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MLB: The 15 Active Players That Could Retire Today and Make the Hall of Fame

Corey HanleyContributor IIIMay 25, 2011

MLB: The 15 Active Players That Could Retire Today and Make the Hall of Fame

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    There are so many players in the league that pray for the Hall of Fame and in the end, it's only a select few that make the final cut.

    This era will be one to watch because of the steroid riddled players that will likely reach the ballot. We've already seen Mark McGwire miss out on the Hall, despite hitting 583 home runs and breaking Roger Maris' home run record.

    Some players have stood out among their peers as the greatest to play the game in the era. Only a select few have built up a powerful enough resume that they could stop playing the game and still be immortalized in Cooperstown.

    Among the players that just missed the cut for the list are Omar Vizquel, Edgar Renteria and Jason Giambi.

    Here are the 15 players that deserve baseball's highest honor.

Vladimir Guerrero: Expos, Angels, Rangers, Orioles

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    Vladimir Guerrero will go down in history as the worst bad-ball hitter in the majors. He once singled off of a pitch from Chris Tillman that bounced before it got to the plate.

    Vlad's resume is filled with incredible honors. He is a nine-time All-Star and eight-time silver slugger. In his first season in the American League in 2004, he took home the MVP after hitting .337 with 39 home runs and 126 RBI.

    Guerrero has been one of the most feared hitters in the majors for over a decade, which is backed up by his career OPS+ of 142, a superb number.

    The Expos and Angels were made much better because of Vlad's presence in the lineup. His approach at hitting is one of the most unique ever in the game because he strikes out so rarely and hits so many home runs. At this point, he is a first ballot Hall of Famer.

Albert Pujols: Cardinals

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    Albert Pujols is a god amongst mortals in the National League. He is currently the best all-around player in the majors and has been so since the beginning of his career.

    Pujols is a model of consistency. In each of his first 10 seasons, Albert has hit over .310 with at least 30 home runs and 100 RBI. He has been top 10 in home runs in the NL in every season of his career but his rookie season, when he was 11th. He led the NL in OPS three times and in runs five times.

    One of the factors that is makes Albert such a good candidate is the fact that he has stayed a member of the Cardinals throughout his entire career. That will likely continue past this year, despite his impending free agency.

    Albert's awards have piled up since his Rookie of the Year in 2001. He is a nine time All-Star, six-time Silver Slugger and two time Gold Glove winner. He has been the NL MVP three times, including back-to-back awards in 2008 and 2009. The award that helps him most is his 2008 Roberto Clemente Award, which was given to him because he "best exemplifies the game of baseball." That alone shows what he means to the game.

    Pujols will also be helped by the fact that he carried the Cardinals to a World Series win in 2006.

    Pujols is a no-brainer as a first ballot Hall of Famer.

Ichiro Suzuki: Mariners

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    Ichiro was the first of his kind as a position player from Japan to make the leap to the MLB. He has left a mark on the game by doing so well because he kicked open the door to the free-agent market in Asia and has allowed Hideki Matsui and Akinori Iwamura to try for similar opportunities.

    Ichiro was the best player in Japan, but many thought he would be over-matched when he came to the Mariners in 2001 at 27 years old. He shook off the doubts in his major league debut and dominated the league in his "rookie" season by being selected to the All-Star Game and earning a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, Rookie of the Year and MVP award.

    His resume is strong. In each of his 10 major league seasons, he has been an All-Star, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger. He has also had 200 hits in each of the seasons, including a major league record of 262 in 2004.

    Without a doubt, Ichiro will make the Hall of Fame. Voters would be silly to not make him a first ballot player because he has been a superstar of the league from day one.

Ivan Rodriguez: Rangers, Marlins, Tigers, Yankees, Astros, Nationals

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    Pudge Rodriguez has been one of the very best catchers in the league for quite some time now and is a lock for the Hall due to the fact that he is not just one of the best catchers of the past 20 years, but one of the best to ever play the game.

    Rodriguez's incredible resume includes 14 All-Star selections, 13 Gold Gloves and seven Silver Sluggers. He was the AL MVP in 1999 and won a World Series with the Marlins in 2003. Not many players will play for over 10 years at catcher, but Rodriguez is currently in his 21st season behind the plate. He has also been durable, catching at least 100 games in 17 seasons. He even holds the record for most games caught in MLB history.

    Now with the Nationals, Rodriguez has played with six different teams and has been a leader on all of them. When he is inevitably elected to the Hall of Fame, he will likely be enshrined as a Texas Ranger.

Alex Rodriguez: Mariners, Rangers, Yankees

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    A-Rod is one that I was on the fence about because he was linked to steroids, but I think that he deserves to be commended for his play. He should be the first player to shake the steroid stigma to make it into the Hall of Fame, but I don't think that he'll make it in on the first ballot.

