The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., was the scene of celebration and remembrance on Sunday afternoon, as Ron Santo and Barry Larkin took their rightful place among the best all-time players.
Santo and Larkin became the 298th and 299th members of the hallowed halls, joining 207 other MLB greats, 35 Negro League players, 19 managers, 9 umpires, and 27 pioneers, executives and organizers.
So, just who will be the next wave of players, managers and executives who yearn to join the exclusive club of Hall of Fame greats?
Let's take a look.
There are players who are currently eligible to be elected to baseball's Hall of Fame, as well as players who will be eligible in the coming years, who likely will not earn inclusion in Cooperstown because of suspected use of performance-enhancing drugs.
The list is long, and includes players who have broken numerous records:
Each one of these players has either admitted to, or has been accused of, taking performance-enhancing drugs during their playing careers.
Based on recent voting results, it's likely that these players will continue to be blocked from inclusion in baseball's Hall of Fame, at least for the foreseeable future.
Is it fair that they are being blackballed? That's a topic open to considerable debate. Those who are crying foul that these players are being left out will point to the fact that MLB teams were completely complicit in the distribution of "greenies" to players for many years.
In his article in 2005, Sports Illustrated writer Tom Verducci spoke with two veteran MLB managers who addressed the ban of greenies.
Greenies have been such a part of the game that without them, one veteran manager told SI, "they should increase the rosters by five and make it mandatory that all getaway games be day games." Another manager believes the ban could lead to a dip in the quality of play: "Everybody in baseball has to be concerned about how this is going to play out. They're going to have to shorten the season. It used to be just the 35-and-older guys needed them, but young guys rely on them now too. The level of play could be affected. You'll have to check on your players more as far as giving them off days."
In essence, greenies helped enhance play, so many who are currently in the Hall of Fame could technically be singled out for cheating as well.
Nonetheless, the above list of players will likely continue to be on the outside looking in as long as the current bloc of Hall of Fame voters are in place.
For a man who was drafted in the 62nd round of the 1988 MLB draft as a favor, catcher Mike Piazza more than repaid that favor.
Piazza put together a 16-year career that saw him hit 396 home runs as a catcher (427 total), more than any other in MLB history.
Piazza was a member of 12 All-Star teams, won 10 Silver Slugger awards and was the 1993 National League Rookie of the Year Award in a unanimous vote.
The only thing missing from Piazza's resume is a World Series title, although he did lead the New York Mets to the 2000 National League pennant.
During a spectacular 20-year career with the Houston Astros, Craig Biggio showed off his skills at three different positions.
Debuting as a catcher back in 1988, Biggio became an All-Star and a Silver Slugger Award winner before moving to second base full-time in 1992.
Biggio would win four consecutive Gold Glove awards at second base while continuing to earn All-Star selections and be his normal pesky self as a hitter at the top of the Astros lineup.
Biggio would also move to center field for several years, moving back to second before retiring in 2007. Biggio became the 27th player in MLB history to collect 3,000 hits, and only the ninth player ever to do it with the same team.
Last year, starting pitcher Jack Morris received 66.7 percent of votes for inclusion in baseball's Hall of Fame. It was the highest number of votes Morris had received since becoming eligible in 2000, but still falling short of the necessary 75 percent.
Support has been growing for Morris, who compiled a 254-186 lifetime record with a 3.90 ERA.
Morris' career also included some of the most clutch pitching performances in postseason history, most notably his 10-inning win in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.
On Aug. 30, 1990, Double-A first base prospect Jeff Bagwell learned that the team he dreamed of starring for, the Boston Red Sox, had traded him to the Houston Astros for relief pitcher Larry Andersen.
Bagwell made the Red Sox pay dearly for that trade.
Bagwell terrorized opposing pitchers for 15 seasons, winning the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 1991 and the NL MVP Award in 1994.
Along the way, Bagwell hit 442 home runs with a lifetime .297 batting average before an arthritic condition in his shoulders ended his playing career in 2005.
