less than competitive team and having to face Boston and New York frequently, Halladay dominated at his position. He was a six-time All-Star for the Blue Jays.
Throughout his career he has been known for his superb control when throwing a fastball, 12-6 curve, and a nasty cut fastball. He has always been an aggressive pitcher not afraid to pitch in or out, no matter the hitter.
He is now an eight-time All Star, two-time Cy Young winner, member of the perfect game club, and there is that little no hitter he threw in the 2010 postseason too. Halladay has 188 career wins, 1,934 career strikeouts so 2012 will bring him 200 and 2,000. Soon after that, Cooperstown.
Mariano Rivera. The Sandman. Mo is possibly the most dominating pitcher of all time, starters and closers considered. It’s hard to think of another guy that from a managerial perspective is dependable and exudes such confidence. And from an opposing hitters perspective, beyond lethal.
Mo has a resume that can match up with the best of them, regardless of position, or even sport. His “two-minute drill” is routinely a three out drill, but he’ll come in during the eighth and still get it done.
Rivera has been a twelve-time All Star, five-time World Series champion, five-time AL Relief Man of the year, and three-time Delivery Man of the Year award winner. He was the 1999 World Series MVP and the 2003 ALCS MVP as well. The cherry on top is the fact that he is the all-time leader in regular season saves, post season saves, and games finished.
People continue to question his age, health, and consistency, yet all he does is win (technically, save). In 2011 Rivera saved 44 of 49 games, had an ERA under 2.00 and a WHIP under 1.00. They don’t get much better than Mo.
Ivan Rodriguez is the Mariano Rivera of catchers, old, reliable, and confident. “Pudge” has played for six different MLB clubs throughout his illustrious 20 year career. During those twenty years he has dominated his position and sport from both an offensive and defensive perspective.
Rodriguez was the 1999 AL MVP, is a seven-time Silver Slugger Award winner, thirteen-time Gold Glove Award Winner, a fourteen-time All Star, a World Series Champion, and a member of the 2009 All-WBC Team.
He is a member of the 300 home run club, 1,000 RBI club and 500 doubles club. Barring any major health setbacks, he will also become a member of the truly special 3,000 hit club in 2012. Through 2011, Pudge leads all catchers in MLB history in career games, putouts, putout percentage, and assists.
Anyone that looked would be hard pressed to find a better guy on and off the field than Pudge.
Albert Pujols just wrapped up his tenth season in the MLB. He spent all ten years with the St. Louis Cardinals until he signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim this offseason.
In his ten seasons of service, he has been a nine-time All Star, two-time World Series Champion, three-time MVP, two-time Hank Aaron Award winner, six-time Silver Slugger, and two-time Gold Glove Award winner. He’s also been Rookie of the Year, a batting champion, home run champion, and RBI champion. As any sports fan knows, he just crushes the ball day in and day out.
Since he has played in ten seasons, it makes it very simple to dissect his stats. His yearly averages are 207 hits (2,073 career), 45 doubles (455 career), 44 home runs (445 career) and 132 RBIs (1,329 career). His lifetime batting average is .328 and his OPS is a ridiculous 1.037.
It’s not crazy to expect Albert to eclipse 3,000 hits, 2,000 RBIs, and possibly break Barry Bonds record for all-time career home runs.
I think every true baseball enthusiast has to love Dustin Pedroia the way I do. Since I first saw him play back in 2006 I have been beyond enamored. His whole life he has been an undersized and undervalued commodity. When he finally got a chance to prove himself, he did just that on the biggest stage.
Pedroia’s position, second base, is a bit of an influx position these days. Second basemen don’t exactly hit for power nor do a large group of them get on base an abnormally high amount. Not a lot of them pad the heart of their teams order either.
Pedroia is a rare and unique exception. Save for his MVP season in 2008, he has never put up gaudy numbers that jump off the page. However he has displayed a love for the game, a willingness to work hard, and a passion for success.
In just four full seasons in the show he has been a three-time All Star, a Rookie of the Year, a World Series Champion, an MVP, a Silver Slugger recipient, and a two-time Gold Glove Award Winner. He’s also a career .305 hitter with an OBP near .400.
When it’s all said and done, Pedroia will be loved for the way he played the game and the result that he was in turn rewarded with.
Chipper Jones is an old school kind of guy. From the outside looking in, as a fan, I see in Chipper a guy that truly loves and respects the game he plays. I see a guy that plays for his fans and his teammates and for the name on the front of the jersey before the name on the back.
Chipper’s got a pretty thorough resume to back the eye test also. He was the first pick overall in the 1990 amateur draft. He won the Sporting News Rookie of the Year Award in 1995 and hasn’t slowed down since. Chipper is a seven-time All Star, two-time Silver Slugger, and was the NL MVP in 1999.
