The ballot containing somewhere in it the next class of Major League Baseball Hall of Famers was announced last week. On it are what seem to be the names of players who are sure to get in and the names of the poor guys who seem to show up on the ballot year after year, only to get turned down, yet again.
With all this excitement about the Class of 2009, slated to be announced this January, a great question to ponder would be, "Who of the current major leaguers could be considered a first ballot Hall of Famer?"
I have assembled a list of the top 10 major leaguers whom I believe will no doubt be elected to the Hall of Fame. Players' stats, consistency, and reputation were all taken into account in making the selections. The time periods consist of each player’s first full rookie season until now.
It should also be noted that while some superstar players, such as David Wright, Jose Reyes, Albert Pujols, and Ryan Howard, among others, seem to have unjustly been left off of the list, it is merely because their careers are currently too young to work with at the moment.
It has nothing to do with the performance they have displayed up until this point in time (also, Greg Maddux was retired by the time I got around to writing this article).
So without further delay, here are my 10 current players destined for Cooperstown.
Ken Griffey Jr.
Teams: Seattle Mariners (1989-1999), Cincinnati Reds (2000-2008), Chicago White Sox (2008) *Currently a Free Agent
Career Statistics: .288 AVG, 611 HR, 1772 RBI, 1612 R
Average Season: .288 AVG, 31 HR, 89 RBI, 81 R
Achievements: Fifth All-Time Career Home Runs, AL MVP (1997), 7x Silver Slugger Award Winner (1991, 1993-1994, 1996-1999), 10x Gold Glove Award Winner (1990-1999), 13x All-Star (1990-2000, 2004, 2007)
There are so many questions spread throughout history. It is my opinion that one of history’s biggest questions should be, “What would Ken Griffey Junior’s career have looked like had he not been plagued by injury for the majority of his time with the Cincinnati Reds?”
For one thing, it would look even more ridiculous than it already does.
If Griffey managed to stay healthy for his whole career, in all likelihood, Alex Rodriguez would be chasing his career home run record, rather than that of Barry Bonds.
For starters, Griffey stands fifth place among all major leaguers in career home runs and is one of only six members of the 600 Home Run Club.
And as if numbers were not enough, consider the fact that the pop cultural frenzy created by the superstar outfielder has been absolutely unbelievable over the years.
There was a time when Griffey’s name was virtually everywhere—from video games, to magazines, to commercials. He was arguably the biggest name in the sport since Babe Ruth.
That sweet lefty swing of his seemed to put baseball back on the map during the early '90s; always leaving fans wanting to see more.
While it is unfortunate that Griffey’s career took such a tumultuous turn after the year 2000, it is quite easy to see why this man will get into the Hall of Fame with no problem.
Position: Relief Pitcher
Teams: Florida Marlins (1993), San Diego Padres (1993-2008) *Currently a Free Agent
Career Statistics: 554 SV, 1055 SO, 2.78 ERA
Average Season: 35 SV, 66 SO, 2.78 ERA
Achievements: All-Time Career Saves Leader, 2x NL Saves Leader (1998, 2006), 3x TSN Reliever of the Year Award Winner (1996, 1998, 2006), 6x All-Star (1998-2000, 2002, 2006, 2007), Only Pitcher in MLB History to earn 500 Saves, 89.53% Career Save Percentage (Highest in MLB History)
You just cannot deny him the Hall of Fame. While Trevor Hoffman certainly did not dominate on his way to his historic 554 career saves, the number alone should earn him a spot in Cooperstown (it should also be considered that Hoffman is the only major league pitcher to ever reach the 500 save plateau).
His craftiness is what made Hoffman so successful during his career. While he never blew batters away, as a young player, he developed an excellent changeup (now his trademark pitch) to go along with a fastball and curveball.
One of the only criticisms of Hoffman has been his tendency to fold under pressure. This fact has been well documented, especially in Padre playoff appearances over the past decade.
Regardless, there should certainly be a spot reserved on the wall for Hoffman when it is his turn to take a shot at the Hall.