Bagwell received 56 percent of votes for inclusion into baseball's Hall of Fame last year.
With 355 wins in a sensational 23-year career, is there really any doubt that Greg Maddux is a first-ballot Hall of Fame selection?
Maddux will be on the ballot for the first time in 2014, and it should be the only time he ever appears on the ballot.
With a career that includes four Cy Young Award trophies and a World Series championship, Maddux's inclusion in baseball's Hall of Fame is all but secured.
Former Atlanta Braves pitching great Tom Glavine will be eligible for Hall of Fame induction in 2014, the same year as former teammate Greg Maddux.
The two should be walking through the doors of Cooperstown hand in hand.
Glavine, along with Maddux and John Smoltz, formed a formidable trio at the top of the rotation for many years in Atlanta. While Maddux won four Cy Young awards, Glavine won two of his own, in 1991 and 1998.
Glavine finished his fabulous career with 305 wins, five 20-win seasons and 10 All-Star selections.
For 19 seasons, Frank "Big Hurt" Thomas lived up to his name, punishing opposing pitchers and becoming one of the most feared right-handed batters of his generation.
Thomas won back-to-back MVP awards in 1993 and 1994, won the American League batting title in 1997 and retired in 2008 with 521 lifetime home runs and a .301 batting average.
When Randy Johnson first broke into the majors with the Montreal Expos in 1988, he was a 25-year-old flame-throwing southpaw who had no clue where the ball was going.
However, by the time he retired 21 years later, he was one of the most successful left-handed pitchers in the history of the game.
Johnson won 303 games during his career with five Cy Young Award trophies, four of which came consecutively between 1999 and 2002.
Johnson and fellow pitcher Curt Schilling helped lead the Arizona Diamondbacks to their only World Series title in 2001, with Johnson winning both the Cy Young and World Series MVP honors.
Johnson nearly won a sixth Cy Young Award trophy in 2004 at the age of 40, finishing runner-up that year to Roger Clemens.
Aside from Sandy Koufax from 1962 to 1966, there may have been no pitcher who was more dominant in a five-year period than Pedro Martinez.
In Martinez' case, you could argue that no pitcher was more dominant in an seven-year period.
From 1997 to 2003, Martinez won three Cy Young Awards and placed in the top three in Cy Young Award balloting three other times. During that time, Martinez had the lowest ERA in the majors five times and led the league in strikeouts three times.
Pedro's 1999 season was easily one of the most dominant years of any pitcher in the history of the game. Martinez captured the triple crown of pitching categories, with 23 wins, a 2.07 ERA and 313 strikeouts.
His two-inning stint in the All-Star Game that year was legendary as well, striking out five of the six batters he faced, including four straight to start the game.
Martinez retired in 2009 with one of the best winning percentages (.687) in history.
Former Atlanta Braves star hurler John Smoltz may have only won 213 games during his 21-year career, but no one in MLB history can claim an accomplishment that Smoltz achieved.
Smoltz is the only man in history to win over 200 games along with 150 saves, a real testament to the fact that Smoltz went to every length possible to help his team in whatever way he could.
After winning a Cy Young Award as a starter in 1996 with a 24-8 record and 2.94 ERA, Smoltz missed the entire 2000 season following Tommy John surgery and transitioned to the bullpen as a closer in 2001.
Smoltz would lead the majors with 55 saves in 2002, putting together three consecutive seasons with at least 40 saves.
During his 23 seasons in the majors, Tim Raines was known well for his ability to run like a deer.
Raines stole 808 bases during his career, placing him fifth on the all-time thefts list. Raines also collected 2,605 hits with a .294 lifetime batting average, earning seven All-Star selections along the way.
Raines collected Hall of Fame votes from 48.7 percent of eligible voters, leaving him shy of the 75 percent required for induction in his fifth year of eligibility in 2012.
One of these days, Hall of Fame voters will give in to their stubbornness in electing a designated hitter to the Hall of Fame. When that day comes, Edgar Martinez will earn his rightful place among baseball's all-time greats.