    It's hard to argue with the numbers that A-Rod has put up. He's already hit over 600 home runs and driven in over 1800. His incredible size and power helped to redefine the shortstop position in the '90s.

    The one thing that makes A-Rod a sure thing to me is the consistency as an elite player. He is a 13-time All-Star and 10-time Silver Slugger. His defense at third has been pretty bad at times, but he was a two-time Gold Glove winner at short. Best of all, he has been the AL MVP three times in his career.

    The one thing that held back Rodriguez for years was the fact that he choked in the playoffs, but he was key in the Yankees 2009 postseason and World Series victory.

    When Alex Rodriguez is finally enshrined, he will go in as a Yankee, but it is important to never forget the great years he had with the Mariners and Rangers. He was one of the best players in each of those franchise's histories, just like he is with the Yankees.

Derek Jeter: Yankees

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    Derek Jeter has been the one player associated with the shortstop position since the early 2000s. He is one of the few team captains on any team in the last 20 years. There hasn't been another player that has embodied a franchise and has so much success in the league in many years.

    Jeter's awards are all pretty special. He is an 11 time All-Star, four time Gold Glove winner and five time Silver Slugger. He was also the Rookie of the Year in 1996. Jeter needs just 25 hits to reach 3,000, but that won't matter in the voting. Those awards and numbers are all great, but one thing stands out in his career as more important than any other: five World Series.

    Even people who know nothing about baseball know Derek Jeter because he embodies everything the league represents, with hard work, loyalty and sportsmanship.

    Derek was a Yankees fan his entire life and will be enshrined as one exactly five years after he retires.

Mariano Rivera: Yankees

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    Just like Jeter is the image for shortstop, Mariano Rivera is the most well-known closer in the league.

    Rivera's career ERA is just 2.22 in just under 1,000 appearances and is second to Trevor Hoffman on the all-time saves list. His 11 All-Star games are great, but his five World Series are better. The thing that solidifies Rivera as a Hall of Famer is his 42 postseason saves, which is a major league record.

    Rivera is so good that they should not give him a bust, but also commemorate the greatest cutter ever and the song Enter Sandman. Rivera is the only player allowed to wear Jackie Robinson's 42 year round because he was grandfathered in, but either way, he is one of very few that deserves to wear it.

Johnny Damon: Royals, Athletics, Red Sox, Yankees, Tigers, Rays

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    Johnny Damon was the one player that I grappled with most as to whether or not I thought he deserved to be enshrined. He doesn't scream Hall of Fame, which hurt him, but he has accomplished some things that I think make him a fringe candidate that could make it a few ballots in.

    Damon's not as accomplished as some of the others on the list, with just two All-Star selections, but he's been instrumental in winning for a few teams. The curse-breaking 2004 World Series win by the Red Sox would never have happened if not for the play of Johnny Damon.

    His big grand slam in Game 7 of the ALCS was key to their postseason run. The two-base steal in the 2009 World Series was a game-changer that pushed the Yankees to the win. He even helped lead the Athletics to over 100 wins in 2001.

    Voters are going to poke some holes in Damon's game because he doesn't have eye-popping credentials, but he has built a solid career. He has over 2,600 hits, over 390 steals and over 1,500 runs.

    Johnny Damon's chances at the Hall of Fame are not 100 percent. He will not make it on the first ballot and probably not the second, but I could see him sticking around for a few years and finally making it in.

Chipper Jones: Braves

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    Chipper Jones is one of the guys that probably should have already retired, but I have to give him credit for returning from injuries at 39 to do pretty well for the Braves. It's not often that a player comes into the league and is then entrenched at his position on the team for the next 18 years, so Chipper is just a special player.

    One of the best switch-hitters of the last two decades, Jones has been everything you could have asked for out of a third baseman. He is surprisingly only a six-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger but has hit over 440 home runs, which is a huge accomplishment. The normal auto-entry number for the Hall of Fame is 500, but Jones' total will suffice.

    Jones' biggest accomplishments are his 1995 World Series, 1999 NL MVP and 2008 NL batting title. These are indicative of a great of the game. His continued tenure with the Atlanta Braves and only the Atlanta Braves is a testament to his loyalty, which is a very respected quality.

    I don't think voters would ever allow Chipper Jones to be on the two years of Hall of Fame ballots.

Lance Berkman: Astros, Yankees, Cardinals

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    Lance Berkman's awards resume is pretty empty. He has never won a World Series, only reaching in 2005, when the Astros were swept by the Chicago White Sox. He has reached the All-Star game five times but has never been one of the Silver Slugger or Gold Glove winners.

    Berkman's legacy will be defined by his part in the Killer B's on the Houston Astros and his excellence as a switch-hitter. Berkman was one of the greatest players in the franchise history for the Astros, but was traded to the Yankees in 2010, ending his 11 years in Houston.

