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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Seth Speaks: Baseball Is Alive And Well

By Seth Stohs


We hear so often that baseball is bad now. That players aren't what they once were. Blah, blah, blah...
 
Today, I comprised a list of 28 players that I believe an argument could be made for their Hall of Fame candidacy. At least ten of them, in my mind, are no-brainers. Baseball is alive and well.
 
I don't want to get into the negatives that we hear about all the time. I don't want to necessarily bring up salaries. But I want to make a case for today being another Golden Era for Baseball. Sure, it may be tainted in the eyes of some. However, I think that in any scenario, the good is going to outweigh the bad.
 
I would like to make an argument that we may be spoiled. In my estimation, there are at least 25 players on current big league rosters that I think have a serious case for the Hall of Fame. And no, it's not just hitters, there are several pitchers on this list too. Obviously, I believe that the Baseball Hall of Fame is for baseball greats. It isn't for baseball's Very Goods. My criteria for what makes a Hall of Famer is probably pretty middle of the road. Some won't vote for a guy in his first year on the ballot. Some say that they won't vote for a guy unless they consider him an inner circle guy. Others will vote for anyone who they think was a really good player for a number of years, or even for a hometown player. I think Bert Blyleven should be a no-brain Hall of Famer. I don't think that Tony Oliva or Roger Maris should be in the Hall of Fame. I think I am fair in my thoughts.
 
So today, I would like to briefly mention about 25-30 current players who I think have a Hall of Fame case after they retire. I only chose players with significant playing time. In other worlds, I'm sure that Albert Pujols is well on his way to the Hall of Fame, but he has only played in the league for five years. One of the rules for Hall of Fame eligibility is that the player must have ten years in the league. So, I will only mention players who are at least close to that length of service time. There is at least one exception that I think you will understand when you see his name. No, I don't have Francisco Liriano or even Johan Santana on this list. As a matter of fact, I don't even have any Twins players. I know, this is a Twins blog, but it is also a baseball blog. And hey, the Twins play against these other teams and players too, so why not acknowledge these guys too?
 
So, sit back, grab a cup of coffee, cappuccino, mocha latte, or my breakfast beverage of choice, the hot chocolate, and enjoy this article. If you would like to, please feel free to comment below. I think it's a fun discussion and should cause plenty of debate.
 
THE ELITE

There is a group of sure-fire Hall of Famers. These guys should be first-ballot Hall guys, no matter who is voting. Of course, none of them will get 100% of the vote for whatever reason.

ROGER CLEMENS

The Rocket is 44 years old and still throwing and still dominating. He made his major league debut in 1984 with the Boston Red Sox. Since, he has played for the Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees and Houston Astros. He has "retired" at least twice! Anyway, the man has a career record of 345-176. That puts him at #8 on the all-time Win list. He is second on the all-time strikeout list behind only Nolan Ryan. He has 118 complete games and 46 shutouts. He has a career ERA of 3.11, a WHIP of 1.17, and opponents have hit just .228 against him. His career ERA+ is 143. He has appeared in 11 post-seasons. He has participated in six World Series and has two championships. He has played in 11 all-star games. He was the AL Cy Young Award winner in 1987, 1987, 1991, 1997, 1998, 2001 and 2004. He really probably should have won it in 2005 as well. He was the AL MVP in 1986. The argument could be made that he is the best right-handed pitcher in the last 60-100 years, maybe ever. His Most Similar player is Hall of Famer Tom Seaver. Eight of the ten most similar to Clemens are already in the Hall of Fame. The other two are Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson

GREG MADDUX

If Clemens is the best right-handed pitcher of all time, Greg Maddux could be called the best "Pitcher" of all time. He is not blessed with the intimidating fastball that many dominant starters have, but he knows how to pitch. The now-40 year old Maddux came up with the Chicago Cubs in 1986 at the age of 20. He became great with the Cubs but then he went to the Atlanta Braves. He went back to the Cubs a couple of years ago and was traded to the Dodgers just a couple of weeks ago. Maddux has a career record of 328-200 with an ERA of 3.06. His ERA+ is at 120. His WHIP is 1.13 for his career and hitters have hit .247 against him. In his career, he has 3,142 strikeouts. Maddux has appeared in 11 post-seasons. He has appeared in three World Series, with one win. He is frequently said to not be good in the World Series, but that is because of his 1-2 record. However, his ERA of 2.09 tells us that he has pitched very well. He has been in eight all-star games. He won the NL Cy Young four straight years, from 1992 through 1995. His 15 Gold Gloves is just one shy of Jim Kaat's career total. From 1988 through 2004, he won no less than 15 games in any season. Baseball Reference says that his most similar player is Charley Redbourn. Eight of the 10 players deemed most similar to him are already in the Hall of Fame. The other two... Roger Clemens and Tom Glavine.

