In 20 years, people will look back at Tuesday night's All-Star Game and remember it as Derek Jeter's final Midsummer Classic. He received the loudest ovations of the night, both during pregame introductions and before his at-bats, and again when he was removed from the game. The entire night was about Jeter and deservedly so.
But, in 20 years, we might look back at this All-Star Game to see that the American League had four Hall of Famers in the starting lineup. Not just in the starting lineup, but one through four in the batting order. Here was the top of the order, assembled by manager John Farrell following the fan vote to select the players:
- Derek Jeter, Yankees: First-ballot, no-doubt Hall of Famer.
- Mike Trout, Angels: Off to a historic start to his career but obviously has a long, long way to go before Cooperstown becomes a real possibility.
- Robinson Cano, Mariners: Solidly on the Hall of Fame track, will likely pick up his 2,000th career hit next season, at age 32.
- Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: Also solidly on the Hall of Fame track, with 2,100 hits to go with 379 home runs and 1,335 RBI at age 31
Jeter is going into the Hall of Fame no questions asked and I'm pretty sure Cabrera will finish his career as one of the 10-15 best right-handed hitters who ever lived, which would make him a safe bet for Cooperstown. Miggy already has the insane peak and hardware (World Series ring, two MVPs, Triple Crown), now he just needs longevity to hit some of those important round-number milestones (3,000 hits, 500 homers, etc.).
Cano doesn't have the same Hall of Fame buzz but his numbers are extraordinary, especially relative to his position. By the end of next season he'll likely jump into the top 10 in home runs, top 15 in WAR and top 20 in hits by a second baseman all-time. He has a legitimate shot at 3,000 career hits and, like Cabrera, already has the peak. He just needs to hang around a few more years to compile numbers.
Trout is the wild card. He could be the next Mickey Mantle or he could be the next Andruw Jones, peaking early and flaming out before his 30th birthday. Just keep in mind that Trout continues to get better each year -- 168 OPS+ in 2012, 178 OPS+ in 2013 and 182 OPS+ so far in 2014 -- and has already racked up 19.6 WAR in his career, the most through a player's age-22 season in history (by 2.2 WAR and counting). That's the stuff that leads to a Hall of Fame career.
Right now, the only thing set in stone among those four hitters is Jeter heading to the Hall of Fame. That's a given. The other three guys are well on their way to having those types of careers but still have work to do. With good health and consistent performance, it's likely that down the road, when talking about Jeter's final All-Star Game, we'll also be talking about the time the AL had four Hall of Famers at the top of the starting lineup.