Baseball Hall of Fame: The Top 25 Active Candidates for Cooperstown
This weekend, baseball fans from all over the country will flock to the very small small town of Cooperstown, New York, as baseball forever enshrines three into the Hall of Fame.
After this weekend, Andre Dawson, Whitey Herzog, and Doug Harvey will forever be able to say that his name is in the same category as Babe Ruth and Willie Mays.
In honor of this occasion, let's take a look at some of the players that we see every day that have a shot at being given the same honor one day.
The way that I chose my 25 isn't just based on a player's current resume, but also what I see their potential being. There are many players on the list that are in their early-20s that have just burst onto the scene and are included because I see them as truly special. That being said, it will take those youngsters 10-15 more outstanding years to make it to Cooperstown and there is so much that can happen to prevent that.
I have changed my mind on these about 50 times over, and it's possible I missed someone. Let me know what you think.
25. Joey Votto
Votto doesn't have much of a resume to examine, but in the four seasons he has played, he has consistently put up great numbers.
Over Votto's two years as a starter, he has averaged 24.5 home runs, 84 RBI, and batted .309. Think those numbers are good, well this year he is making those look terrible. Here we are just past the All-Star break and Votto has 23 dingers, 63 RBI and is batting .307.
He may have a long way to go, but he is on the right track.
24. Tim Lincecum
You would think that a 26-year-old pitcher who already has two Cy Young awards to his name would be higher. However, Lincecum showed signs early in Spring Training that he was not the same guy. His velocity has been down and he hasn't looked like himself this year.
It seems odd that a pitcher would be over the hump at 26, so the recent struggles might just be that he's tired. That being said, his delivery is very volatile and it could be doing harm to his exceptionally skinny frame.
23. CC Sabathia
Sabathia already has one Cy Young award and I would be surprised if he doesn't get another.
Since entering the league in 2001, Sabathia has averaged almost 15 wins per season and has a career ERA of 3.59.
CC is the anchor of the Yankees pitching staff and should get at least 15 wins per season over his next 10 seasons just from the fact that he plays with one of the best offenses in baseball.
22. Justin Verlander
While Verlander may not have the numbers that Cliff Lee or Roy Halladay have, he certainly scares batters just as well.
Verlander has been a dominating strikeout pitcher ever since he entered the Tigers rotation in 2006. Since then. he has averaged 16 wins per season and thanks to his fastball that has been known to hit 100 mph, led the majors with 240 IP and 269 strikeouts last season.
21. Jason Heyward
Jumping the gun a little? Perhaps.
However, a 21-year-old who is on pace for 20 home runs and 90 RBI while displaying crazy athleticism is reasoning for anyone to get excited.
Comparisons to Willie Mays and Hank Aaron before he even swung at his first pitch (which he used to hit a three run homer) have surprising not hurt his success this year, as they don't seem as outlandish as we first thought.
20. Cliff Lee
It is strange that a player of his caliber has been traded so often. However, don't take that as a sign that he isn't one of the best.
Lee is arguably the best left handed pitcher in the game and has dominated no matter where he called home.
In order to be in contention for Cooperstown, Lee will need to be consistently the best wherever he finally settles down.
19. Stephen Strasburg
It's so rare that both of these guys would be here despite being just rookies. However, Strasburg and Heyward are both dazzling in their rookie seasons.
The Nationals were geniuses in bringing Strasburg along slowly and now that he is here, batters should be scared.
Strasburg is striking out batters as if they were trying to hit a golf ball with a blindfold on. His ERA is 2.03 and if he had a little run support, he would be approaching 10 wins this season.
He will be one of the best for a LONG time.
18. Todd Helton
Helton's statistics certainly don't jump off of the page at you, but he has batted above .300 in all but one of his 12 seasons at first base.
His 327 HRs on't exactly scream power, but he is within range of 3,000 hits, which could be the clincher.
Helton also has three Gold Gloves and the fact that he has played for one team his entire career is usually something the voters look fondly at.
17. Robinson Cano
Though he might not be as fast as the man he was named after (Jackie Robinson), he is better at the plate.
Cano has always been an above average hitter, but we have seen an even better version of him this year. The 27-year-old is on pace to shatter his previous bests in HRs and RBI, while being amongst the league leaders in batting average.
Cano has somehow found a way to shine on a team full of stars and is on my short list of MVP candidates.
16. Mark Teixiera
Teixiera seems to be the full package at first base.
He possesses tons of power, hits for a decent average, and is one of the best fielders in baseball.
While the 2009 Yankees were the most stacked team we have seen in years, the addition of Teixiera was probably the biggest addition that was made.
He needs to log seven to eight more productive seasons, but he could theoretically reach 500 HRs and could add several more Gold Gloves and rings to his trophy case in the meantime.
15. Vladimir Guerrero
Over his 15-year career, Vlad has hit almost every statistical benchmark.
On the Montreal Expos, he not only hit for power, but also was quite a pain on the basepaths (he was one HR away from joining the 40/40 club in 2002).
After spending eight seasons on a terrible team, Vlad finally left for greener pastures in Anaheim/Los Angeles where his productivity didn't stop.
Though his 2009 was terrible, Vlad resurrected his career as a DH this year in Texas and is just 73 homers shy of 500.