Teams: New York Yankees (1995-Present)
Career Statistics: .316 AVG, 2535 H, 1467 R, 275 SB
Average Season: .316 AVG, 195 H, 113 R, 21 SB
Achievements: 4x World Series Champion, World Series MVP (2000), Rookie of the Year (1996), 3x Silver Slugger Award Winner (2006-2008), 3x Gold Glove Award Winner (2004-2006), 9x All-Star (1998-2002, 2004, 2006-2008), Hank Aaron Award (2006)
Do I hear the word “overrated” coming from somewhere? How foolish.
The truth is that when Derek Jeter steps onto a baseball field, there is a very good chance that he is not the most talented player on that field (all he has to do is turn to the guy standing to his right).
However, for all of his shortcomings when it comes to raw talent, it could easily be stated that Derek Jeter accomplished more in just the first five years of his career than most players do during their entire tenure in the major leagues.
While 2008 may have been the first year in which Jeter started to show signs of slowing down (he’ll be 35 in June), one must look at the big picture.
Jeter has several single seasons of 200 hits or more. And at his current pace, he will challenge Pete Rose’s record of 4,256 career hits.
In addition, there are always the intangibles when it comes to Jeter as well. This includes the natural leadership he displays on and off the field, as well as his trademark clutch hitting.
He is the MLB career leader in postseason games played, at-bats, hits, runs, and total bases.
So, um, you may want to reconsider that “overrated” thing.
Position: Starting Pitcher
Teams: Montreal Expos (1988-1989), Seattle Mariners (1989-1997), Houston Astros (1998), Arizona Diamondbacks (1999-2004, 2007-2008), New York Yankees (2005-2006) *Currently a Free Agent
Career Statistics: 295 W, 4789 SO, 3.26 ERA
Average Season: 15 W, 240 SO, 3.26 ERA
Achievements: 5x Cy Young Award Winner (1995, 1999-2002), World Series Champion (2001), World Series Co-MVP (2001), Second Place on All-Time Strikeout List, 10x All-Star (1990, 1993-1995, 1997, 1999-2002, 2004), Perfect Game (May 18th, 2004)
Was there any doubt in your mind that the "Big Unit" would not be on this list?
When all is said and done, the stats that Randy Johnson will have racked up will make it impossible to even think about keeping him out of the hall of fame.
Opposing batters have marveled at the way that a man with such a unique body type (Johnson stands at 6'10") could somehow keep every limb in sync while delivering a 96 mph fastball.
With the controversy surrounding Roger Clemens and the Mitchell Report, there is no contesting that Johnson was the pitcher of his generation.
His mind-blowing 4,789 strikeouts put him in second place on that list. He is second only to the great Nolan Ryan with 5,714.
Johnson is also only five wins away from locking up 300 career victories (not that he really needed to add to his resume).
So the only real question about Johnson's Hall of Fame candidacy now is, "What kinda picture are they going to use on his plaque?" I say they use that world famous death stare of his. It gives me chills just thinking about it.
Position: Starting Pitcher
Teams: Los Angeles Dodgers (1992-1993), Montreal Expos (1994-1997), Boston Red Sox (1998-2004), New York Mets (2005-2008) *Currently a Free Agent
Career Statistics: 214 W, 3117 SO, 2.91 ERA
Average Season: 13 W, 195 SO, 2.91 ERA
Achievements: 3x AL Cy Young (1997, 1999, 2000), World Series Champion (2004), AL Triple Crown (1999), 8x All-Star (1996-2000, 2002, 2005, 2006)
Do not let the last three years fool you. Pedro Martinez is easily the most dominant pitcher that Major League Baseball has seen since the days of Sandy Koufax.
Martinez got all that he could out of his tiny 5’9” 185 pound frame.
The fact that a guy that little could be considered a power pitcher alone is astounding. But then you begin to realize that he was never simply a power pitcher – he was a power pitcher who consistently kept his fastball 95 mph and above during every one of his starts.
Martinez’s heyday was with the Boston Red Sox during the late '90s and into the early 2000’s. Some have argued that during this time he could have been considered the best that ever lived.
While others may say that this is going a bit too far, consider that Martinez is in the 3,000 strikeout club despite a constant back and forth to the disabled list during his career with the New York Mets over the last four years.