He is a member of the 2,500 hit club, the 1,500 RBI club, the 500 doubles club, and his 454 career home runs is third all-time for a switch hitter. He also had eight consecutive 100+ RBI seasons, 14 consecutive 20+ home run seasons, and he has the MLB record for most consecutive games with an extra base hit at 14.
Chipper is the kind of guy that has worked for every hit he’s gotten, and he’ll be rewarded for them when the time comes.
I could be wrong, but I doubt anyone that’s come before Jeter on this list, and anyone that will come after has ever been one of Barbara Walter’s “Most Fascinating People of the Year”. That’s a great way to sum Derek Jeter up. Despite living a somewhat private life, playing a sport that isn’t often known for the glitz and glamour he manages to “fascinate” Barbara Walters.
Personally, he’s my favorite player to watch. I’m not a Yankee fan nor am I a Yankee hater. I just respect and admire him for coming up in the organization, earning his keep, donning his stripes day in and day out, and being a stand up guy.
In sixteen seasons for the Yankees he has been a career .313 hitter and a .383 on base guy. He’s amassed 3,000 hits while scoring 1,769 runs, hitting 240 homeruns and driving in 1,196 batters. He’s been an All Star twelve times, a World Series Champion five. He’s won five Gold Gloves, four Silver Sluggers, two Hank Aaron Awards and been an All-Star Game MVP and a World Series MVP.
He’s one of the best to ever play the game. No doubt about it.
Baseball’s schools of thought ebb and flow as the nature of the game goes, so do they.
500 home runs, doesn’t mean what it once did. That is something almost everyone uniformly agrees on. 3,000 hits is not so cut and dry. Many people think it’s an incredible achievement that shows longevity, consistency, and skill. Others think that as the club hits thirty members and continues to grow that the achievement means less.
I am in the 3,000 hit clubs corner. I believe in it. I stand by it. I think it means the world from a statistical stand point and you can bet Johnny Damon agrees. Damon is 38 years old, and a free agent. He has played sixteen seasons in the MLB in which he racked up 231 home runs, 1,120 RBIs, 1,643 runs scored, 404 steals and most importantly, 2,723 hits. Damon needs a little more than a full season to hit 3,000.
If and when he joins the hit club, he will fall under scrutiny as to whether or not he belongs in Cooperstown. I feel like it’s crystal clear. He will have played for eighteen seasons (if not more) while winning two World Series championships, hitting well, fielding the ball well, and running well. He was almost a five tool player that maintained a steady output throughout his entire career.
Damon should be a shoo-in and I think by the time his name gets thrown out here, he will be.
Lance Berkman, like Johnny Damon, may not seem like a shoo-in at the moment. But once the fat lady sings her song, and the dust settles, Berkman will be a hall of fame lock.
In twelve seasons in the MLB he has been a six-time All Star, the NL Comeback Player of the Year, and a World Series Champion. He, like every guy on this list, has worked harder than the guys around him day in and day out to earn his spot on the roster. Berkman undoubtedly loves to play baseball, something not every guy can say truthfully.
Statistically, he has the 25th all-time best on-base percentage, the 25th all-time best slugging percentage and the 17th best OPS of all-time. When Berkman retires, he won’t have the silver sluggers, the gold gloves, or the MVP awards. But he will have an impressive resume of over 2,000 hits, 400 doubles, 400 home runs, 1,200 RBIs, and 1200 walks. He will be a career .300 hitter with a career OBP over .400.
Berkman’s numbers on nothing out of this world, but when you step back and analyze them from the “he did this in the steroid era without using himself” perspective, you can appreciate them appropriately.
Ichiro may have the longest resume of the ten guys on this list because of his success both in Japan and Seattle. For Cooperstown’s sake, we will only factor in his MLB recorded stats, which will be plenty.
He debuted for the Seattle Mariners in 2001 and since then has taken over the game. His unconventional approach at the plate is as successful, as it is unconventional. He sports a batting stance that is probably impossible to either replicate or understand and his speed defensively and on the base paths is unparalleled.
Ichiro is a ten-time All Star, a ten-time Gold Glove winner, a three-time Silver Slugger, a two-time AL Batting Champion, he was the 2001 AL Rookie of the Year, Stolen Base Champion and MVP (yes, all in 2001). He also has the AL record for consecutive stolen bases at 45 and of course the probably unbreakable record of 262 hits in a single season.
In the MLB he has been a .326 career hitter, with 95 home runs, 605 RBIS, 2,428 hits, 1,127 runs scored, and 423 stolen bases. If you took those numbers, and added his Japanese statistics, you could argue that he is one of the best to ever play the game.
Cooperstown can’t wait to have him.