On The Bubble: Which MLB Stars Will Make It Into The Hall?
“We don't know what Posada has in mind; if he were to decide to end his career, he would have good -- not great -- Hall of Fame credentials.” Buster Olney
Growing up in the prime of the steroid era, I’ve been fortunate enough to witness the careers of some absolutely remarkable players at the prime of their careers.
However, my perspective has been severely jaded by the prevalent use of performance-enhancing drugs. We’ve already begun to see the ramifications of these revelations, as career long-baller Rafael Palmeiro, who clubbed 569 homeruns in his 20 year major league career, was snubbed by voters last summer, making him the most accomplished slugger held out of the Hall.
Only time will tell what is in store for the rest of this cohort of juiced athletes (Bonds, Ramirez, Clemens, Sheffield…the list goes on), but in all honesty, the situation is a complete mess.
Despite the talk of performance-enhancers, there is an elite group of players making great cases for the Hall, and some of these players (Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones, Mariano Rivera, Jim Thome, plus Alex and Ivan Rodriguez minus the steroid use) are sure-fire first ballot guys.
But what about that next tier of players?
Does Jorge Posada have what it takes to grace the halls of Cooperstown?
Who else is on the proverbial Hall of Fame bubble?
Jorge Posada, C, New York Yankees
Resume: A .274 lifetime hitter, the five-time All-Star has anchored one of the most prolific dynasties in baseball history, a run which included four Yankee championships and six ALCS titles over the course of Posada’s career.
Posada displayed unusual power at the catcher position, clubbing 267 homers and 369 doubles en route to driving in 1,037 runs and accruing five silver sluggers in his career.
Discussion: Without a doubt, Posada was an integral part of many Yankee championship teams and is one of the best catchers of this generation.
However, I’m not sure his numbers are quite good enough to get him there. Posada would need another two or three great seasons to put him in the same discussion as Cooperstown greats like Carlton Fisk, Gary Carter, and Yogi Berra.
Posada’s abysmal batting average this year (.183) coupled with his sudden distain for Yankee management seem to really dampen his chances of ever reaching that level.
Another major factor that sets this next tier of catchers apart from Posada is where they ranked among their contemporaries. Fisk, Carter, Bench, and Berra each garnered double digit all-star selections and most received at least one MVP award, while Posada only made it to five midsummer classics.
Is Posada a top 20, perhaps even top 15 catcher of all-time? In my opinion, yes, absolutely.
Is it enough to earn him a place in the Hall? I’m not convinced.
Verdict: My vote is a no, although I would certainly not be surprised to see him elected by a panel of writers that heavily favors the big-market favorite New York Yankees.
Resume: Ichiro arrived on the major league scene late in his career at age 27, but ever since he donned a Mariners' uniform he has become a human trophy case.
Ichiro has been selected to the All-Star team and won a gold glove for each of the 10 seasons he has completed in the majors--trophies which look great next to his three Silver Sluggers, MVP, and Rookie of the Year trophies.
Suzuki has logged over 200 hits every year in his career, including 262 in 2004 (the single season record). A .330 career hitter with 394 steals, Ichiro has been a terror on the basepaths, and at the ripe age of 37 shows no signs of slowing down
Discussion: Ichiro might have what it takes to enter the hall if he were to retire today based on his dominance over 10 major league seasons. However, nearly all Hall of Famers proved they could produce over the long haul or at least reached major milestones, so let’s just say Ichiro has a little more work to do.
With 2,297 career hits, Ichiro stands about three or four seasons away from the 3,000 plateau, and 500-600 career steals seems like an obtainable goal as well.
Can you imagine if Ichiro had broken into the majors at age 21 or 22? We might have a new all-time hits king…
Verdict: Ichiro stands just a few years away from being Japan’s first Hall of Famer. At hit number 3,000, he can call it a day and waltz into the Hall five years later.
Omar Vizquel, SS, Chicago White Sox
Resume: Perhaps one of the greatest defensive shortstops of all time, Vizquel accrued 11 Gold Glove Awards and a .985 Fielding Percentage over his 23-year major league career. A solid fundamental hitter, he currently sits at 2,815 hits, less than 200 shy of the elusive 3,000 hit plateau. Vizquel also swiped over 400 career bases and garnered a reputation as a great leader and a master of the game.
Discussion: Upon first glance, Omar Vizquel’s career stat line is almost identical to Hall of Fame Shortstop Ozzie Smith’s.
Both were excellent defenders that never hit for power, and both were infielders that handled the bat well and stole a bunch of bases in their career. To directly compare, Vizquel boasts a better average and hit total then Smith (.273 to .262, 2,815 to 2,460, respectively), but Smith stole considerably more bases than Vizquel (580 to 401). Vizquel grabbed 11 Gold Glove Awards, Smith won 13.
Despite the similarity of these totals, I draw the line at All-Star Game appearances.
Vizquel was only selected to three All-Star games, which would be an absurdly low number for a Hall of Famer, while Smith made it to 15.
Vizquel was never the most dominant player at his position throughout his career, and, like Posada, put together a great career that will likely fall just below Hall of Fame caliber.
Verdict: Vizquel will never make it to Cooperstown, and I fear he will never get the recognition he deserves for an outstanding and lengthy career.
Resume: One of the most dominant pitchers of the last 10 years, Halladay has become known for his masterful performances and outstanding work ethic.
In fewer than 14 major league seasons, he has amassed a record of 174-89 (a .662 Win Percentage) and a 3.29 ERA (although he hasn’t posted an ERA over 3.00 since 2007).
Halladay seems to be getting better with age, continuing to dominate the opposition at 34.
The two-time Cy Young Award Winner (2003, 2010) has been selected to seven All-Star appearances in his 14-year career.
Doc’s most memorable performances came in 2010, when he recorded a perfect game against the Florida Marlins and later an NLDS no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds.
Discussion: For me, the benchmark for starting pitchers has always been that 300-win plateau and/or a great win percentage, but Bert Blyleven changed all of that.
Blyleven, who was inducted into the Hall this year, went 287 and 250 throughout his big league career, which translates into a .534 win percentage. This number is good, but not great, and it makes me think that if Blyleven can get by with such a low win percentage, Halladay may be able to sneak in without getting quite so many wins.
Halladay likely has about five years left in him (and maybe two or three great ones), meaning his win total will likely fall more in the 250 range than the 300 range.
Halladay could pitch seven or eight more years and achieve the 300 mark, but with pitchers, durability is always a question mark.
Halladay needs a handful of great years to put him there, and as he continues to age, it will be a race against against the clock.
However, there is a part of me that thinks he'll do what it takes to make the hall.
Reach Ben by email.