Seven players who could be next unanimous Hall of Fame inductee after Derek Jeter barely misses history

For years, we wondered whether or not we'd ever see a unanimous Hall of Fame inductee. Tom Seaver's 98.8 percent in 1992 held the record for highest vote percentage until Ken Griffey Jr. hit 99.3 percent of the vote in 2016. Still, so many times along the way (Rickey Henderson, Cal Ripken, Greg Maddux and Pedro Martinez are just a few names I couldn't imagine someone justifying leaving off a ballot), we wondered what was it going to take? 

The logic of "well, [enter someone like Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Jackie Robinson, etc.] didn't get 100 percent, so why should he?" is completely flawed. The job is to vote on whether or not a player is a Hall of Famer. 

Finally, last year, the barrier was broken. Mariano Rivera got 100 percent of the vote. We thought it might happen again in 2020 with Rivera's longtime Yankees teammate Derek Jeter on the ballot for the first time. Jeter, however, missed being a unanimous pick by <em>one</em> vote.  

Jeter should've gotten 100 percent. Votes that missed the mark in the past don't matter. We're trying to be better now. Jeter -- with his five World Series rings, 14 All-Star appearances and 3,000-plus hits among other accolades -- is a no-doubter and no voter should've left him off. The hope was that Rivera's selection last year cleared the way to be done with the long-standing no-unanimous nonsense. 

It was only one vote, so perhaps we'll see some more unanimous selections in the future. It won't be for a bit, though, and it'll take a special player. Looking ahead, here are seven players who could flirt with 100 percent of the vote. It was tough not to list Adrian Beltre, but I have a feeling we'll see a few justifications for leaving off one of the greatest third basemen ever, especially since we saw Jeter left off one ballot. 

1. Ichiro Suzuki

Ichiro came to MLB in his age-27 season with 1,278 career hits in Japan's NPB. He still managed to grab more than 3,000 MLB hits, which is insane. He also stole over 500 bases with a career .311 average. He led the league in hits seven times, won two batting titles and his impact for Japanese position players cannot be overstated. He was a worldwide phenomenon. Any shortcomings are irrelevant here. He's an easy and obvious Hall of Famer, and it's hard to imagine anyone not voting for him.  Even despite the Jeter tally, I think this one happens. 

2. Albert Pujols

Remember Prime Pujols? I have nightmares on behalf of the pitchers who had to deal with him. Among all hitters in MLB history, Pujols is now fifth in total bases, seventh in doubles, sixth in home runs, fourth in RBI, 15th in hits, 17th in runs, fifth in extra-base hits and 15th in times on base. He's got black ink all over the place. There isn't a relevant argument for leaving him off a ballot.

3. Miguel Cabrera

As opposed to Pujols, Miggy's decline might cost him here. He'll still make the Hall of Fame with ease, but we aren't talking about that. We're talking about getting 100 percent of the vote. He'll keep playing, but I'm concerned Cabrera falls short of 500 home runs (he's 23 away, but he's only hit 15 the past two seasons and 31 the past three) and/or 3,000 hits (he's 185 away, but only had 179 the last two years). Yes, he was hurt in each season, but that's an ongoing concern at his age and with his recent history. He'll get in easily, but if he somehow falls short of both of those, I feel like at least one voter leaves him off -- especially in light of the Jeter vote. 

4. Justin Verlander

Verlander has both the dominant prime years and counting stats for a case.Two Cy Youngs, an MVP, 3,000-plus strikeouts, lots of black ink (led in strikeouts five times, WHIP three times, ERA once, etc.). It's hard to see any argument against him for a vote, so it's possible 100 percent of the ballots have his name. I wouldn't be confident, though. 

5. Clayton Kershaw

The three-time Cy Young winner who also has an MVP was clearly the best pitcher in the world for nearly a decade. In a seven-season span, he led the majors in ERA five times and the two seasons he didn't he had 2.13 and 1.69 marks. Everyone knows he's a Hall of Famer, but will someone hold his postseason history against him? It seems possible. 

6. Max Scherzer

He's got three Cy Youngs and now a ring. He's gonna end up with more than 3,000 strikeouts and 3,000 innings. We'll see how he ends up with some other counting stats (do wins still matter?), but it's hard to believe there's an argument against him getting 100 percent when the dust settles. 

7. Mike Trout

If Trout retired today, he would ... not be eligible for the Hall of Fame yet. He needs a 10th year, but that's coming this season -- everyone feel old now? -- and he's now in work on counting stats mode when it comes to the Hall. His prime resume already screams easy and obvious Hall of Famer. He's been the best player in baseball for nearly a decade and every player in the league agrees. If he gets to 3,000 hits, 500 home runs, 1,500 runs/RBI or even just two of the four, I think he's 100 percent without question. The Jeter vote does give me pause here, of course, but I think Ichiro gets every vote and it's possible at least one other name above does as well. If that happens, Trout will join the group. 

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Snyder has been a baseball writer with CBS Sports since 2011. A member of the BBWAA, he's now covered every World Series since 2010. The former Indiana University baseball player now lives on the... Full Bio

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