Blog Entry

Five active surefire Hall of Famers

Posted on: January 4, 2012 1:30 pm
Edited on: January 4, 2012 1:57 pm

By Matt Snyder

With the Hall of Fame voting results revealed this coming Monday, it's always a perfect time to look at ahead at future Hall of Famers. Sure, we'll debate about them when the time comes, but why wait? We've got time -- as it's a slow time of the year for baseball.

Thus, Eye On Baseball will do a five-part series about current players who may or may not eventually be enshrined into the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, New York. The first part, this one, will deal with players who could retire right this second and be a sure bet to be voted into the Hall. While the resume isn't necessarily complete -- one of these guys' is far from complete -- it's already Hall-worthy.

Anyway, considering we're saying a player can retire right this instant and still easily get into the Hall, this list is short. It's just five names. We'll go in alphabetical order. To reiterate, this isn't players who we think will get in one day (which would certainly include someone like Roy Halladay). This list is of guys who could call a press conference and retire right now and still make the Hall.

Hall of Fame coverage
Derek Jeter: The Captain was already headed to Cooperstown regardless, but the 3,000th hit this past summer completed his first-ballot resume. He has a career .313 batting average with 240 homers, 339 steals, a Rookie of the Year award and five World Series rings. His postseason line -- .307/.374/.465 with 20 homers in 152 games -- along with seven top-10 finishes in MVP voting further cements his legacy.

Chipper Jones: Jones joined a division-winner and was one of the key members of 11 more division championships, winning the World Series once. The seven-time All-Star won the 1999 MVP -- pretty darn tough to do in those days for a presumed non-juicer -- and finished in the top 10 in voting five other times. He has 454 home runs and over 1,500 runs and RBI. Perhaps the most underrated aspect of Jones' game is he's walked more times than he's struck out in his career, helping to give him a .402 career on-base percentage. His .935 OPS ranks him 31st in MLB history.

Albert Pujols: Will the "longevity" crowd go nuts over this pick? Maybe. But c'mon. The guy has been one of the three best players in baseball for 11 years and the best since Barry Bonds retired. To randomly select a recent inductee, Jim Rice played 2,098 games in 16 seasons; winning one MVP and finishing in the top five six total times. Pujols? He's played in 1,705 games. In his 11 seasons, he's won three MVPs and finished in the top five 10 times. He already has 445 career home runs and his rate stats are insane. Pujols' .328 career batting average ranks him 33rd of all-time. His .420 OBP ranks him 19th and his .617 slugging percentage ranks him fourth ever. Only Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Lou Gehrig had a higher mark. Yes, those rate stats tend to decline with age, so then I'd go back to the prime and point to the top five MVP finishes. Oh, and the two World Series rings, along with several huge postseason hits.

The point is, while he hasn't played 15 years, for example, few in the history of the game have ever put up 11 seasons at any point in their career as Pujols already has, so he's in right now. The only thing that could possibly keep him out is an unfortunate test at some point, but we're talking facts here, not baseless speculation.

Mariano Rivera: Obviously there's a spot for the best reliever in major-league history. Not only does Rivera hold the all-time record with 603 regular-season saves, but he's closed down 42 of 45 postseason save chances with a sparkling 0.70 ERA and 0.76 WHIP. Small sample? Not really. It's 141 innings, which is roughly twice as many as he'll throw in a given regular season. The 12-time All-Star also has those five rings, like Jeter does. Rivera's consistency, dominance and longevity mean he's a sure bet, even if other relievers have had trouble getting in.

Jim Thome: Is 600 the new 500? It used to be that hitting a 500th home run was like punching one's ticket to Cooperstown. That club has grown to 25 guys now, and will be adding one more pretty soon (Pujols). That's still pretty exclusive and might remain a barrier that always gets guys voted in -- assuming the PED cloud of suspiscion doesn't hang over their heads the way it does McGwire and Manny Ramirez, to name two. For good measure, though, Thome just went past 600 home runs this past season. Only seven have ever hit more homers in a career, three of which (Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Alex Rodriguez) will have to deal with those PED questions.

Thome doesn't just hit home runs, either. He's drawn 1,725 career walks (eighth all-time), which has helped him garner over 1,500 runs and a .403 career OBP. He also ranks 26th in history with 1,674 career RBI. Even if most of Thome's value does stem from hitting home runs, that's the best possible outcome a hitter can have. That's like saying all a football player does is score touchdowns -- more than all but seven have in the game's history. How is that bad?

Coming Thursday: Borderline candidates among older veterans
Friday: Players over 30 who have a shot of getting there with a few more good years
Saturday: Players under 30 building a good foundation
Sunday: Asterisk candidates -- on-field numbers good enough but PED issues cloud matters

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.

