With the recent retirements of players who dominated the '90s and '00s, there won't be a dearth of greats to vote into the Hall of Fame.
Joining recent retirees like Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas will be the following stars (in order).
13. Trevor Hoffman (San Diego Padres)
Career Stats: 59 wins—2.73 ERA—591 Saves—1,103 Strikeouts—1,042 IP
Relief pitchers in the Hall of Fame will increase (at least) by two during this decade, joining Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, Rich "Goose" Gossage, Bruce Sutter, and Dennis Eckersley.
Hoffman will be one of the two. He's the career saves leader and has been voted into the All-Star Game seven times out of his 17 seasons.
Though saves are not a big barometer to get elected—just ask Lee Smith—dominance at a position is. Hoffman dominated the closer spot, which was reflected by finishing in the top six in Cy Young balloting four times ('96, '98, '99, and '06).
If it wasn't for the man in the Bronx, Hoffman would be considered the best closer in the past 25 years.
I do predict it will take some time, but Hoffman will be elected.
12. Vladimir Guerrero (Los Angeles Angels)
Career Stats: .321—407 HR — 1,318 RBI — 2,249 Hits
Guerrero just celebrated his 35th birthday (Feb. 9) and is moving to a hitting-friendly environment in Arlington, Texas. This move should help lock up a spot in Cooperstown.
When predicting at least another two years of productive seasons, Guerrero will finish with an estimated 450 home runs, 1,500 runs batted in, 2,600 hits, and well over a .310 batting average. That's only estimating two more years, but he could easily play for three to five more years with the DH spot. That will put him on the brink of hitting 500 dingers.
When you include his accolades, like winning the MVP award in 2004, five other times finishing in the MVP top 10 balloting, and multiple (eight) All-Star selections, he should be a lock.
11. Ivan Rodriguez (Texas Rangers)
Career Stats: .299 — 305 HR — 1,264 RBI — 2,711 Hits
During the '90s and early '00s, fans debated who was the best catcher between Ivan Rodriguez and Mike Piazza.
Rodriguez was the man with the glove, winning 13 Gold Gloves out of his 19 seasons.
But he also swung a nice bat, which included batting .332 with 35 home runs and 113 RBI in 1999. That year he won the AL MVP. He also finished 10th in three other MVP ballots ('96, '98, and '04).
The only question remains...will Ivan reach 3,000 hits?
If so, he will be the first catcher to accomplish that feat.
10. Gary Sheffield (Los Angeles Dodgers)
Career Stats: .292 — 509 HR — 1,676 RBI — 2,689 Hits
Hall of Fame-type players are not supposed to play on eight different teams during their illustrious careers. That reflects the immature yet productive player Sheffield has been since coming up to the majors with Milwaukee as a 19-year-old in 1988.
If you told me in 1990 that Sheffield was going to be enshrined and not his uncle Dwight Gooden, I would have asked what was in your Kool-Aid.
Sheffield will be elected and is attempting to get to the 3,000-hit milestone.
9. Jim Thome (Cleveland Indians)
Career Stats: .277 — 564 HR — 1,565 RBI — 2,138 Hits
Thome is your typical all-or-nothing slugger, similar to Reggie Jackson, who hit 40 more home runs six times.
Finishing with over 600 home runs and 1,700 runs batted in are within his reach. Thome joined the Minnesota Twins for the upcoming season and should receive over 400 at-bats as a DH.
8. Chipper Jones (Atlanta Braves)
Career Stats: .307 — 426 HR — 1,445 RBI — 2,406 Hits
Chipper enters his 17th season with the Atlanta Braves at the age of 38. He was the backbone during the Braves' National League domination since finishing runner-up in the Rookie of the Year award balloting in 1995.
Jones has been selected to six All-Star Games and won the MVP award in 1999.
With at least two more years left in him, Chipper should finish close to 500 home runs and 1,700 runs batted in with over 2,700 hits.
7: John Smoltz (Atlanta Braves)
Career Stats: 213 Wins — 3.33 ERA — 154 Saves — 3,084 Strikeouts — 3,472 IP
Before Greg Maddux was signed as a free agent and Glavine reached Atlanta from the minors, there was John Smoltz. Smoltz was traded by the Detroit Tigers for Doyle Alexander during the '87 season. Like they say, "the rest is history."