Martinez put together a remarkable career during his 18 years with the Seattle Mariners, winning two AL batting titles, five Silver Slugger awards and seven All-Star selections.
Martinez retired in 2004 with 309 home runs and a .312 lifetime batting average.
During a managerial career that spanned four decades and two teams, Bobby Cox won 2,504 games, the fourth-most of all time.
Cox won five National League pennants and a World Series title for the Atlanta Braves during his second stint as manager of the club between 1990-2010.
Cox also won Manager of the Year honors four times, first with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1985 and three more times with the Braves (1991, 2004, 2005).
On April 3, 1989, a young 19-year-old outfielder simply known as Junior began his career with the Seattle Mariners.
Ken Griffey Jr., son of long-time Cincinnati Reds outfielder Ken Griffey, electrified the crowd at the Kingdome in his first year with his sweet swing and acrobatic highlight-reel catches in center field.
Griffey would be selected as an All-Star in all but his rookie year in his first stint with the Mariners before moving on to his hometown Reds in 2000.
While a spate of injuries took a significant chunk of time from Griffey's career throughout his 30s, he still managed to hit 630 home runs with 2,781 hits during his 22 seasons.
In June 1993, the Florida Marlins traded young reliever Trevor Hoffman to the San Diego Padres in exchange for third baseman/outfielder Gary Sheffield as part of a five-player trade.
Seventeen years later, Hoffman retired with the most saves in the history of Major League Baseball.
During his tremendous career, Hoffman totaled 601 saves, posting eight straight seasons with 30 or more saves from 1995 to 2002. After an injury-plagued 2003 season, Hoffman was back in form, posting another six seasons that featured 30 or more saves.
A seven-time All-Star, Hoffman retired in 2010 after becoming the first player in MLB history to notch 600 saves.
It's safe to say that manager Tony La Russa ended his career with a bang.
La Russa had already punched his ticket to the Hall of Fame before entering his 33rd season as a manager in 2011.
La Russa added another World Series title to his stellar resume as his St. Louis Cardinals got hot at right time, making the postseason on the final day of the regular season and then staying hot to capture the Fall Classic in thrilling fashion over the Texas Rangers.
For La Russa, it marked his third World Series championship to go along with six pennants and four Manager of the Year awards, one with the Chicago White Sox, two with the Oakland A's and one with the Cardinals.
His 2,728 victories puts him third on the all-time managerial list behind Connie Mack and John McGraw.
After being the ace of the staff for much of the 1990s for the Baltimore Orioles, starting pitcher Mike Mussina took his talents to the Big Apple.
Not many pitchers walk away from the game after winning 20 games, but that's exactly what Mussina did in 2008 after posting a 20-9 record and 3.34 ERA for the New York Yankees at the age of 39.
Mussina ended his career with a 270-153 record and 3.68 ERA.
In the history of Major League Baseball, no one caught more games than Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez. And in addition, Rodriguez was arguably the best defensive catcher of all-time as well.
Gifted with a cannon for an arm, Rodriguez threw out 45.68 percent of runners attempting to steal. Considering that 30 percent is the standard for good, Rodriguez raised the bar.
During his 22-year career, Rodriguez won 13 Gold Glove awards, earned 14 All-Star selections, was the 1999 American League MVP and collected 2,844 hits with a .296 lifetime batting average.
Third baseman Chipper Jones is playing in his 19th and final season for the Atlanta Braves this season, and his next stop is likely Cooperstown.
Jones has been the anchor of the Braves' franchise since making his debut in 1995, finishing runner-up in Rookie of the Year balloting that year and helping the Braves win a World Series title.
Jones has since been selected to eight All-Star teams, was the MVP of the National League in 1999 and won a batting title in 2008 with a .364 average.
By the time all is said and done, Jones will retire with close to 500 home runs (462 as of July 21), a lifetime average above .300 and just north of 2,800 hits.
New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter hasn't given any indication of when he intends to retire, but when he does, a ticket to the Hall of Fame will be waiting.
