I gave my take on who the future Cooperstown inductees should be in coming years, going from 1984-2001 with active players. The article can be found in this month's Baseball Herald from Baseball Digest Daily, but I'll post it here. Make sure you check out that link, because the Herald is a great monthly project.
David Schoenfield of Page 2 at ESPN.com recently wrote a two-part article on 40 active players he thinks will or should make the Hall of Fame. There are some parts of the article I agree with, others I am not so fond of, and some I wanted to take a look at to double check before deciding what I thought. I ended up compiling my own list of players who I feel should or have a chance to make the Hall of Fame. I broke the players up into different categories depending on when they entered the league, to avoid what Schoenfield did on occasion. He threw everyone together, and omitted players like Scotto Rolen and Chipper Jones at third base in favor of David Wright and Hank Blalock, who have barely scratched the surface of their careers yet. This will help with the comparisons as well, as we can see how far ahead certain players like A-Rod are to players who entered the league in the same period as he. I broke them up into 3-year periods, starting with 1984 (Roger Clemens? first year in the big leagues, and the most tenured player on the list).
Here we have four first ballot Hall of Famers. Bonds is fighting for the title of greatest player ever (he is actually only behind Babe Ruth in Career WARP3, and a healthy 2006 would most likely get him close to passing him). Rafael Palmeiro is a Hall of Famer, regardless of what some like Skip Bayless might say. Maybe he is Eddie Murray Lite, but according to JAWS he actually had a better peak. Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux used to be closely comparable, but Clemens is now fighting for the title of Greatest Pitcher of All-Time, while Maddux is shooting for his spot in the top five. All of these players were on the list that inspired this article.
Here we have more sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famers, with Junior Griffey and most likely Sammy Sosa, although his fall from grace at this stage in his career might leave a sour taste in some voter?s mouths. Craig Biggio is vastly underrated in some circles, but is deserving as one of the better second basemen of all-time. Gary Sheffield does deserve a plaque in Cooperstown, even if some people are afraid to talk to him in person. It might surprise some to see that Sammy Sosa has the second least career value of all these offensive players, and is tied for second in peak with Biggio among them. John Smoltz is not a borderline candidate, and neither is Kevin Brown. Kevin Brown is a deserving Hall of Fame starter. I know this seems odd, but let?s take a look at the Average Hall of Fame pitcher?s numbers.
A World Series ring in 1997 and another appearance in 1998 (plus his dismantling of the Astros and Braves in the playoffs that year; 16 K?s in 8 IP and 11 K?s in 9 IP respectively, thank you Retrosheet) give him the playoff resume he needs, although some might want to have that negated by his pitching in the 2004 ALCS. I?ll give him the benefit of the doubt, since he was hurt.
Schoenfield had all of these players on his list as well (although he said Brown was not a Hall of Famer.)
Here is where we start to see more of a hypothetical stance for some of these players. Bagwell, Rodriguez, and Thomas, and Piazza (remember, he is a catcher) all seem like automatics for the hitters, while Mussina, Pedro, and Schilling all fit the bill as well (remember Pedro is only 33 years old, so he should have at least 3-4 years left in his arm and shoulder as a dominant pitcher before decline sets in). What we see here besides the obvious are the players like Larry Walker, Luis Gonzalez, Jeff Kent, and Jim Thome. Players with a Hall of Fame case to be made, but ones who are not quite there yet. To be honest, the one with the best chance is Jeff Kent, because he is producing at a higher level than the others at the moment. Jim Thome still has a shot due to being younger than the rest of the aforementioned borderline candidates, but his back and other injury problems might sap his power too long for him to make his mark on history. Larry Walker realistically has the numbers (or is close enough) but a career mired in injury might weigh on the voter?s minds and keep him out. Luis Gonzalez is not really a Hall of Famer in my mind, but he did have a great run in Arizona after a career as a valuable player before turning 30. There will be a spot in the Ray Lankford Wing of the Hall of Fame for him when he retires. Bernie Williams might make it on the strength of belonging to the mid-to-late 90?s Yankees dynasty, but as a candidate by himself he is questionable due to the strength of centerfield in Cooperstown.