14. Ryan Howard
Ryan Howard is one of the most prolific home run hitters in baseball right now. His .282 batting average is honestly better than I thought it was, and he has averaged 49.5 HRs and 143 RBI over the past four seasons.
In that time period, he has finished in the top-five of MVP voting every year (winning it in 2006) and established himself as a very scary man at he plate.
If not for Albert Pujols, Howard would be the most feared player in baseball.
13. Ryan Braun
If Ryan Braun wasnt in such a small market, his name would be one of the first two or three names to be said in the "best in baseball" discussion.
Coming into 2010, Braun already had racked up three seasons with 30-plus HRs, 97-plus RBI and at least a .285 average. At the halfway point, it is obvious that this season will be no different.
At 26, Braun is putting up sick number and he isn't ever considered to be in the prime of his career. Unless he slows down considerably, a plaque seems likely.
12. Andy Pettitte
In his 16 years of big-league ball, Pettite has been a rock of class and what every owner hopes a player could be.
He came out of the steroid scandal looking good despite admitting to using steroids and has since returned to the consistent pitching we are used to.
Pettitte has collected at least 10 wins in every season except 2004 and has been on five championship winning teams.
The stat that puts him above all others is his success in the postseason. His 18 postseason wins is the most postseason wins in MLB history and will be the reason he will make it to Cooperstown.
11. Joe Mauer
Joe Mauer is one of the biggest names in baseball.
Coming off of his MVP season in 2009, Mauer just signed a massive deal to make sure he'll stay in a Twins uniform.
Mauer's biggest fault will be his health, which has already proved to be an issue.
If he can stay healthy, Mauer will be in. However, part of being in Cooperstown is longevity and sustainability and if he can't stay healthy, his career will be just short of a plaque.
10. Jim Thome
Normally voters don't vote favorably on big first basemen who hit strictly for power. However, Thome isn't giving them much of a choice.
Assuming he plays one more season, Thome will reach 600 HRs (he's at 575 now) and that will be all he needs.
His power has remained a constant and didn't change when he moved over and over. Thome is a great example of the clean home run hitter in an era of steroids.
9. Evan Longoria
At 24, Longoria is certainly the youngest player in the top 10. Age doesn't seem to be holding this kid back though, as he is already the leader of a very talented Tampa Bay Rays team.
Before it is all said and done, I expect Longoria to be a two or three-time MVP and have numerous Gold Gloves, Silver Sluggers and one of every other award you can think of.
8. Manny Ramirez
Steroids or not, Manny Ramirez better be in the Hall of Fame.
He was the catalyst that helped break the curse of the Bambino in Boston, has finished in the top-six in MVP voting seven times, and his Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is a ridiculous 67.3.
There is no reason to not let him in.
7. Roy Halladay
Halladay's career numbers aren't amazing, but no one has dominated from the mound quite like he has these past three years.
He has four seasons where he has had an ERA below 3.00 (amazingly, all four have been in the American League East) and now that he is in the more pitcher-friendly National League he is dominating batters even more so.
At 33, he is old, but it certainly seems like he has a lot more in the tank.
6. Trevor Hoffman
This has been an absolutely terrible season for Hoffman. Fortunately, 2010 can't possibly tarnish the 17 other years where he was one of the best closers in baseball.
Closers might not get into the Hall with the rate of other pitchers, but with 596 saves (most ever), Hoffman is a first-ballot hall of famer any way you slice it.
5. Alex Rodriguez
Statstically speaking, A-Rod will go down as the greatest player to ever live.
He will more than likely break Bonds' career HR record, he has three MVPs, and his WAR is an astronomical 101.4
Rodriguez's only black cloud (and it's a huge one) is obviously the steroid scandal that will tarnish his stats. However, A-Rod has dominated the game for far to long to throw away his stellar career and he still has four to five years to prove he can still be the best
4. Albert Pujols
Before everyone complains about Pujols not being higher on the list, know that the top-five should all be first ballot Hall of Famers.
From the age of 21, Pujols has looked like a 30-year-old beast. Luckily for natives of St. Louis, his numbers are just as out of this world.
The three-time MVP is a threat for the triple crown every year and it is a gift from God to say that we get to see him play.
Had Ichiro not spent the first seven years of his baseball career in Japan, I would argue that he is the best player in the HISTORY of baseball.
Ichiro will almost certainly reach 3,000 hits and probably would have eclipsed Pete Rose had he made his debut before the age of 27.
Not only is he the best hitter in the game, his speed changes the way pitchers must act when on base and he is also one of the best fielders in baseball.
Simply put, Ichiro is the definition of a baseball player.
2. Derek Jeter
Jeter is certainly the Mr. Yankee of our generation and when you have that title, you are pretty much a shoe in for Cooperstown.
The 11-time All Star already is the Yankees all-time hits leader and will pass 3000 hits sometime next year.
Jeter's stats, while certainly solid, will be surpassed by his leadership and heart, both of which aren't equaled by anyone in baseball.
1. Mariano Rivera
Do I even need to explain why this guy should already be making his introduction speech?
Rivera has been the best closer in baseball for 16 years now and somehow still holds that title at the age of 40.
His career 2.21 ERA and 546 saves is ridiculous until you realize that those are amateur numbers compared to his post season work.
His .74 ERA and 39 saves are both leagues better than the next guy and he is truly an amazing finisher of big time games.