BARRY BONDS

I'm not getting into that debate here. I will just say that the man is the most intimidating hitter possibly since Babe Ruth. Bonds came up with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1986. He has played the rest of his career with the San Francisco Giants. For his career, he has hit .299/.443/.607 with 580 doubles, 723 home runs (724th on Wednesday night) and 1,902 RBI. His 509 stolen bases make him the only 500-500 man in the history of baseball. His career OPS+ is a robust 184. His Isolated Discipline for his career of .144 is remarkable and helped by his all-time leading walk total of 2,404. He has led the league in walks ten times. Bonds has won seven NL MVP Awards (1990, 1992, 1993, 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004). He finished second twice. He has won 12 Silver Slugger Awards and eight Gold Glove Awards. He has appeared in 13 All-Star games. He has appeared in seven postseason series, but in just one World Series. His OPS is #4 on the All-Time list behind Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Lou Gehrig. His Most Similar player is his godfather, Willie Mays. Nine of the ten most similar are in the Hall of Fame already.

RANDY JOHNSON

The Big Unit is becoming human the last couple of years, but he is still solid. The long, lanky lefty was very dominant for about a decade. Compare the length of his dominance to that of Sandy Koufax to put it into perspective. The 42 year old Johnson started his big league career in 1988 with the Seattle Mariners. He struggle for a couple of seasons, but he was named to his first of ten All Star teams in 1990. He has since played with the Houston Astros, the Arizona Diamondbacks and now the New  York Yankees. He has a career record of 275-145 with an ERA of 3.19. His career ERA+ is 142. His WHIP is 1.16 and opponents have hit just .217. His 4,498 strikeouts (he got his 4,500th on Monday night) are #3 all-time. He has appeared in seven postseasons. His one trip to the World Series, he went 3-0 with a 1.04 ERA. He won the Cy Young in 1995, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002. His Most Similar Player is Jim Palmer, and six of the 10 most similar are in the Hall of Fame. Two of the others are Roger Clemens and Tom Glavine.

TOM GLAVINE

If I say Greg Maddux is a great "Pitcher" because he doesn't throw real hard yet still pitches great, then Tom Glavine is an incredible "pitcher." Since he came up with the Braves in 1987, he has rarely touched 90 on any radar gun. After years and years with Atlanta, he signed a free agent contract with the New York Mets. In all, he is 287-189 for his career. His 3.46 ERA gives him an ERA+ of 120. He has a career WHIP of 1.31 and opponents have hit .256 against him. He has thrown 55 complete games with 24 shutouts. Glavine has appeared in 11 postseasons. He has played in five World Series, and won just one. In World Series play, he is 4-3 with a 2.47 ERA. He has played in nine All-Star games. He also has four Silver Slugger Awards. He won the NL Cy Young in both 1999 and 2000, but he also finished in the Top 3 six times. His Most Similar player was Jack Morris. Five of the ten most similar are already in the Hall of Fame. Jim Kaat and Tommy John are also similar. Glavine is 40 and because of how he pitches and the fact that he pitches for a team with a strong offense means that he should win 300 games which should automatically get him enshrined. I don't think that he should even need the additional 13 wins.

MIKE PIAZZA

Although he has never been known for his defense (because he could not throw anyone out, not because of his game-calling), Mike Piazza has put up numbers in his career that could make him the best offensive catcher of all-time. The now-37 year old Piazza is having another solid season in his first year with the Padres. His career started in 1992 with the Dodgers. He was traded to the Marlins, but then quickly dealt to the New York Mets. For his career, he has hit .310/.380/.553 with 323 doubles, 415 home runs and 1,274 RBI. His career .310 average is even more impressive when you realize that he has not hit over .300 since 2001. His career OPS+ is 147. Piazza has appeared in four post-seasons, with the Mets losing to the Yankees in his only World Series appearance. He has played in 12 All-Star games. He was the 1993 NL Rookie of the Year. He has won ten Silver Slugger Awards. His most similar player is interestingly Alex Rodriguez. Five of his ten most similar are in the Hall of Fame.