Here we have an interesting case. Two relievers, and two of the greatest closers of all-time. Rivera is a definite; Hoffman needs some more dominating seasons and possible the record for saves in order to get in, but even that is no guarantee (just ask Lee Smith). The A-Rod, Manny Ramirez and Jim Edmonds are all definite Hall of Famers in my mind. Carlos Delgado?not so much. Chipper Jones is a candidate for third base. He is an excellent player, but will surely be helped by the lack of third basemen in the Hall. Garret Anderson was included on Schoenfields? list, and I just cannot agree. If he had 3,000 hits I still might say no. Schoenfield said he did not believe Edmonds deserved to be in the Hall, but you can see here that he is a viable candidate if he keeps it up.
Redheaded step child of major league baseball, and the original winner of ?The Brian Giles Award for Unheralded Greatness?, Brian Giles himself heads up the list of players from 96-98. And it is not because he got a head start; he and Andruw Jones started the same time and amount for playoff bound teams starting up their careers. By the way, he was omitted from the other list. I will get so much hate mail for this statement, but Brian Giles will end his career with first ballot career values. It is a shame that he most likely will not get in to the Hall of Fame (then again, some Page 2 writers have Hall of Fame votes, and they are the ones who named that award). I actually think that everyone on this list is capable of finishing up their career with values that would make them Hall of Fame candidates, and viable ones at that, except for Johnny Damon. Schoenfield included him because he feels he could reach 3,000 hits, and that is a true statement, he could. I just cannot picture Johnny Damon in the Hall of Fame. Let?s think rationally here. He had a few good years in Kansas City, a poor year in Oakland, two overpaid years in Boston (thanks Dan Duquette) and then he has finally earned his money for the most part the past two seasons at age 31. I expect his performance to decline, especially with so much value tied up in his batting average. I expect him to fall short of 3,000 due to a severe decline making him play like Marquis Grissom in the later stages of his career, but you never know. He does have a chance at 3,000, I will agree to that.
These players are ones that look to have long productive careers ahead of them. Pujols is considered to be capable of becoming one of the top ten elite of all-time, while Beltran (after overcoming this year?s injury troubles) should take his place in the Halls of Cooperstown next to the other centerfielders. Beltran is a speedy player with power, so he should age very well. Berkman is not, but should have a career at first base when outfield is not a safe haven for his glove and legs any longer. Ichiro Suzuki should get in for being as successful as he is coming over from Japan, as well as his actual playing accomplishments. Miguel Tejada is an excellent player, but overrated in my mind. I?d still take Nomar in his prime over Tejada?s prime. I do not feel comfortable listing any players who debuted after Albert Pujols and Ichiro because they have not put together enough to merit it. 5 years of service is needed to calculate peak, and it is not everyday that players hit the ground running like Ichiro and Pujols.
You probably noticed I have not had any pitcher?s for the past three tables besides the two relievers. This is because it is so hard to project pitcher?s performances far enough into the future to accurately predict whether they will be a Hall of Famer or not that I decided to simply list off some names for you rather than crunch numbers that may not mean anything.
In no particular order: Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Mark Prior, Livan Hernandez, Mark Buerhle, Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito, Andy Pettite, Brad Radke, and Johan Santana. It is much too early to truly predict how any of those pitchers will finish, but I felt compelled to at the very least list the ones I feel will do the best out of the current crop of young and talented pitchers (and the few trying to seal the deal with late surges like Hernandez, Radke and Pettitte.)
If (and when) you disagree or agree with any of the players I?ve included (or possibly ones I have left off) you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with comments, criticisms or suggestions.
Marc Normandin is a contributing writer to Baseball Digest Daily. His work can be found regularly at Beyond the Boxscore.