He also holds a career 214-99 record, making him one of a select few pitchers to have at least 100 more wins than losses.
And while his wacky antics sometimes turned fans off to him, he was certainly a quote machine, giving the media loads of entertainment and sound bites to take to the presses.
For these reasons and more, Martinez will certainly be on that first ballot.
Teams: Cleveland Indians (1993-2000), Boston Red Sox (2001-2008), Los Angeles Dodgers (2008) *Currently a Free Agent
Career Statistics: .314 AVG, 527 HR, 1725 RBI, 1212 BB
Average Season: .314 AVG, 35 HR, 115, 81 BB
Achievements: 2x World Series Champion (2004, 2007), World Series MVP (2004), 9x Silver Slugger Award (1995, 1999-2006), 2x Hank Aaron Award Winner (1999, 2004), AL Batting Champion (2002), AL Home Run Crown (2004), 12x All-Star (1995, 1998-2008)
The phrase “Manny being Manny” is often associated with Manny Ramirez’s wacky antics. We all smirked when he slapped a fan in the stands a high five, laughed when he went to relieve himself in the Green Monster between innings, and groaned when he cut off Johnny Damon’s throw from center field (while Manny was playing left field, mind you).
However, “Manny being Manny” can also take on a different meaning. Manny being Manny usually means terrorizing the 29 other teams by wielding the best bat in the major leagues this side of Henry Aaron.
Manny Ramirez makes it look easy out there. While his last couple of years with the Boston Red Sox shed Manny in a bit of a dark light, his short stint with the L.A. Dodgers this past season had us remembering once again just what a freak of nature Ramirez really is.
If a ball is outside, Manny can hit it out of the park. If a ball is up, Manny can hit it out of the park. If a ball is inside...well you’d better believe Manny can hit it into the next county.
While the extra baggage that comes with Ramirez may steer a couple teams clear of him during his free agency this off-season, teams may want to take a second look at the upside of what they could be getting. That is, the greatest hitter of this generation.
Position: Relief Pitcher
Teams: New York Yankees (1995-Present)
Career Statistics: 482 SV, 934 SO, 2.29 ERA
Average Season: 34 SV, 67 SO, 2.29 ERA
Achievements: 4x World Series Champion (1996, 1998-2000), World Series MVP (1999), ALCS MVP (2003), Second All-Time Career Saves Leader, Most Career Postseason Saves (34), Lowest Career Postseason ERA (0.77), 2x DHL Delivery Man of the Year Award (2005, 2008), 9x All-Star (1997, 1999-2002, 2004-2006, 2008)
The Greatest. How often can you say that about someone without hesitation?
Well, this is one of those times, because Mariano Rivera is easily the greatest closer who ever graced the rubber with his presence.
Unlike his counterpart Trevor Hoffman in San Diego, Mariano Rivera made a living by instituting sheer dominance with one devastating pitch—the cutter.
While his strikeout rate was never astronomical, he certainly has broken many a bat in his day.
Mo is second on the all time saves list with 482 career saves. However, Rivera did not make his name simply by acquiring saves during the regular season.
He holds the record lowest postseason ERA (0.77) and most postseason saves (34). And while he has had his slip ups here and there, no one has performed better under the pressure than Mariano Rivera.
After pushing the Yankees into signing him onto a three year deal before the start of the 2008 season, many were skeptical as to whether or not Rivera still had enough left in the tank to keep the closing job.
Well, Rivera silenced the critics by making 2008 one of his best regular seasons yet.
Showing no signs of slowing down, there is no doubt that Mo is destined for Cooperstown.
Position: Shortstop, Third Base
Teams: Seattle Mariners (1994-2000), Texas Rangers (2001-2003), New York Yankees (2004-Present)
Career Statistics: .306 AVG, 553 HR, 1606 RBI, 283 SB
Average Season: .306 AVG, 40 HR, 115 RBI, 20 SB
Achievements: 3x AL MVP (2003, 2005, 2007), 10x Silver Slugger Award Winner (1996, 1998-2003, 2005, 2007-2008), 2x Gold Glove Award Winner (2002, 2003), 4x Hank Aaron Award Winner (2001-2003, 2007), 12x All Star (1996-1998, 2000-2008)
What can be said about Alex Rodriguez? While he is loved by some, he is loathed by most. His cocky attitude and inexplicable failure to produce in most clutch situations has made good ol’ A-Rod the target of much criticism.