IVAN RODRIGUEZ

If Piazza is a sure-fire Hall of Famer, I believe that Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez is as well. His offense may not quite be what Piazza's is (it is close), but his defensive intimidation makes him a sure-thing too in my mind. Now, Rodriguez threw out a great percentage of would-be base stealers. Pitchers did not necessarily like throwing to him because he had them pitch a lot of fastballs away, to help him throw batters out. Within little time, few even attempted to run on him, and those on first had to stay close to the bag. He is known for his defense and his arm, but his bat was mighty as well (and still is). For his career, he is hitting .304/.342/.484 with 2,306 hits, 465 doubles, 273 homers and 1,101 RBI. He also added some speed with 109 stolen bases. His OPS+ is at 115. Pudge has played in the postseason four times and won a ring in his one World Series appearance. He has been named to 12 All-Star teams. He was the 1999 AL MVP. He has won 11 Gold Gloves and seven Silver Slugger Awards. To me, both Piazza and Rodriguez can be lumped with Johnny Bench in any debate of the best catchers of all-time. Rodriguez is still just 34 years old, so he can significantly add to these numbers. He has played with the Rangers, Marlins and Tigers in his great career.

MARIANO RIVERA

Although he will likely get into the Hall of Fame because of what he has done for the Yankees in the post-season, Rivera deserves to get into the Hall for what he has done in the regular season as well. The 36 year old Panamanian closer has been in the Yankees bullpen since 1995. He has a career record of 58-30 with 409 saves. He has an ERA of 2.40 (ERA+ of 197) and a WHIP of 1.04. He has appeared in 11 post-seasons. He has been a winner of four of the six World Series he has played in. In Division Series, he has gone 2-0 with 15 saves and a 0.43 ERA. In League Championship Series, he has gone 4-0 with 10 saves and a 0.93 ERA. In World Series play, he has gone 2-1 with nine saves and a 1.16 ERA. See, I don't think that that is why he should be in the Hall of Fame though. To me, that is just a matter of being a very good closer for a team with lots of playoff and World Series opportunity. I mean, had Lee Smith in his prime been the Yankees closer during their run, how would he have done? Hey, if Joe Nathan had been the Yankees closer, how would he have done? Rivera has played in seven All-Star games, won the Rolaids Relief Pitcher of the Year Award four times. I do think that Rivera has been amazing throughout his career. Although he is getting older, it appears he is not letting up at all.    

KEN GRIFFEY JR.

One of the league's best hitters throughout the '90s with the Mariners, Ken Griffey appeared to be a lock for the Hall of Fame almost immediately after he came into the league. Since his trade to the Reds, however, he has missed time each year with injury. Still, the 36 year old centerfielder has a career line of .291/.374/.557 with 2,391 hits, 445 doubles, 559 home runs (560th on Wednesday) and 1,600 RBI. His OPS+ is 143. He has also stolen 178 bases. He has appeared in two postseasons, but he has never been to the World Series. He played in 12 all star games, won ten Gold Gloves and seven Silver Slugger Awards. He won the AL MVP in 1997 and finished in the Top 5 in MVP voting five times. His Most Similar player is Gary Sheffield. Six of the Top 10 most similar are in the Hall of Fame. Imagine, if you will, for just a second that Griffey would have averaged playing in 150 games each of the last five years, instead of the 90 that he averaged. That's 300 more games, and at his career average, that would have meant about 75 more home runs. That moves him up to 625 home runs for his career. Injuries are a part of the game and have to be factored in, but Griffey, despite them all, is still a Hall of Famer!

PEDRO MARTINEZ

Dominance. That is what Pedro Martinez has done for much of his career. The 34 year old Martinez has pitched for the Dodgers, Expos, Red Sox and Mets in his career. All together, he has a career record of 206-88. The 70% win percentage is the best all-time. He has an amazing career ERA of 2.75 (ERA+ of 166) and a WHIP of 1.02. Opponents have hit a miniscule.208 off of him. He has played in four post-seasons and won a World Series with the Red Sox, his lone trip to the World Series. He has been on seven All-Star teams. He won the 1997 NL Cy Young Award, then came to the AL and won its Cy Young Award in 1999 and 2000. He has appeared in the Top 5 in Cy Young voting seven times. His most similar player is Sandy Koufax. Three of the ten most similar to him are in the Hall of Fame. However, part of that is because he is still young. If you look at the list of Most Similar players through the age of 33, six of those ten are Hall of Famers, and three others are Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux and Mike Mussina.

