I was going to cover 2012, but for various reasons, I decided it would be better to go back and look at a past season first. Why? Because that 37 can (and frequently does) include players who are just starting their careers. If we go back to, say, 2006, that gives us six years to at least take a stab at estimating who’s a Hall candidate while keeping a lot of current players. That way, when we move forward to 2012, we have a basis to build off. On top of that, it’ll give us a look at the next few Hall ballots; the 2012 ballot included players who last played in 2006.
I really don’t have a super scientific method for this process, but that’s okay, because neither does the Hall’s voting body. So, I guess I’ll just start listing players, and stop to explain when it’s necessary. There isn’t really any order to this list, so forgive me if it jumps around at all.
1. Albert Pujols
2. Alex Rodriguez
May as well jump into the steroid case right away. I have established my position on this. I think steroid users will make the Hall eventually, as they should. I don’t want to explain it again; if you want to know why, go read that link.
3. Barry Bonds
4. Ken Griffey, Jr.
5. Chipper Jones
6. Derek Jeter
7. Jim Thome
8. Mariano Rivera
I haven’t lost anyone yet, right? Good. I guess this is my second somewhat debatable pick. Yes, closers don’t throw as many innings (and, therefore, play as much) as starters. But Mariano Rivera is not just any closer.
9. Frank Thomas
10. Craig Biggio
11. Manny Ramirez
12. Ichiro Suzuki
I would like to see him reach 3000 MLB hits. I’m not so sure that’ll happen anymore, though.
13. Ivan Rodriguez
14. Mike Piazza
15. Kenny Lofton
I’ve actually discussed Lofton. He’ll be on the 2013 ballot, and it’ll probably mark his only appearance in the Hall debate. Which is a shame.
16. Roger Clemens
Another player I’ve discussed recently.
17. Greg Maddux
18. Randy Johnson
19. Pedro Martinez
20. Curt Schilling
Hey look, another player I’ve written about!
21. Tom Glavine
22. Mike Mussina
Spolier alert: I’m covering Mussina in a future “Fighting Tomorrow’s Ignorance Now” piece. Maybe not in the next few days; he won’t go on the ballot until 2014, so I have time. But it is coming. Some trivia: Mussina is 16th all-time in K/BB ratio. Take out 19th century players and he jumps to 13th. Take out relievers and he’s tenth. Take out current players (who will see their rate drop as they age) and he’s fifth. And even on top of that, he threw 1000 or more innings than two of the players ahead of him. Also, he fell maybe two more seasons short of 300 wins (270) and 3000 strikeouts (2813), but instead went out on top.
23. John Smoltz
And all three of the big three are reunited in Cooperstown.
24. Trevor Hoffman
You may disagree on Hoffman, with him being a non-Mariano Rivera reliever. But he’ll probably go in. The Hall doesn’t seem to mind electing two relievers from the same era. I might end up surprised, though.
A side note, I was going to put Kevin Brown next, but then I remembered he retired in 2005. Instead, I will remain content with mentioning him and redirecting you here.
25. Roy Halladay
I think we’re entering the Borderline here, or at least, what most people seem to think is the borderline. I think Halladay is mostly safe from that now, with a second Cy Young in his possession to top of his recent string of dominant years.
26. Jeff Kent
He was a good-hitting second baseman who may not have been as much of a butcher with the glove as you first thought. Fangraphs has him at 61.1 career WAR.
27. Gary Sheffield
Gary Sheffield is a similar case to Manny; really good hitter, really bad fielder. Except, he wasn’t as good a hitter (still, a 140 OPS+ over 22 seasons), and he was actually a worse fielder. He was still worth 66.7 WAR, though, so it wasn’t like he was a total disaster. Also, trivia; he played more more games as a Marlin than anywhere else. Just barely, but still.
28. Jim Edmonds
Expect a FTIN column for him, too. For now, though, see here.
29. Scott Rolen
I know I’ve been telling you to expect a lot of things. With Rolen, you can probably count on a week of mourning or something; he’s one of my favorite players ever, next to Cal Ripken. If he struggles in the Hall voting, I might just have to become Rich Lederer to his Bert Blyleven. Fifteenth all time in OPS+ among primary third basemen with 3000 plate appearances (although A-Rod will probably count as a third baseman soon, so sixteenth). Raise the bar to even 5000 minimum appearances (Rolen has over 8300) and he moves up to eleventh. Fangraphs has him as the third-most runs saved among third basemen ever. Baseball-Reference has him fourth. No third baseman ranks higher than him on both lists. Also, Total Zone has him 19th all-time among ALL fielders. Fangraphs puts him at 73.7 WAR.
