By the Numbers: Lining up current class of future Hall of Famers

Greg Jayne: By the Numbers

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If history is any guide, about 35 active major leaguers eventually will make the Hall of Fame.

That might sound excessive — more than one per team. But it’s more judicious than, say, 1928, when there were 55 future Hall of Famers spread across 16 teams.

So, we’ll stick with the premise that there are about 35 future honorees in the major leagues this year. The question: Who are they?

Some of them are youngsters. Maybe a Jason Heyward or a Buster Posey or even a Dustin Ackley eventually will land in Cooperstown. But potential is fool’s gold in baseball, so we aren’t going to worry about them right now.

Some of those future immortals are in the middle of their careers and need only to remain healthy to get in the Hall. I mean, is there any doubt that Joe Mauer is a Hall of Famer?

But we’re more concerned with what players have actually done to this point. We’ll get back to you in 15 years on Heyward.

That leaves us with, we’ll arbitrarily say, 22 spots for future Hall of Famers. Let’s take a look:

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These are the five-star candidates, the guys who could retire today and unequivocally be described as a “future Hall of Famer,” provided they don’t leave a stash of steroids buried beneath their locker. We’ll even list them in order of Hall of Fame worthiness:

Mariano Rivera

Derek Jeter

Ivan Rodriguez

Albert Pujols

Ichiro Suzuki

Chipper Jones

Jim Thome

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That was the easy part. The four-star candidates are more difficult, either because they’re still building their career statistics, or because they have some chink in their armor:

Alex Rodriguez

A-Rod clearly has Hall of Fame credentials. He might wind up with the most impressive career numbers of any player in history. But he also has the taint of steroids, and Hall of Fame voters don’t take that lightly.

Rodriguez might have to wait three or four years, but he’ll eventually go into the Hall, and I think he’ll be the first known steroid user to be elected.

Jorge Posada

He doesn’t have huge career numbers. Then again, he’s a catcher. Compared with other catchers throughout history, there’s no way Posada can be left out. I almost placed him in the five-star group.

Roy Halladay

Halladay looks as though he’ll eventually be a no-doubt selection. If he got hit by a bus tomorrow, I think he would go in anyway. A .667 career winning percentage is a big part of that, but a postseason no-hitter will have just as much of an impact on his candidacy.

Vladimir Guerrero

With a .318 average, 442 homers, and many contemporary sluggers out of the running because of steroids, Guerrero is nearly a shoo-in.

David Ortiz

Todd Helton

Helton has superior career numbers. Ortiz is infinitely more famous. And it’s the “Hall of Fame,” not the “Hall of the Best Players.”

Omar Vizquel

Vizquel might be helped by the steroids era more than anybody. Voters will be eager to prove that there still was a place for slick-fielding singles hitters during that period, and Vizquel could be the primary beneficiary of that romanticism.

By the way, Vizquel has played more games at shortstop than anybody in history, has appeared in more games than any other active player, ranks third all-time in assists by a shortstop, and has 11 Gold Gloves. Voters love those kinds of things.

Scott Rolen

The appropriate reaction is, “Huh?!?”

But Rolen has eight Gold Gloves at third base, and has more doubles, homers, walks and stolen bases than Brooks Robinson, along with a better batting average and much better on-base and slugging percentages.

Andruw Jones

At his peak, Jones might have been the best fielder ever to play center field. Add in more than 400 homers, and he’s almost certain to get in — even though he hasn’t had a productive season since he was 29.

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That gives us 16 players, which still leaves plenty of room. The remaining three-star candidates can be broken into several categories.

Guys who would be five- or four-star candidates if not for the specter of steroids: Jason Giambi and Miguel Tejada.

Starting pitchers who are on track but need several more solid seasons: Johan Santana, CC Sabathia, Roy Oswalt, Mark Buehrle, and Tim Hudson.

Sluggers who might put up numbers too big to ignore: Miguel Cabrera, Lance Berkman, Adam Dunn, Magglio Ordoñez, and Mark Teixeira.

Guys who might get in under the “He played a key position and was a decent enough hitter” corollary: Carlos Beltran, Edgar Renteria, Mike Cameron, Adrian Beltre, Orlando Cabrera, Johnny Damon, and Torii Hunter.

And the “Wow, he was great, how come nobody noticed it while he was playing?” club: Bobby Abreu.

With somewhere between 20 and 30 of these players eventually going into the Hall of Fame, maybe the electors will notice Abreu before it’s too late.

Question or comment for By the Numbers? You can reach Greg Jayne, Sports editor of The Columbian, at 360-735-4531, or by e-mail at greg.jayne@columbian.com. To “like” his Facebook page, search for Greg Jayne - The Columbian.