Jeter became the 28th player in MLB history to reach the 3,000-hit club, doing it in grand style on July 9, 2011. Jeter became just the second player in MLB history to record a home run for his 3,000th hit (Wade Boggs) and the first player to record all of his 3,000 hits in a Yankees uniform.
With 3,210 hits as of July 20, Jeter currently sits 14th on the all-time list, and will likely climb into at least the top 10 by the time he ends his stellar career.
New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is hoping to come back this season after suffering a torn ACL while shagging flies during batting practice earlier this season.
Even if Rivera is unable to resume his career, the all-time saves leader has his ticket punched for Cooperstown already.
The numbers speak for themselves—608 saves, a 2.21 lifetime ERA, 0.998 career WHIP and an ERA+ of 206, first on the all-time list.
Rivera's postseason stats are legendary as well—a career 0.70 ERA with 42 saves, records not likely to ever be touched.
Throughout his 22 seasons in Major League Baseball, slugger Jim Thome has always been regarded as one of the nicest guys in the history of the game. However, let it also be said that he's one of baseball's greatest sluggers as well.
On Friday night, Thome connected for his 610th lifetime home run, putting him in seventh place on baseball's all-time list.
Thome has hit at least 40 homers in a season six times in his career, and his 1,692 lifetime RBI total has him 25th on the all-time list as well.
When Seattle Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki burst onto the MLB scene in 2001, he did it with a flourish.
Suzuki's first season in the majors was memorable indeed—a major league-leading 242 hits, an American League-leading .350 average, and he captured both the Rookie of the Year Award and AL MVP Award. Only Fred Lynn in 1975 had previously captured both awards.
Suzuki went on to win another batting title in 2004 with a .372 average and would compile 10 straight seasons of at least 200 hits, a major league record.
Suzuki also broke the all-time single season hits record, collecting 262 in 2004 to break the record set by George Sisler in 1920.
It's unknown whether Suzuki will be with the Mariners beyond the 2012 season, but if and when he retires, there should be no doubt in anyone's mind that he will be Hall of Fame bound.
First baseman Fred McGriff garnered 23.9 percent of votes in his third year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame, and while that number is still a long way off from entry into Cooperstown, he will eventually find his way there.
McGriff's numbers through a 19-year career are stellar—493 home runs, 1,550 RBI, a .284 lifetime average, three Silver Slugger awards and five All-Star selections.
There's still plenty of time for Hall of Fame voters to warm up to McGriff.
At the age of 35, Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Roy Halladay has already accomplished quite a bit in his 15-year career.
Halladay is one of only five pitchers to win a Cy Young Award in both the American and National leagues (Gaylord Perry, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens), threw the 20th perfect game in MLB history in 2010 and then followed up with only the second no-hitter in postseason history.
Halladay currently owns a record of 192-97 with a lifetime ERA of 3.25 and, with just a few more solid seasons, should find his way to Cooperstown five years after his career ends.
As a player, Joe Torre put up pretty solid numbers during an 18-year career, including winning the batting title and MVP Award for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1971.
However, it's as a manager that Torre will find his way to the baseball Hall of Fame.
Torre already had plenty of experience as a manager when he took the helm of the New York Yankees in 1996.
Torre spent parts of 14 seasons previously in charge of the New York Mets, Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals, all teams he played for at one point during his career.
Torre led the Yankees to six American League pennants and four World Series titles in his 12 years in pinstripes. Torre wound up his managerial career with three more seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, leading them to the postseason in 2008 and 2009.
Torre's 2,326 victories place him fifth on the all-time managerial list.
While Seattle Mariners designated hitter Edgar Martinez may have set the bar for the position, Boston Red Sox DH David Ortiz certainly raised it.
It wasn't until Ortiz signed as a free agent by the Boston Red Sox in 2003 that his career really took off. After floundering with the Minnesota Twins for the better part of six years, Ortiz found his way, and his stroke, in Boston.
Ortiz has won five Silver Slugger awards as the top-hitting DH in the American League and has been selected to eight All-Star teams.
