With A-Rod coming up on his 600th home run, and a number of other guys sneaking up on milestones, it is time to look at some current players chances at enshrinement in Cooperstown, ensuring them baseball immortality. We will be back to MLB news next week, as it is hard to really get a lay of the land until after the trade deadline.
Andruw Jones- Atlanta Braves
.256/.337/.486, 19th among active players in runs (1134), 10 Gold Gloves, 401 HR, 1817 hits
We start our discussion with a guy who is only 33 at this point, but whose career seems to have slowed to a halt. He really caught the back end of those great Braves teams of the 90s, but was still an almost talismanic figure in Atlanta. He was consistently one of the best defensive center fielders, as his 10 gold gloves go to show. His 401 HR are also fairly impressive, and his OPS (.824) is much higher than you would think for a guy with a .256 career average, but there is a catch. If he could have kept his production at pre-2007 levels, he would be a lock, but as it stands, I think he is on the outside looking in. He did hit 51 home runs in 2005 (at the peak of steroids…) and 41 the year after that, but his average was heading into a severe slide. Whether it was making an effort to go toward power, or if his mechanics fell apart, his average dipped to levels that made him un-playable and may have slowed his career to a non-Hall of Fame level. If he makes it to 500, I might have to reconsider, but I really, really doubt he is making it there.
Omar Vizquel- Cleveland Indians
.273/.338/.354, 11 Gold Gloves, 393 SB, 1399 runs (8th among active players), 2749 hits
Before I start, I will admit to being extremely biased here. However, I do not think it will matter. Omar Vizquel is clearly a Hall of Famer, and here’s why. He is the 2nd best defensive shortstop to ever live (behind the Wizard of Oz), and he excelled as a non-power-hitter in a time where everyone was a power hitter. He had a 21 year career (longevity goes a long way), and is not too far from the 3000 hit mark. He will probably not make it there, but for a guy who is thought of as a defense-only guy, it is a pretty impressive number. Omar Vizquel is a Hall of Famer.
Andy Pettitte- New York Yankees
3.87 ERA, 3.75 FIP, 5 World Series rings, 240-137 career record, 2240 Ks
The first thing I would like to do is throw out some of these statistics. First up: wins. He played on a team consistently stacked with amazing (and extremely well-paid) talent that could get him wins when many other pitchers would not have got that. Second are the World Series rings. Again, his team was outstanding for him there, and while he was a very good postseason pitcher (record 18 postseason wins and 6 series-clinching wins), I cannot give him sole credit for that. His career ERA is good, but not HOF-worthy. A solid ERA is 4, and he is just under that. Solid is the right word for Pettitte, who has been very good and all that, but has not been great. He will be remembered by Yankees fans, but not in Cooperstown.
Chipper Jones- Atlanta Braves
.306/.405/.536, 433 HR, 1493 runs (7th among active players), 1481 RBI (6th among active players), 2469 hits
He is in. His .941 career OPS is really good, and he was really the rising star on those great Braves teams of the 1990s. He never won a gold glove, but he hit just about every other benchmark of a great third baseman. He has better numbers at the plate than (gasp) Mike Schmidt, who is the gold standard of third basemen, and while he lacks the 3 MVPs and the 10 gold gloves of Schmidt, he is a shoe-in for the hall of fame. It was not as if he was a bad defender, there were just guys like Scott Rolen hogging all the gold gloves at his position.
Vladimir Guerrero- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
.321/.385/.567, 1394 RBI (7th among active), 427 HR, 2359 hits, 2004 MVP
Vladimir Guerrero is truly one of the underrated great players of this generation. We think of him as only a slugger, but he has a career average higher than Derek Jeter (.315), Manny Ramirez (.313), and A-Rod (.313), is only 35, and was reborn in Texas this year. His OPS is a robust .952, and for many years he was among the most feared outfield arms. His bad-ball hitting is not a criteria for the Hall of Fame, but it is still worth noting that no one swung at worse pitches and consistently hit them than Vlad. Throw a couple more good years on top of this and he will waltz into Cooperstown.
Todd Helton- Colorado Rockies
.325/.424/.557, 1218 RBI (15th among active players), 2195 hits, 1251 runs (12th among active players), 327 HR
This is a very tough one. His averages are really, really good, but he also played in a ballpark that was an offensive gold mine up until the installation of a humidor for the balls. His OPS of .981 is hard to deny, but I think he is just barely out. The RBIs and Runs are solid, but not outstanding, and even though he is 35 and has a few more years to pad the resume, he hit a big speed bump this year, and may not be doing his career numbers enough good over the next few years. The ballpark, the lack of power, and the non-elite RBI and run totals keep him solidified as a great Colorado Rockies player, but not a Hall of Famer.
Alright, time for a special edition.
Randy Johnson- Seattle Mariners or Arizona Diamondbacks?
3.29 ERA, 3.19 FIP 3.26 K:BB, 303 wins, 100 CG, 4875 Ks, 5 Cy Young Awards
I think he is in. Alright, he is not active and is clearly in, but the real question here has to do with which team he goes into the Hall as. My gut reaction is that he is a Mariner, but the numbers do say differently. His his best years came in Arizona, his title came in Arizona, and 4 of his 5 Cy Young Awards came with Arizona as well. That is a pretty strong case for Arizona, but I want to make a non-numerical argument here. He had his best years in Arizona, but he made his legacy in Seattle. It was in Seattle that he became “The Big Unit”, and where he became the most intimidating pitcher in baseball. I cannot argue against his numbers in Arizona, and I will not try. However, the fact that he was the only stud in Seattle (as compared to having Schilling in Arizona), that his image and soon-to-be legacy was born in Seattle. I think he should go in as a Mariner, but I can’t really argue against his enshrinement as a member of the Diamondbacks if that is the way MLB goes.
My Verdict: Seattle. MLB’s Verdict (in my opinion): Arizona.