However, if you put all of his extra baggage aside and just take a look at Rodriguez’s stats, you will realize something: he may very well be the greatest player who ever lived when all is said and done.
No matter what you think about the man, he is the exact definition of the five tool player. He hits for power and average at the same time, steals bases, has the arm of a quarterback, and his hands at third have been getting better and better every season since he made the switch from short in 2004.
A-Rod’s 553 career home runs at age 33 put him on pace to absolutely shatter the current record held by Barry Bonds (762) and he is now the only player to put up over 30 home runs and 100 runs batted in for 11 consecutive seasons.
Couple those numbers with the fact that Rodriguez hits in one of the toughest right-handed ballparks in all of baseball and still manages to crank out 40 home runs on average per year, and you begin to realize that the sky is the limit (still) for this prolific, god-like player.
In short: You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Position: First Base
Teams: Chicago White Sox (1990-2005), Oakland Athletics (2006, 2008), Toronto Blue Jays (2007-2008) *Currently a Free Agent
Career Statistics: .301 AVG, 521 HR, 1704 RBI, 1667 BB
Average Season: .301 AVG, 27 HR, 90 RBI, 88 BB
Achievements: 2x AL MVP (1993, 1994) 4x Silver Slugger Award Winner (1991, 1993-1994, 2000), 5x All-Star (1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997)
Quite possibly the most intimidating hitter to ever play the game.
I would imagine that to look at Frank Thomas from an opposing pitcher’s standpoint would probably be comparable to feeling as though you are pitching to the Incredible Hulk (Thomas has the temper to go with that analogy as well).
But the fact is that behind the “Big Hurt’s” monstrous appearance are the stats to back up a Hall of Fame candidacy.
During the 2007 season, Thomas became the 21st member of the 500 Home Run club. This has been a feat that has been in question during recent years as far as being a valuable stat in considering whether a player should be elected to the Hall of Fame or not.
Many baseball players of the late '90’s and early 2000s reached the 500 home-run plateau. However, Thomas’s name has never come up in any kind of steroid or HGH investigation of any type.
In fact, back in 1995, Thomas was a strong advocate for the facilitation of better drug testing, citing that he wanted everyone to know that he played “the right way.”
Well he certainly has played the right way, which should send Frank on the road right to Cooperstown.
Position: First Base
Teams: Cleveland Indians (1991-2002), Philadelphia Phillies (2003-2005), Chicago White Sox (2006-present)
Career Statistics: .279 AVG, 541 HR, 1488, 1550 BB
Average Season: .279 AVG, 34 HR, 93 RBI, 97 BB
Achievements: Silver Slugger Award Winner (1996), 5x All-Star (1997-1999, 2004, 2006), MLB Home Run Crown (2003)
Here you have a guy who has flown under the radar for pretty much his whole career. People who do not follow baseball closely probably would not even know his name. And I will admit, he may be a little shaky.
But after being gypped out of an MVP award, numerous all-star appearances, and a World Series, I do not believe Jim Thome should be gypped out of a trip to the Hall of Fame.
If you were to build a team from scratch, you could automatically slide Thome into the clean up spot and take it from there. Throughout his career, he has been the perfect example of a prototypical power hitter.
Though his average was usually down, you could always count on him to rack up stats in the home run, runs batted in, and base on balls columns.
Thome owns a career .560 slugging percentage and a .406 on-base percentage—both exceptional numbers in terms of power.
In addition, he hit a home run in an average of every 14 at-bats (fourth place on that list for a major league career)—just staggering.
So while Thome may never have been the most popular name in the sport, he certainly is one of the most deserving of being sent to the National Hall of Fame.
Honorable Mentions: Carlos Delgado, Tom Glavine, Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones, Curt Schilling, John Smoltz