Ortiz slugged the 400th home run of his career on July 4, and set the single-season home run record for the Red Sox with 54 homers in 2006.
It's going to be a few years before New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia wraps up his career, but he's certainly building a solid resume for entry into the baseball Hall of Fame.
Sabathia already has a Cy Young Award and six All-Star selections among his accomplishments, along with a career record of 186-99 with a 3.50 career ERA.
As the ace for the New York Yankees, Sabathia figures to get plenty of chances to add to his overall win total and pad his resume even further.
It's been said that outfielder/designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero never saw a pitch he didn't like. It could also be said that Guerrero will be liked someday by the Hall of Fame.
While Guerrero has not officially retired, he has yet to play in the 2012 season, so that day may not be far off.
In a sensational 16-year career. Guerrero has 449 lifetime home runs, a .318 average, nine All-Star selections, eight Silver Slugger awards and a 2004 AL MVP trophy to his credit.
Pretty hard to keep him out of the hallowed halls with those numbers.
He was the chief architect of two separate franchises that won a World Series title, and his name will eventually be called for induction into baseball's Hall of Fame.
John Schuerholz presided over the Kansas City Royals as their general manager from 1981-1990, working hard to build a winning franchise that produced its first and only World Series title in 1985.
From there, Schuerholz moved on the Atlanta Braves, taking over as GM from Bobby Cox, who made his way back to the field as manager. For the next 17 years, Schuerholz turned the Braves into one of the most admired franchises in baseball.
By building a sound farm system that produced a bevy of great players aided by shrewd free agent signings, Schuerholz's stewardship led to the Braves winning 14 consecutive NL East Division titles, five pennants and a World Series title in 1995.
Long-time shortstop Omar Vizquel has plied his trade in the majors for 24 seasons, often overlooked at the position because of players like Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra, Alex Rodriguez and Miguel Tejada.
Nonetheless, Vizquel will retire at the end of this season as one of the finest defensive shortstops ever to play the game.
Vizquel has compiled 2,856 hits during his career as well with a lifetime .272 average, so it hasn't been completely about the glove. However, the glove has indeed been special.
Vizquel has earned 11 Gold Glove Awards during his spectacular career, and will likely retire with the highest fielding percentage (.985) of any shortstop in MLB history.
When Carlos Delgado finally took over as the everyday first baseman for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1996, it didn't take long to establish himself as one of the elite hitters in the majors.
Delgado posted 10 consecutive seasons hitting at least 30 home runs, finishing his career with 473, good for 30th on the all-time list.
Delgado led the American League in 2003 with 145 RBI, and would later help the New York Mets capture the NL East Division title in his first year in the Big Apple in 2006.
There are some who believe that MLB managers get too much credit when their teams succeed, stating that it's the players who do the work.
While that may be true, it's the manager's job to get 25 separate personalities to gel together and play as a unit. Few have done that better than current Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland.
Now with his fourth team, Leyland has worked with a variety of personalities during his 21-year managerial career, from Barry Bonds to Bobby Bonilla to Gary Sheffield and countless others.
He has successfully led three of those teams to the postseason, and two of them to the World Series (1997 Florida Marlins, 2006 Detroit Tigers).
It would have been three teams, save for a close play at the plate in the 1992 NLCS.
One of the unofficial criteria for entrance into baseball's Hall of Fame is that a player has to have showed dominance for a period of time during his career.
Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton can certainly claim that on his resume.
From 2000 to 2004, Helton was easily one of the most dominant left-handed hitters in the National League.
In 2000 alone, Helton put up tremendous numbers, winning the batting title with a .372 average with 42 HR and 147 RBI. Helton also led the league in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS.
As of July 21, Helton has collected 2,415 hits, 354 HR and a lifetime .320 batting average.
There are certainly hitters in the Hall of Fame now who have numbers far less impressive.
The business of predicting future Hall of Fame players is a crapshoot in many ways.
Certain players can start off like a house afire, only to see their careers shortened via injuries or other reasons that cause them to flame out.
