First let me define the group of players I am going to discuss. There will be no mention of young stars (i.e. Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw) as possible Hall of Fame inductees. While the young talent in baseball today is certainly impressive, many of the current superstars have simply not played long enough to be seriously considered for Cooperstown induction (yet). In this article, I will focus on the players who, based on their current resumes, can make a serious case for the Hall. Here are eight who could be making a speech in Cooperstown soon:
The most recent player to achieve the 3,000 hit milestone, Ichiro has put together quite the career. His Rookie of the Year and MVP awards (both in 2001), two batting titles, ten Gold Gloves, ten 200 hit seasons, and three Silver Slugger awards make up an incredible resume. Not to mention, despite spending eight years of his prime in Japan, he is in the top 40 all time in stolen bases and the top 30 in hits.
Conclusion: Ichiro is a shoe-in Hall-of-Famer. Period.
Miggy is not only one of the greatest hitters of his era, but he is arguably among the greatest pure hitters ever to play the game. He boasts a tremendous six Silver Slugger awards, four batting titles, one of which included a triple crown in 2012, and two league MVP awards. A two-time home run and RBI leader, Cabrera has a .320 career batting average to go along with 435 total dingers and 1,523 runs batted in. His defense, however, has been less than stellar since he burst onto the Major League scene in 2003. He has yet to win a Gold Glove award and has been known, throughout his career, as somewhat of a liability defensively.
Conclusion: When someone hits like Miguel Cabrera, it is pretty easy to overlook a lack of defensive ability. He is another “no doubt” Hall of Fame inductee.
Pujols has hit 582 home runs in his career, and in reality, I should just stop there. Just to be thorough, however, he has won a batting title, six Silver Slugger awards, three MVP’s, a Rookie of the Year, and two Gold Gloves. His career average is an impressive .309, and that home run total will almost certainly continue to grow, not to mention the fact that he is second all-time in walk-off home runs (12) behind only Jim Thome.
Conclusion: The last shoe-in Hall-of-Famer you will meet in this article, it would be ridiculous to think that Pujols will not end up in Cooperstown.
To Mets fans, he will only be remembered for the Wainwright curveball that froze him in the 2006 NLCS, but Beltran has put together a memorable career otherwise. However, even with three Gold Gloves, two Silver Slugger awards, and a Rookie of the Year nod, his accolades are not nearly as impressive as those of Ichiro, Cabrera, or Pujols. His career .282 batting average and his 416 homeruns alone may not be Cooperstown-worthy, but his postseason statistics really stand out. Yes, he did strike out in a big spot in that 2006 NLCS, but his .332 postseason average, 16 playoff homeruns, and 40 October RBI (spanning 5 playoff stints) are enough to make him one of the best postseason hitters of all time. Although his teams have never won a World Series, his lack of a ring is through no fault of his own.
Conclusion: Despite his lack of accolades and his regular season mediocrity (compared to most Hall-of-Famers), his postseason production has been incredible. I believe whole-heartedly that he has put together a Hall of Fame-worthy career, although I would guess his regular season numbers and his lack of a World Series ring will prevent his entry into Cooperstown. If it was up to me, however, he would certainly be a Hall-of-Famer.
Much like Beltran, Beltre’s career numbers are not necessarily Hall of Fame material. The veteran third basemen, who finds himself 101 hits away from the coveted 3,000 hit mark, has slashed .285 with 434 homeruns over his nineteen years in the MLB, achieving four Silver Slugger awards in the process. Unlike Beltran, however, he does not have the outstanding postseason success given that he has hit .270 with 5 homeruns and 11 RBI over six playoff series. Still, his year to year consistency, matched with outstanding defensive ability, which has earned him four Gold Gloves and two Platinum Gloves, makes his an interesting case for the Hall of Fame.
Conclusion: Beltre has been one of the most consistent players of his generation, always putting up solid numbers and helping his teams in postseason contention. He has not, however, brought the kind of year-in, year-out greatness that Hall-of-Famers are known to have. Despite his solid production and his outstanding defense, I do not believe he has done enough to separate himself or to earn a Cooperstown nod. This could all change, however, should he reach the 3,000 hit mark before his career ends. Should he become the next to get his 3,000th, I believe he should end up in the Hall of Fame.
One of the greatest catchers not only of his generation, but also the history of baseball, Molina’s defensive ability has stood out over his career. His career .283 average and 104 homeruns leave him well below average in terms of Hall of Fame-worthy numbers. At a defense-first position, however, he has an unbelievable eight Gold Gloves and four Platinum Gloves over his thirteen MLB seasons. In an era where a good catcher throws out approximately 33% of runners, Molina has thrown out 43% of runners who have attempted to steal on him during his career.
Conclusion: True, his offensive output is not really noteworthy. At a defense-driven position, however, Molina is one of the best of all-time. As such, he belongs in the Hall of Fame.
David Ortiz & Alex Rodriguez (technically no longer active)
Here’s where it all gets interesting, because whether fans want to admit it or not, their cases are nearly identical. Looking strictly at career numbers and accolades, both deserve nothing less than a first-ballot Hall of Fame nod.
Ortiz has hit .286 over his career with 531 homeruns and 1,736 RBI, which should easily be Cooperstown-worthy. Pair these number with his awards, which include five Silver Sluggers and a World Series MVP (2013), and he seems like a lock for the Hall of Fame.
Likewise, Rodriguez’s numbers put him in a group of some of the best players ever to play Major League Baseball. His 696 home runs trail only Babe Ruth (714), Hank Aaron (755), and Barry Bonds (762), and his 2,086 RBI are good for third all-time. Just to complete his resume, he has ten Silver Sluggers, two Gold Gloves, and three MVP’s, all of which seem to cement his legacy as one of the all-time greats.
But…STEROIDS! Although Rodriguez is certainly the poster-boy for PED use in professional baseball, Ortiz was caught, too.
Conclusion: Personally, I have trouble forming an opinion as to whether PED users should be allowed into the Hall of Fame. Did they cheat? Absolutely, but that does not take away the tremendous talent and production of players like Ortiz and Rodriguez. All I will say is this: It would be completely unjust for one to make it in without the other. Both have Cooperstown-worthy numbers, but both were caught cheating, and thus, their fates, regardless of how polarizing A-Rod is compared to Papi, should be intertwined.