So that is ten guys who I would have no problem voting for, if I actually had a Hall of Fame vote. Next, I will look at several guys who are very close, and it may not take a lot to convince me that they are Hall of Famers too.

VERY CLOSE

JOHN SMOLTZ

He was a very strong starter for the Braves. He had an arm injury. He became a dominating closer for three years. And although I didn't think it was smart at the time, he has come back to the starting role very strong again. He came up to the Braves in 1988 and has been with them since. He has a career record of 187-133. He also had 154 saves in just three and a half seasons as a closer (he had seasons of 55, 45 and 44). His career ERA is 3.26 for an ERA+ of 126. He has a 1.17 WHIP and opponents have hit just .234 against him. He has played in 13 postseasons. He has pitched in five World Series, winnings once. He has been on seven All-Star teams. In 1996, he won the NL Cy Young Award. His most similar player is Curt Schilling. At age 39, Smoltz has a chance to add to his already stellar numbers. I think if he gets to 200 or 210 wins, he should be a lock.

CRAIG BIGGIO

In my mind, Biggio should go into the Hall of Fame. I don't know if he will or not, so adding a few numbers would help his case. Like Smoltz, Biggio came up in 1988 and stayed with one team (the Houston Astros) the whole time. In his career, he has hit .284/.368/.437 with 633 doubles (#1 for active players), 52 triples, 276 homers and 1,106 RBI. He gets on base via the walk, but he also is the all-time leader in being hit by pitches. Once on base, he is a threat as he had 409 stolen bases. His OPS+ is 116. He has played in six post-seasons and lost his lone World Series appearance in 2005. He has played in seven All-Star games. He has five Silver Slugger Awards. He has been an underrated player on defense. He came up as a catcher and did well. To preserve his knees, they moved him to 2B and then he was moved to the OF where he played both LF and CF. He is back to 2B this year. In all, he won four Gold Gloves. His Most Similar player is Roberto Alomar (who I believe is a definite Hall of Famer), and five of his ten most similar are already in the Hall of Fame. I think Biggio is vastly underrated nationally. I think for him to make the Hall of Fame, he will need to play one more year. Right now, he has 2,905 career hits. If he gets to 3,000, he would become a lock. I don't think he should have to do that.

JEFF BAGWELL

Speaking of Bagwell, he has been out all of this season with injury, but he is still on the Astros roster. The 38 year old Bagwell's career appears to be over. He came up in 1991 and won the NL Rookie of the Year. He has spent his entire career with the Astros, like Biggio. In his career, he has hit .297/.408/.540 with 2,314 hits, 485 doubles, 449 home runs and 1.529 RBI. He even stole 202 bases. His OPS+ comes in at 150 which is incredible! Bagwell played in six post-seasons and lost in 2005 to the White Sox (yes, just like Biggio). He played in four All-Star games. He won the 1994 NL MVP. He won one Gold Glove and three Silver Slugger Awards. His most similar player is Gary Sheffield, and five of his ten post similar are in the Hall of Fame, and three others are mentioned today. I actually believe that Bagwell will fall short, in part because of being a 1B. Since his career is likely done, he won't get to the 500 home run mark that probably would have made him a Hall of Famer.

FRANK THOMAS

The 38 year old Thomas is in his first season with the Oakland As after being with the White Sox since 1990. He has hit .305/.425/.565 with 2,218 hits, 453 doubles, 472 homers and 1,553 RBI. He has always had such a discerning eye. He has walked 1,522 times in his career (led his league ten times). His OPS+ is 146. Thomas has been on three postseason teams if you count the 2005 World Series champion White Sox that he did not play in. He played in five all-star games. He was the AL MVP in 1993 and 1994. He won four Silver Slugger Awards. His most similar player is Jeff Bagwell, and three of the ten most similar are in the Hall of Fame. Injuries the last couple of years have hurt him. But, he is a guy with an OPS very near 1.000 for his career. He has hit for average, power and taken walks. I think he deserves strong consideration and if he were able to get 28 more career home runs and hit the 500 mark, he would likely get in. He would have my vote, at least.