    Berkman's switch hitting was an extreme asset for the Astros. It made him versatile and dangerous in the middle of the order. His excellent doubles ability was highlighted in 2001, when he set the record for doubles by a switch-hitter with 55. That record stood for eight years before Brian Roberts broke it in 2009.

    The resurgence in 2011 will do nothing but help Berkman's cause in Hall of Fame voting, but were he to hang up the cleats today, he would definitely be elected and his bust would don an Astros cap.

Scott Rolen: Phillies, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Reds

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    Scott Rolen isn't as much of a lock for the Hall of Fame as Chipper Jones, but he deserves it just as much.

    Rolen's been a big part of the offenses of every organization he's been a part of, but his best quality is defense. He has eight Gold Gloves, earning the last one at 35 years old. His play brings up the quality of the rest of the team, which shows his image as a leader. It's not a coincidence that the Reds became a contender right after Rolen joined the team.

    In addition to his fielding awards, Rolen won the Silver Slugger in 2002 and is a six-time All-Star. He should be helped greatly in making the Hall because of his 2006 World Series with the Cardinals.

Magglio Ordonez: White Sox, Tigers

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    People often think that Ordonez is overrated because he is ridiculously overpaid, but his contract should have no bearing on his Hall credentials, which are very strong.

    Ordonez's first seven years with the White Sox were fantastic and even though his last year in Chicago and first year in Detroit were shortened due to injuries, he still managed to maintain a high batting average. That has been Ordonez's separating asset to his game in my eyes. By that, I mean that his consistent ability to rack up hits is a testament to his offensive prowess and the difference that makes him Hall worthy. His .363 average in 2007 that won him the batting title was ridiculously high and showed true talent.

    Magglio's power numbers are not as high as Hall voters usually like, but he brings a lot to the game that comes beyond the numbers. His presence helps Miguel Cabrera and others grow and see good pitches.

    Magglio is another guy that I think will miss the first ballot but deserves the Hall of Fame at some point.

Bobby Abreu: Astros, Phillies, Yankees, Angels

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    When I picked Bobby Abreu for this list, I looked at Andruw Jones as well and grappled with who, if either, of the two that I would include, and I concluded that Jones just doesn't have it. Both players enjoyed their prime around the same time, in the same division and at similar positions, so I considered them paired. Abreu's home run total is a lot less, but the gap in career average was too great to include Andruw Jones.

    Abreu has some good credentials. He is a two-time All-Star and has won the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards once. He was a great base stealer when he was younger and showed off his five-tool talent in his 30-30 seasons in 2001 and 2004 for the Philadelphia Phillies.

    His five tools are why I think he deserves the Hall because he managed to flourish in the hitting for average and power with good speed and defense for a while before his age limited him. Even at this age, Abreu has adapted his game to become more patient and drive up pitch counts to contribute.

    Abreu is another non-first ballot guy but should go in as a Phillie at some point.

Jim Thome: Indians, Phillies, White Sox, Dodgers, Twins

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    Jim Thome is a lock for the Hall of Fame. He has hit almost 600 home runs and has never been linked to steroids, which should not have to be said about one of the most dangerous power hitters of all time.

    Thome's role in the extremely potent Cleveland Indians lineup of the 1990s was that of the masher. He has had a better career than that of his former Indians teammate that is a 2011 indutee, Roberto Alomar. He is a five-time All-Star and won the Silver Slugger in 1996 for the Indians. One part of his game that should not go overlooked is his patience. He has led the majors in walks three times in his career.

    A blemish on Thome is his fielding, but that shouldn't be enough to keep him from being a first ballot Hall of Famer as a member of the Indians in 2016 or 2017.

Todd Helton: Rockies

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    Todd Helton has dropped in production the past couple of years, so it is easy to forget how good he is, but he has a terrific resume.

    Helton is a five-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove winner and four-time Silver Slugger. He is the only player to ever hit 35 doubles in each of his first 10 seasons. He also has the distinction of playing 15 years with the same team.

    Helton's .324 career average and 537 doubles are ridiculously good for any player. His power has disappeared the last few years, but he has still been a great player.

    Helton's greatest accomplishment is his 2000 season, which was one of the greatest in major league history. Helton hit .372 with 42 home runs and 147 RBI. He had 103 extra-base hits, which is fourth most in MLB history. He also led the majors in average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, which is known as the percentage triple crown. The MVP award was wrongly given to Jeff Kent, but the season alone is Cooperstown worthy.

    Helton will definitely see some doubters because he is a Rockie. Voters can use the light air at the high altitude as an excuse, but there is no excuse for denying Todd Helton a bust in Cooperstown, New York.

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