To put it another way, he’s one of the ten best third basemen ever. Who’s better? Clearly Mike Schmidt, Eddie Matthews, Wade Boggs, George Brett, Chipper, and Brooks Robinson. A-Rod, although half of his career has been at short. Ron Santo maybe, but it’s close; Rolen was almost as valuable in fewer games. Even if you rank Santo ahead of him, that puts him nine. Should there be only eight Hall of Fame third basemen? Here’s a hint: there are already more than that.
30. Vladimir Guerrero
I’ve seen his name thrown a lot as a future Hall of Famer. It’s kind of weird how that happened, to be honest. Vlad seems like exactly the type of player to get underrated-he hit for power, but fell short of 500 home runs (449). He hit for average (.318 career), but fell short of 3000 hits (2590). He hit a lot of doubles (477). He was a good, but not great fielder (although his arm was fantastic). His career is more or less split evenly between two teams (and one of them is Montreal, on top of that!). Together, that sounds like the type of player that Hall voters skip over all the time. But I’m not complaining. He has 60.0 career WAR.
31. Carlos Beltran
Those last two write-ups were long, so here’s someone I’ve already covered in the past.
You may also be realizing another reason why I picked 2006. I’ve already listed 31 players who are deserving of induction, and yet, I’ve only named one player who debuted in the 2000s (Pujols). Remember how I said 2006 lets us look at the next few Hall ballots? And remember how the next four ballots are absolutely loaded? 2006 looks like it represented a freakish swell in the future Hall population. A year earlier would have let me add Brown, Jeff Bagwell, Larry Walker, Rafael Palmeiro, John Olerud, and Sammy Sosa (Sosa also had a comeback in 2007). That would be 37 players right there; our list would be done, and we wouldn’t have named ANYONE whose career started in the past decade. If you didn’t understand why I think the Hall needs to be more inclusive before, do you now?
32. Todd Helton
Maybe it’s silly of me, but I still think Helton deserves some sort of extra credit for being not only a franchise player, but also the Rockies’ first. It’s not that he’s totally undeserving, either; he has 61.7 career WAR, bolstered by a strong peak. The Hall of wWAR (an attempt to remake the Hall of Fame in the same size it currently is, but from a totally objective standpoint) also agrees he’s been one of the best players, listing him among the still-active players who are already qualified to be enshrined.
33. Bobby Abreu
Abreu is another player who may be better than you realize. Everyone has been making a big deal about Tim Raines' candidacy by pointing out that he reached base more time than Tony Gwynn (3977 to 3955). You know who's right there with them? Abreu (3913). He's been great throughout his career at pretty much every part of hitting without standing out too much. His .292 average, 2432 hits, and 286 homers look lacking. But there's more to it than that. He has a .396 OBP (in part due to his 1448 walks, 23rd all-time) and a .478 slugging percentage (in part due to his 565 doubles, again 23rd all-time). Together, it's a 129 OPS+, nestled between fellow corner outfielders and Hall members Roberto Clemente and Goose Goslin. Also, it's a solid 63.0 WAR.
I always thought of Abreu as maybe a lower-borderline Hall candidate, but in truth, based on what I found last time, there are plenty of players in the Hall who were more or less the Bobby Abreus of their times. That makes me feel a little better about including him.
34. Andruw Jones
If you read the Lofton article I linked to, you'll remember that Jones was one of the six second tier center fielders. That's no knock on him; it's just the history of the position. The top tier is the absolute legend: Mays, Cobb, Mantle, Speaker, and DiMaggio. Ken Griffey. Jr. is sort of in the middle of the two, but it's easier to lump him in with the top tier since people generally thought of him that way. The second tier, in my mind, is also filled with Hall of Famers: Edmonds, Beltran, Lofton, Richie Ashburn, Duke Snider, and Jones (also, Reggie Smith and Robin Yount if you consider them a center fielder). Jones got to that level in part because of hitting; he has a 111 OPS+, in part from his slugging percentage (.489, with 432 home runs). However, the area he's really shone has been his fielding. Total Zone has him as the second best fielder ever, behind only Brooks Robinson. Fangraphs agrees, as do the Gold Glove voters (ten straight from 1998 to 2007). In any case, I think he's covered under the "really good at one thing, not bad at the others" thinking. Jones, to date, has been worth 72.8 WAR.
35. Adrian Beltre
Beltre could be making a serious milestone run here in a few years. At the age of 33, he already has 2143 hits and 327 home runs. 3000 and 400 are not out of the question. Add in his absolutely stellar defense at the hot corner (Fangraphs and B-R have him more or less even with Rolen in defensive value; Total Zone put him 35th among fielders all-time).
We’re going to have to start moving into the more modern players sooner or later. 2006 also marked the beginning for a bunch of good younger players, conveniently. However, since this article’s already getting a little long, I’m going to have to cut off here with a “To Be Continued” notice.