CURT SCHILLING

The outspoken 39 year old Schilling came up in 1988 with the Baltimore Orioles. He has since played for the Astros, Phillies, Diamondbacks and Red Sox. He has a career record of 206-136. He also saved 22 games in 2005 after coming back from his ankle injury. His career ERA is 3.43 for an ERA+ of 128. His WHIP is 1.13, and opponents have hit just .241. He has played in four post-seasons. He has played in three World Series and was a key to the Diamondbacks championship, and he gave his ankle in aiding the Red Sox to their championship. In World Series', he is 3-1 with a 2.11 ERA. He has played in six all-star games. He has finished second three times in Cy Young voting (twice to Randy Johnson and once to Johan Santana). His most similar pitcher is David Cone, who was very good as well, but not a Hall of Famer. I believe that if Schilling can pitch three more years at a league average level, he could get his numbers up to the point where he becomes a better Hall of Fame bet.

TREVOR HOFFMAN

I am of the belief that Hoffman has been one of the best closers in baseball over the past decade. The 38 year old came up with the Marlins in 1993 but was quickly shipped to the Padres where he has been ever since. He has a career record of 49-55 with a 2.73 ERA (ERA+ of 146). He has recorded 467 saves. he has participated in three post-seasons and the Padres lost in his lone World Series appearance. He has pitched in four all-star games. He was the 1998 Rolaids Relief Award winner. He is #2 on the all-time saves list. His most similar pitcher is John Wetteland (who did not even get the necessary 5% of the vote to remain on the ballot). Closers are a curious thing when it comes to the Hall of Fame. Rivera is a given because he was fortunate to be with the Yankees. Hoffman has been incredible, but out of the spotlight. He does have the incredible changeup, but that isn't the glory-pitch for closers. I think he is vastly underrated, probably won't get it, but I think I would want to vote for him.

GARY SHEFFIELD

I also think that the 37 year old Sheffield's reputation has made him a very underrated player. People chose not to like him, but the fact is that his numbers are amazing. Since he made his debut at age 19 in 1988 with the Brewers, he has also played for the Padres, Marlins, Dodgers, Braves and Yankees. He has hit .298/.395/.525 in his career. His OPS+ is 146. He has 2,383 hits, 417 doubles, 453 homers and 1,495 RBI. He has played in five post seasons and won his lone trip to the World Series, with the Marlins. He has played in nine All-Star games and won five Silver Slugger Awards. His most similar player is Jeff Bagwell and five of the ten most similar players are in the Hall of Fame already. I think that Sheffield is a Hall of Fame caliber player with his current numbers. I think that he just needs to get healthy and put up strong numbers for another couple of seasons to make it more certain.

BERNIE WILLIAMS

Sticking in the Yankees OF, I think that Bernie Williams has quietly had an remarkable career. It is hard to believe that a Yankees player, especially one who has been with them since 1991, could be so underrated. The 37 year old Williams has hit. 297/.381/.477 with 2,309 hits, 442 doubles, 283homers, 1,242 RBI. His OPS+ is a very impressive 127. He also stole 237 bases. He has obviously played in 11 post-season and has four championship rings. He has played in five all-star games. Although injury has taken away much of his speed and certainly his throwing shoulder, he was once a great outfielder. He won four Gold Gloves. Bob Johnson is listed as his most similar player. None of the top ten most similar is in the Hall of Fame, and Williams likely is not going to get into the Hall of Fame. However, his career numbers really deserve to be recognized. He would fit into the Hall of Very, Very Good!

MIKE MUSSINA

Might as well stick with the Yankees. Mike Mussina is an interesting case. The Stanford grad made it to the big leagues quickly in 1991 with the Baltimore Orioles. He came to the Yankees in 2001 as a free agent. Since then, he has gone 77-46 despite generally putting up slightly better than league average ERAs. Also, the Yankees have not won a championship since he came to the team. For his career, he is 237-132 with a 3.63 ERA (ERA+ of 125). He has a WHIP of 1.18. He has 57 complete games including 23 shutouts. He has played in seven post-seasons, and two World Series. He pitched in five all-star games. He also won six Gold Gloves. Dwight Gooden is his most similar player, and three of the top ten most similar pitchers are in the Hall of Fame. Mussina is 37 years old, and he is really pitching well again in 2006. Does he have five years left in him? Probably not. I don't think he needs to get 300 wins to be a Hall of Famer, but I do think that he does need to have a couple more strong seasons to get in.

