Monday, October 16, 2006
Active Hall of Famers, Part II
And so, it's time for the second in our (now) ongoing series examining current Major League players who will one day be in the Hall of Fame. Today, an easy one: the AL Central (there's only four).
Again, we're ignoring guys who are so young, we can't tell what's going to happen. Grady Sizemore and Francisco Liriano will just have to wait until we revisit this topic in five or ten years (which is unlikely, unless we're hard up for stuff to write about five or ten years from now). There are two categories: Surefire Guys (guys who would be Hall of Famers based on what they've already done, even if they never played another game; this category's name has been changed for reasons that will be obvious to those who follow baseball or aviation) and Probables (guys who I'm predicting will wind up in the Hall of Fame, but who need to put up a few more numbers first).
Here, the short list:
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Jim Thome - The debate with Thome was whether he's a Surefire Guy or a Probable, not whether he'll be a Hall of Famer. I think he's done enough, but, if he has one more 30 home run season (likely, since he it 42 this year) he'll top 500, which will probably remain an automatic number for Cooperstown (among players who never actually tested positive for steroids). Two more 100-RBI seasons (109 this year) and he'll have more than Hall of Famers Billy Williams, Eddie Matthews, Joe "Ducky" Medwick and Robin Yount. Come to think of it, those guys are marginal Hall of Famers (although I say that in the spirit of -- to borrow a phrase from myself -- praising with faint damnation); maybe Thome should be a probable.
Jim Thome - See above.
none (and, so you don't have to look it up, C. C. Sabathia's last three seasons: 11-10 [4.12], 15-10 [4.03], 12-11 [3.22], all under 200 strikeouts.)
Ivan Rodriguez - Start naming Major League catchers you'd take before him, and you kind of run out of steam after Yogi Berra and Johnny Bench. Hard to believe, but, go ahead. See for yourself.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Johan Santana - Yes, it's probably too early to put Santana on this list, but, I'm a Twins fan and I can't help it. Want to know the active pitchers ranked ahead of him in career ERA? How about Pedro Martinez, Roy Oswalt, Greg Maddux and Roger Clemens, huh? And right behind him: Randy Johnson and John Smoltz! That do anything for you? Want to know how many pitchers in Major League history have a better winning percentage? Two! Since 1900: One!
Joe Mauer - Will retire as the greatest all-around catcher in baseball history. Would I be saying this if I hadn't grown up in Minnesota and wasn't a lifelong Twins fan (like Mauer himself)? Uh, yeah. I'm sure I would.
Coming up next: the AL West.
But you're spot on here. After this year, Santana will have 2 Cy Young Awards in his trophy case and his best years might yet be ahead of him. That's scary.
I have no doubts that Mauer will get even better as well. Given that he was touted as a power-hitting catcher when the Twins drafted him, his home run totals will likely go up from this year. A catcher who can hit for both power and average is a definite lock for the hall of fame if he can do so consistently over the course of his career.
I would love to put Torii Hunter on that list, but I don't think I can. He's one of the best defensive outfielders of his generation, but his current career batting average is just .269 and he'll be lucky to finish his career with 300 home runs. Those numbers won't cut it, especially for an outfielder.