More so than Glavine, it must be hard for Braves fans to see Smoltz in another uniform. He was a true Brave who dealt with injuries but bounced back and also put the team first by moving to the bullpen to become the closer.
As a closer, Smoltz totally dominated the role and saved 55, 45, and 44 games during the three seasons in that role.
As a starter, Smoltz won the Cy Young Award in 1996 by winning 24 games, striking out 276 batters with an ERA of 2.94.
He finished in the top 10 in four other Cy Young votes ('98, '02, '06, and '07).
At the age of 43, it will be interesting to see where he pitches and in what role. I would place him back in the closer role and watch him save over 40 games.
6. Ichiro Suzuki (Seattle Mariners)
Career Stats: .333 — 84 HR — 515 RBI — 973 Runs — 2,030 Hits — 341 Stolen Bases
Suzuki proved in 2001 that Japanese players can play in the Major Leagues by winning the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards with a batting average of .350 and 242 hits.
He has followed up that year with an additional eight seasons of 200-plus hits, which included breaking the season hit record in '04 with 262.
At age 36, I wouldn't be surprised if he reaches 3,000 hits by the age of 40.
Even if he retired now, he would get in with no problem.
5. Albert Pujols (St. Louis Cardinals)
Career Stats: .334 — 366 HR — 1,112 RBI — 1,717 Hits
Pujols has been Ichiro but with a lot of pop. During his nine seasons, King Albert has won the Rookie of the Year Award and three MVP awards. That's pure dominance.
The only reason he's not higher on the list is because he has only played nine seasons but already has carved his way to Cooperstown.
Just for fun, I'm expecting Pujols to finish his career with stats that look like this:
.330— 735 HR— 2,300 RBI— 3,500 Hits...probably another three MVP awards will be won.
4. Pedro Martinez (Boston Red Sox)
Career Stats: 219 Wins — 2.93 ERA — 3,154 Strikeouts — 2,827 IP
Playing for the Montreal Expos during the mid-'90s probably cost Martinez 30 wins. But even with his not so impressive win totals, Martinez dominated the majors from 1997 to 2005.
First, Martinez only has 100 career losses, which translates to a winning percentage of 69.
Second, during his domination period, Martinez was 149-53 (74 percent winning percentage) and won three Cy Young Awards.
Even though his durability has affected his stats the last four years, Pedro is still a lock for Cooperstown.
3. Mariano Rivera (New York Yankees)
Career Stats: 71 Wins — 2.25 ERA — 526 Saves — 1,006 Strikeouts — 1,090 IP
Including the Captain Derek Jeter and Paul O'Neill, the MVP of the Yankee dynasty is Rivera.
The Mr. October tag should change from Reggie Jackson to Mariano Rivera. Mariano has a postseason ERA of 0.74 over 133.1 innings pitched. Wow...that reliability—to go along with 39 saves.
For his career, the best closer of all time has been selected to 10 All-Star Games over his 15 seasons. He also has finished in the top five for the Cy Young Award five times.
Even with "experts" predicting a diminishing of his skills, Rivera has finished the last two seasons with ERAs of 1.40 and 1.76.
It will be a race for Rivera to become the career saves leader due to Hoffman not wanting to retire. That should only be the last thing for Rivera to accomplish, as Cooperstown awaits his entry.
2. Derek Jeter (New York Yankees)
Career Stats: .317 — 224 HR — 1,068 RBI — 1,574 Runs — 2,747 Hits — 305 Stolen Bases
Predicting another five seasons of durability and production, Jeter should finish with 300 home runs, 2,000-plus runs, and 3,500-plus hits. The only thing left for him to accomplish is a MVP award (finished in the top 10 seven times).
1. Ken Griffey Jr. (Seattle Mariners)
Career Stats: .285 — 630 HR — 1,829 RBI — 1,656 Runs — 2,763 Hits
Over his 21 seasons, Griffey has hit over 40 home runs seven times and won the Gold Glove Award 10 times (1990-1999).
As I look over his numbers, Griffey would have easily hit 80 to 100 more home runs if he didn't miss most of the season four times. We probably would be talking about him reaching Hank Aaron's (Barry Bonds doesn't count) record.
But injuries play a part in many players' careers, so finishing up with close to 650 dingers, over 1,900 ribbies, and 2,900 hits is still outstanding.
When he walks into the Hall, you probably will only be able to name the players who produced better career stats on one hand.
Good job "Kid," and keep smiling.