So, there are nine more players who could get some Hall of Fame consideration, particularly if they are able to play for a few more years to just pile on some numbers to their already remarkable careers. The following are some guys who I believe are probably Hall of Fame players as long as they stay healthy and don't completely collapse the rest of their careers. In a couple of cases, an argument could be made that if they were not able to play again as of today, they could already be Hall of Famers. A big factor in how their "down" seasons affect how they are viewed.

MORE TIME, PLEASE

JIM THOME

My homey, Jim Thome, has really had a great career. The 34 year old came up in 1991 with Cleveland. He spent a couple of years with the Phillies before being traded to the White Sox this past offseason. He is in the middle of another incredible year this year. For his career, he has hit .282/.409/.566 with 1,776 hits, 341 doubles, 465 homers and 1,280 RBI. His OPS+ is 149. He has played in six post-seasons and two World Series, but he does not yet have a ring. he has played in four All-Star games. His most similar player is Carlos Delgado. After missing significant time in 2005 with injuries and occasionally having back problems earlier in his career, the main concern with Thome is staying healthy. If he can, he has the swing to continue succeeding. He has the numbers to go with the personality that will help him in the eyes of the voters. He should pass the 500 home runs mark sometime next year. I don't think he would get in if he had to retire now, but it will just take a couple more Thome-like seasons to make him a sure-thing.

MANNY RAMIREZ

He is an offensive machine. Power. Average. He is terrific. The 34 year old came up with the Indians in 1993 after being their top pick in 1990. He moved to the Red Sox for huge money in 2001. He was a big part of the Red Sox championship. It was his long championship despite three World Series trips and eight post-seasons. The nine time all-star and eight time Silver Slugger Award winner has hit .314/.410/.600 with 2,052 hits, 435 doubles, 467 homers and 1,507 RBI. His OPS+ is 156. His most similar player in Juan Gonzalez who after a great start to his career disappeared in a hurry! Like him or not, I think Manny is in already.

ALEX RODRIGUEZ

Every SABR guy's favorite player the last few year, A-Rod has put up amazing numbers ever since he had his first monster season at the age of 20 for the Mariners. He went to Texas for the money, and then went to the Yankees to "win." A-Rod has played in five post-seasons, but he is yet to own a championship ring. He has hit .306/.385/.573 with 2,023 hits, 357 doubles, 454 homers nad 1,309 RBI. His OPS+ is 145. He also has 237 career stolen bases. He won the AL MVP award in 2003 and 2005. He has nine all-star appearances. He has won two Gold Gloves (despite his struggles at 3B this year). He has also won eight Silver Sluggers. His ost comparable player is Mike Piazza, and only one of the top ten most similar hitters is in the Hall of Fame. That said, if we look at the most similar players through age 29, eight of the ten are in the Hall of Fame. The other two are Ken Griffey Jr. and Vlad Guerrero. If not for his public perception, A-Rod's numbers make him a Hall of Famer. The reputation as being a choker is really the only negative in his record. The only thing he can do is get the Yankees back to the World Series and have a monster series. Either way, his numbers are too big to get held out of the Hall. And, he's only 31 years old, so he could do this for another decade, or more.

DEREK JETER

A-Rod is bashed by the media and those who read it, but beloved by stat-heads. Stat-heads just don't see to give much respect to Derek Jeter while the fans and media think he can do no wrong. Well, unlike most bloggers, I tend to agree with the fans and media. Jeter is about as fundamentally sound a ball player as I have seen since Kirby Puckett. Like Puckett, he doesn't try to hit for power but instead inside-outs the ball the opposite way. He hits for high average, occasionally shows some power, takes great at bats and has good speed. The 32 year old who has been with the Yankees since being promoted in 1995 has hit .316/.419/.476 for a career OPS+ of 121. He has 2,085 hits, 334 doubles, 50 triples, 178 homers, 831 RBI and 241 stolen bases. He is an incredible talent. Is he perfect? No, he's not as perfect as Tim McCarver and most media tell us. Despite his two Gold Gloves, he is not a great defensive SS. He has played in ten post seasons and won four World Series rings. He has played in six All-Star games. He won the World Series MVP in 2000. His most similar player is Ray Durham, and five of the ten most similar are already in the Hall of Fame. So yeah, I won't buy everything the media tells me about the leadership and captain-ism of Jeter. That said, I have heard current and former teammates discuss the type of teammate that Jeter is... and compared it to the type of teammate A-Rod is. Teammates love Jeter. Not so much with A-Rod. That means nothing when it comes to statistics or determining an MVP candidate (of which he may be the front-runner this year), but it does mean a lot to a team. Jeter should get to 3,000 hits and there is no doubt in my mind that he deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame.