Take the case of shortstop Nomar Garciaparra. The Boston Red Sox shortstop captured baseball's attention by winning the AL Rookie of the Year Award and back-to-back AL batting titles, all within the first five years of his career.
Certain Hall of Fame player, right?
Not so fast. Injuries kept Garciaparra from producing anything near what he accomplished in his early years, finally retiring in 2009 as a backup infielder with the Oakland A's.
With that in mind, we will take a look at current players who have a real shot at earning a plaque in Cooperstown if they can stay healthy and continue producing.
Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer is a man who has had to endure health issues throughout his career. Balky knees will likely move Mauer to first base full-time sooner rather than later.
However, when healthy Mauer is indeed special. Already the owner of three American League batting titles and an MVP Award, Mauer was selected to his fifth All-Star team earlier this month and owns a lifetime .324 batting average.
Mauer's health will dictate his inclusion into the Hall of Fame.
On Sunday afternoon at Comerica Park, Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera hit two home runs in a 6-4 win over the Chicago White Sox, giving them a sweep of the weekend series and extending their lead in the AL Central to 1.5 games.
For Cabrera, his second homer of the game, a shot into the camera well in deep center field, was the 300th homer of his career, making him the second player born in Venezuela to accomplish the feat along with Andres Galarraga.
Cabrera's 10 seasons in the majors have been nothing short of tremendous—seven All-Star selections, three Silver Slugger awards, a batting title and an RBI title.
At just 29 years of age, Cabrera's career is far from over, but judging from the numbers he's produced thus far, it's not stretch at all to think he could be Hall of Fame-bound.
Miguel Cabrera's new teammate on the Detroit Tigers, first baseman Prince Fielder, is certainly making a case for a Hall of Fame career as well.
Fielder is now hitting .308 with 15 HR and 68 RBI on the season in his first year in Motown, and he and Cabrera together have helped carry the Tigers back to the top of the AL Central standings.
Fielder has piled up plenty of accolades and achievements in his eight-year career as well, with four All-Star team selections and two Silver Slugger awards.
Yet another member of the Detroit Tigers who is building a case for Hall of Fame selection once his career is over is starting pitcher Justin Verlander.
The 2006 Rookie of the Year Award winner is picking up where he left off last year, when he won both the American League's Cy Young and MVP awards, the first starting pitcher in the AL to accomplish the feat since Roger Clemens in 1986.
Verlander is now 12-5 on the season with a 2.42 ERA, leading the league with a 0.922 WHIP. When Hall of Fame voters look at dominant eras, they will definitely look back at Verlander's stretch in the early 2010s and possibly beyond.
New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano is only 29 years old and hasn't yet completed eight seasons in the majors, but judging on current and prior performance, he is well on his way to establishing a career that could end in Cooperstown.
Cano already has four All-Star team selections, three Silver Slugger awards and a Gold Glove Award to his credit. Cano has become an integral part of the offense for the Yankees and could wind up his career as one of the greatest hitting second basemen of the modern era.
Good hitting catchers are in short supply these days, although the Atlanta Braves can lay claim to one of the best in all of baseball—Brian McCann.
McCann is hitting 40 points below his lifetime .283 average this season, but with 15 HR and 63 RBI is still providing plenty of production.
McCann already has six All-Star team selections and five Silver Slugger awards to his credit, and will likely be re-signed long-term by the Braves sometime in the next year.
By the time McCann's career is over, he could well be one of the most productive catchers in MLB history.
Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto is currently in the beginning of his rehab process after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee last Tuesday.
The Reds will no doubt be patient, but at the same time they can't to get Votto's bat in their lineup once again.
Votto is without question the straw that stirs the Reds offense, and has been for the past several seasons. The 2010 NL MVP Award winner is also a three-time All-Star and 2011 Gold Glove Award winner.
His new 13-year contract extension could have him finish his career in Cincinnati, and Votto is certainly in the process of building a Hall of Fame career.
If it weren't for the fact that he plays for an offensively challenged team, Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez would likely have more wins on his already-impressive resume.