Since: Jun 13, 2008
Posted on: February 4, 2012 3:45 am

Five active surefire Hall of Famers

I had Derek Jeter,Mariano Rivera,Albert Pujols & one you didn't Matt,Roy Halladay.I don't know how I forgot Jim Thome & his 604HRs.If 500 is still the benchmark for a surefire HOFer the Chipper Jones has an outside chance of reaching that mark.He'll need to hit the same amount of HRs in the next 3 seasons that he did in his last 3 seasons which were 18,10,18 to reach exactly 500.I think he gets in regardless.'94 was supposed to be his rookie season but he suffered a gruesome ankle injury in Spring Training & we probably never saw his potential speed if he didn't suffer that injury.Although in 1999 when he won the NL MVP Award he stole a career best 25 bases. 

Since: Jun 13, 2008
Posted on: February 1, 2012 10:45 am

Five active surefire Hall of Famers

Since: Sep 6, 2006
Posted on: January 9, 2012 12:50 pm

Five active surefire Hall of Famers

I read the list of surefire and borderline candidates, as well as the commentary that went with it.  Unless I missed it, I see no mention whatsoever of the "Big Hurt" Frank Thomas.

jmoll - is Frank Thomas active?

Reading comprehension.  

Since: Oct 2, 2006
Posted on: January 9, 2012 8:43 am

Five active surefire Hall of Famers

That is - talking about Pudge rodriguez.

Since: Oct 2, 2006
Posted on: January 9, 2012 8:41 am

Five active surefire Hall of Famers

Agreed - I think it will be interesting when it comes up how voters deal with his suspected use.
he has been given a pass shall we say from much negative scrutiny.
he is a HOFer in my book.

Since: Oct 11, 2006
Posted on: January 9, 2012 12:41 am

Five active surefire Hall of Famers

It's about active players, that's why Big Hurt's not on it. Otherwise, there's several guys recently retired like Griffey and Randy Johnson who are sure-fire HOFER. Frank's a shoe-in.

Since: Dec 1, 2007
Posted on: January 8, 2012 8:37 pm

Five active surefire Hall of Famers

I am an Atlanta fan and have tickets to games, but I think it is funny that people try to make a case for Chipper Jones not being a first ballot hall of famer. Please look at his numbers and how they compare to other third basemen that are in the hall of fame before you make dumb comments.

Since: Nov 22, 2006
Posted on: January 8, 2012 5:29 pm

Five active surefire Hall of Famers

I read the list of surefire and borderline candidates, as well as the commentary that went with it.  Unless I missed it, I see no mention whatsoever of the "Big Hurt" Frank Thomas.  One of the most imposing offensive forces you will find in his prime.  He will be the first to admit he wasn't going to win you any games with his glove before he turned into a full time DH, but if you are going to list all of these other players as surefire or borderline, you've gotta include Big Frank in the conversation I believe.

Since: Oct 11, 2006
Posted on: January 8, 2012 1:32 pm

Five active surefire Hall of Famers

Last thing on Ichiro: The reason you have to look at his Japanese numbers is that he started playing ball in the Majors so late (27 I think?) his career stats are skewed. He's double the hitter his career stats suggest, and those stats are amazing. If he had another 5 years of MLB experience, in his prime no less, he'd have over another 1,000 - 1,200 hits. That's why I say you can look at his Japanese stats. It's a completely different rationale from looking at someone's minor league stats. It's closer to  how they used to look at guys' nego league service to determine their actual studliness, like Satchell Paige or Josh Gibson. Ichi's stats translate very well from Japanese ball to MLB, unlike Matsui's (which are inflated power numbers). No one seems to disagree with me on Ichi being already a first-ballot HOFer, but I just wanted to clear that up. I think his decline just happened this year, and it might be too steep for him to get to 3,000 in MLB, but that makes him no less a legendary hitter. As someone mentioned, Pete Rose is the closest comparison to a pure hitter in modern baseball. Rose might be a better hitter, but Ichi's speed and defense puts him in the same class. Unlike guys like Thome, Ichi's legend will probably grow after he retires.

Since: Oct 10, 2006
Posted on: January 7, 2012 11:21 pm

Five active surefire Hall of Famers

For those of you doubting Chipper, you should rethink your foolish position.  He's 2nd all time career XBH amongst switch hitters (ahead of Mantle, behind Murray), will pass murray after this season.  Only switch hitter to have a career .300+ BA and 400+ HRs.  One of only 8 players in MLB history to have career line of at least .300/.400/.500.  Won the batting title at 36 while hitting .364/.470/.574. If he retires after this year his career numbers will be 2700+ H, 550+ 2B, 470+ HR, 1600+ RBI, .930OPS.

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