JEFF KENT

The fact that Kent plays second base helps his Hall candidacy. His offensive numbers are terrific, for the position. That said, he is probably out of position defensively. For his career, the 38 year old Kent has hit .288/.354/.504 with 2,135 hits, 489 doubles and 342 homers. He has a career OPS+ of 126. He has appeared in five post-seasons and is 0-1 in his World Series appearances. He has played in five all-star games. He was the 2000 NL MVP. He has won four Silver Sluggers. His most similar player is Bobby Doerr, the only Hall of Famer of his ten most similar players. I know he has had a very solid offensive career with more power than most 2B. I just don't see him as a Hall of Famer. Maybe it is because his 'great' years were not as numerous as the likes of Alomar, Biggio, etc.

VLAD GUERRERO

The 30 year old Guerrero still has a lot of potential years in front of him. He came up with the Expos in 1996. He now is with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. In his career, he has hit .323/.389/.582 with 1,727 hits, 313 doubles, 331 homers and 1,025 RBI. His OPS+ is 148. He also has 164 career stolen bases. He has six all-star appearances. He won the 2004 AL MVP award. He has won five Silver Sluggers. He has played in the playoffs twice. His most similar player is Ken Williams, no, not the current GM of the White Sox. Of the most similar through the age of 29, eight of them are in the Hall. I would say that Vlad is not yet a Hall of Famer. Four or five more quality season should make him just that. My concern with him is his incredibly forceful swing and its affects on his back and legs. If he can stay healthy, he will be very likely inducted five years after he retires.

CARLOS DELGADO

Delgado came up to the Blue Jays as a catcher in 1993. He quickly moved to first base. After solid career north of the border, he headed to south Florida and played a year with the Marlins. He was traded to the Mets this past offseason. In his career, he is hitting .282/.390/.555 with an career OPS+ of 142. He has 1,668 hits, 404 doubles, 395 homers and 1,247 RBI. He has played in two all-star games, but he is yet to experience the post-season, although it would appear he will this year. He has won Silver Slugger Awards. His most similar player is also Ken Williams. I think Delgado needs to play well for at least four more years to be considered. He needs to get to 500 homers and then just rack up more hits.

ICHIRO SUZUKI

As I mentioned in the opening, a player needs ten years in the big leagues to be eligible for the Hall of Fame. The 32 year old Ichiro is in his sixth season in the Major Leagues. He won the Rookie of the Year and MVP Awards in the AL in 2001. He has played in five all-star games. He has won five Gold Gloves. He set the record for hits in a season with 262 in 2004. In his five-plus seasons, he has hit .331/.377/.438 with 149 doubles, 47 triples, 58 homers, 347 RBI and 224 stolen bases. Basically, he just needs to have a couple more very good seasons, and then last four more years. To me, Ichiro is a Hall of Famer for everything on the field. His role as the first very successful player from Japan to come to the USA gives him some bonus points, I would think, in the eyes of the voters, or at least with me. His most similar player is a guy named Benny Kauff.

 

So, there are eight more players with a Hall of Fame candidacy. So, all told, that is 28 players currently on a roster that I believe deserve some serious Hall of Fame consideration. It is a good, strong era for baseball. For both pitchers and hitters. I didn't even talk about guys like Chipper Jones who if he can stay healthy (doubt), he could get there. Andruw Jones has power, and if defense means anything, he could be considered. He's only 29. What about Omar Vizquel? His offensive numbers are similar to Ozzie Smith, and he has 10 Gold Gloves to Ozzie's 13. Alfonso Soriano needs a couple more seasons to be eligible, but if he keeps putting up these types of numbers and he is able to move back to 2B, he is a certainty. The start to Albert Pujols' career makes him a future candidate. I am sure you could add more to the list.

So again, I would love to hear your thoughts and comments on the Hall of Fame players in the league today. Did I miss someone? Is it ridiculous that I even included some of these guys?
 
Seth Stohs is a native of Perham, who currently lives and works in Warroad.  In his spare time, he operates a website called Seth Speaks (www.sethspeaks.net).  If you're a Twins fan, you'll really learn a lot.  Check out his site or comment on this article with an email to SethSpeaksNet@hotmail.com.
 

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