It’s becoming increasingly clear that players under PED suspicion will be looking at a padlock on the Hall Of Fame door for some time.
There’s not much that can be done for those players. They are victims of a Hall Of Fame (HOF) filibuster with no end in sight. Even current legends such as A-Rod and Manny Ramirez will be getting the cold shoulder from HOF voters, who didn’t induct any of the highly qualified candidates on this year’s ballot.
Before Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, or any of the players suspected of juicing, are inducted into baseball’s ultimate VIP section, more time will have to pass and a concrete, uniform approach concerning the eligibility of these tainted players will have to be developed by the BBWA, which held its annual HOF induction ceremony this weekend in Cooperstown.
With the PED era “slowing down,” intensified testing and suspensions for cheats and an incremental return to baseball normalcy underway, TSL decided to take a look at some of the current players who have a shot at making the Hall of Fame if their reputations continue to stay clear of the MLB’s PED witch-hunt.
Rivera was the anchor to the NY Yankees rotation during the Bronx Bombers’ two-decade reign of baseball dominance. He took the ball whenever called and put in work. He’s the all-time saves leader and baseball’s finest ambassador. Rivera is the living legend of closers and probably one of the top-five most important players in Yankees history. That’s saying something. He’s first ballot with a bullet.
What more can be spit about the Pitbull of MLB? He’s simply crushing the game and after becoming only the 13th batter since 1900 to win the Triple Crown, he’s trying to double up on that and grab another MVP. Cabrera’s vast skill set continues to tip the scales of dominance in his favor. He’s only in his 11th season and has already bagged 353 homers, leaving the Venezuelan slugger about 150 dingers short of the 500-homer plateau, which would basically guarantee his HOF induction. A career .321 hitter, to top it off, Cabrera is as durable as it gets. With the exception of his World Series rookie season with the Marlins, Cabrera hasn’t played less than 150 games in a year.
To debate Jeter’s HOF worthiness would be insane in the brain. The Yankee captain has over 3300 hits and five World Series rings in a 19-year career that should be frozen in time, or at least framed for keeping. Jeter’s not just a baseball player, he is a supreme brand and the face of the Yankees Dynasty, with a Wilt Chamberlain-appetite for skirts. Clutch performer. Impeccable character. Big-city icon. Proceed to Cooperstown, Mr. Jeter, and don’t stop for red lights for once in your life.
In Milwaukee, this guy mashed, and in Detroit, he continues to wreck shop and provide backup like the Secret Service for the similarly-husky Cabrera.
Just call them The Brand New Heavies. Prince is the son of human rocket launcher Cecil Fielder, who crushed 51 homers in ’90 for the same Tigers organization for which his five-time All-Star son continues to shine. Fielder is a throwback hacker in the Reggie Jackson, swing-from-the-heels-on-every-cut mode. He already has 277 homers in less than eight full seasons in the pros and a .530 career slugging percentage. At the tender age of 29, his career has HOF written all over it.
The HOF voters will have to cut Verlander some slack for his low win total (134) at age 30. However, if he can win 15 games a year for the next five years, he will push himself over the 200-win mark which has become a more respected accomplishment in light of the PED era and increased babying of pitchers. All the plea-copping aside, total domination is something few players ever experience, but Verlander has had his moments as the top dawg in a wicked Tigers rotation. Since going 17-9 as a rookie in ’05, he’s a power arm with two seasons of 250-or-more Ks and he rarely loses (.647 career winning percentage). In ’11, he went 24-5 and accomplished the rare feat of winning a CY Young and MVP, further stamping his importance to the Tigers. Who’s been more of a murderer of Maplewood than Verlander? His team is stacked. They are looking for a ring, and after a slow start, he’s heating up like rocks on the stove.
There were times in David Wright’s career when he was the only thing the Mets had of value. It’s possible that no player in baseball has had to carry a franchise under the often debilitating circumstances that Wright has experienced with the Mets. Sure, he has $138 million reasons to go hard in the paint, but Wright’s value to the Mets is incomparable. He’s a Gold Glove third baseman with 219 homers in 10 pro seasons. The Mets haven’t been playing like it, but they are a big market team with high expectations. There was a time during the ’80s when the Mets owned the joint, and Wright’s commitment to what is, at times, an abysmal situation, plus the visibility he gets playing in the Rotten Apple, has elevated him to iconic status. It’s looking like 400-plus homers, an elusive WS ring, and maintaining his career .300 batting average should help Wright kiss Cooperstown glass some day.
Since arriving on US soil from Japan, Ichiro has been one of the greatest pure hitters the game has ever seen. Thirteen years in MLB and 2,702 hits with a .320 lifetime batting average. He has more hits than Chuck Berry, and only Pete Rose knows how many the 39-year-old Ichiro would have had if he played his entire career in “The Big Show.”
As he plays out his dimming career with the Yankees, now’s as good a time as any to reflect on his boss-player career.
From ’01-’11 with Seattle, Ichiro was an All-Star regular with a bat like a fly swatter, a rocket arm and supreme defensive grit. No player in history has as many consecutive 200-hit seasons (10), and Ichiro’s astounding 262 hits in ’04 is more than anybody to ever do it. He’s also approaching the rare 500-steals plateau. HOF worthy? Ichiro ain’t worried about nothin’.
Before Miguel Cabrera grabbed the No. 1 spot, and before Pujols left St. Louis heart-broken, making the mad dash for cash in Hollywood, Pujols was baseball’s Ben Diamond. His bat was nutty and unpredictably lethal. The two-time WS champ has cooled off a bit since coming to Hollywood, but the three-time MVP is coming up on the 500-homer, 1,500 RBI-mark and doing interior decorating for his HOF lodgings once he retires.
DH bias aside, Papi Ortiz’s 420 homers, 549 career slugging percentage and ability to evade harmful PED connections should be enough to get him a major HOF sniff. Add Papi’s fan appeal, two World Series rings, his clutch heroics and the fact that he helped end the “Curse of the Bambino” – more than 80 years of living hell for Boston fans – everything should be a go for Papi and the HOF.
“King” Felix Hernandez
Hernandez, just 27, has a career record of 109-80 in nine years, pitching for a terrible Seattle team. How bad? Well, Hernandez went 13-12 in ’10 and still took the CY Young because he pitched to a 2.27 ERA and whiffed 232 suckers. He bum-rushed the MLB battlefield as a 19-year-old pitching savant in ’05 and has been putting on clinics ever since.
It’s just a shame that his true greatness is unfulfilled, because Hernandez hasn’t pitched in a meaningful postseason game. Once he does that, we can start comparing him to the all-time greats.
Roy “Doc” Halladay
There was a time during his career with Toronto when Doc Halladay was as close as it gets to an automatic W. He pitched in the toughest division in baseball and owned everybody, including the Yankees. From ’02 through ’’11, Halladay was buzzing like Tupac came back. No pitcher in baseball won more games than Halladay (170), who posted a 2.97 ERA during that period. Dominating performances became common for Halladay, who has won 20 games with the Blue Jays and Phillies, winning the Cy Young in both seasons. Doc’s body of G-work and career record of 201-104 is going to get him a HOF mic check.
Honorable Mentions: Robinson Cano, Manny Machado, Mike Trout, Adam Jones, CC Sabathia, Robinson Cano, Torii Hunter, Andy Pettitte.