Nonetheless, no one doubts Hernandez's dominance. At just 26 years of age, Hernandez is already a grizzled veteran with a Cy Young Award and an ERA title under his belt.
His 93-72 lifetime record and 3.20 ERA is remarkable considering where he plays, and Hernandez has once again kicked his game into high gear, with a 4-1 record and 2.39 ERA in nine starts since the beginning of June.
This young left-hander is only 24 years old, yet he has already drawn comparisons to Sandy Koufax.
Los Angeles Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw captured the Triple Crown of pitching categories last season on his way to winning his first-ever Cy Young Award. Kershaw owns a 54-33 record and 2.86 ERA after just four-plus seasons.
While it's way too early to predict anything, Kershaw has become one of the most feared left-handed pitchers in the majors already, and the Dodgers are certainly counting on Kershaw and his arm to lead their rotation for years to come.
Few hitters in baseball have put together the resume that the Milwaukee Brewers' Ryan Braun has fashioned together thus far.
Braun's trophy case is already full—a Rookie of the Year Award, and MVP Award, four Silver Slugger awards and five All-Star team selections.
Braun's .312 lifetime average and 187 career home runs at the age of 28 certainly have him pointed toward Cooperstown.
Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp certainly seems to have recovered from hamstring issues that had him on the disabled list for several weeks. The Dodgers are certainly happy to have their star slugger back in time to re-charge their anemic offense.
Kemp has steadily improved every season since first reaching the majors as a 21-year-old back in 2006.
Kemp is already a two-time Gold Glove Award winner who patrols center field with the grace of a gazelle, has won two Silver Sluggers, earned an All-Star selection twice and narrowly missed out on the 2011 NL MVP Award after leading the National League in home runs and runs batted in.
Armed with a new eight-year, $160 million contract, Kemp will be the anchor in the middle of the Dodgers' batting order for the foreseeable future, and barring injury could well be building a case for inclusion in baseball's Hall of Fame.
Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia is only 28 years old, yet already has a Rookie of the Year Award, an MVP Award, two Gold Glove awards, a Silver Slugger Award and three All-Star team selections to his credit.
The diminutive infielder has become the heart and soul of the Red Sox, and he could join Bobby Doerr as the the second Red Sox second baseman to enter the Hall of Fame when his career is over.
His career could end right now and his Hall of Fame plaque will be waiting for him.
However, Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols still has plenty left in him yet.
Pujols is only the second player in MLB history to record nine consecutive seasons with 30 doubles, a .300 batting average, 30 home runs, and 100 runs batted in or better. Only Lou Gehrig can claim that feat.
That alone gets Pujols through the doors of Cooperstown.
Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre has already logged 14-plus seasons in the majors, having started his career back in 1998 as a young 19-year-old with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
And Beltre shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Now in his second season with the Texas Rangers, Beltre has revitalized his career, now with 328 career home runs and a .278 lifetime batting average. Defensively, few are better than Beltre as well, as his three Gold Glove awards would attest.
Third base is not well represented in the Hall of Fame—only 14 third basemen have earned the honor, the fewest at any position.
If Beltre can maintain his current production, he along with Chipper Jones will shorten that gap.
Since becoming the everyday first baseman for the Chicago White Sox in 1999, Paul Konerko has been one of the most consistent sluggers in the game year after year.
Konerko is still producing today at the age of 36, currently hitting .321 with 14 HR and 44 RBI, earning his sixth All-Star team selection and third in a row.
Konerko belted his 400th career home run in late May and is second all-time in White Sox history in home runs and runs batted in.
After a 2011 season marred by injuries, New York Mets third baseman David Wright has definitely gotten his career back on track.
Wright earned his sixth All-Star team selection this year and is currently hitting .346 with 14 HR and 66 RBI. Wright is as good defensively as he is at the plate, with two Gold Glove Award trophies already on his mantel.
At just 29 years old, Wright is hoping to sign a long-term extension with the Mets, possibly ending his career in the city that has brought him so much success in his eight-plus seasons.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.