One of the things that make being a professional athlete so unique is the fact that when your career is over, it will be judged.
Folks working regular jobs will never have to worry about some reporter analyzing their career and comparing it to their peers. However, those fortunate enough to play the sport of professional baseball could one day be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum – if a group of sportswriters deems them worthy. While many players will be eligible, only a select few will actually make it to Cooperstown – the home of this historical museum.
Today we are going to take a look at some recently retired MLB stars and discuss their chances of becoming future Hall of Famers. The group of players we’ll be examining consists of former All-Stars, World Series winners, and local heroes. This won’t be a list of obscure players that no one’s ever heard of, but rather a who’s who of major league standouts that have established themselves as some of the league’s best players over the last several years.
A few of these stars will almost certainly be enshrined in Cooperstown. Conversely, there are also several players whose candidacy will most definitely spark a great deal of debate.
It’s time to take a look at 20 MLB superstars. 7 of these ballplayers will likely make it the hall, while the other 13 are dark horse candidates, who may find it difficult to get the votes needed to receive baseball’s highest honor.
20 Headed For The Hall: Mariano Rivera
Saying that Mariano Rivera will be a future Hall of Famer is hardly a bold prediction. After all, with 652 of them to his credit, he is the all-time leader in Saves.
It’s impossible to find a more decorated closer in the history of baseball then former New York Yankee Mariano Rivera. He helped his team win five World Series titles. Moreover, the legendary closer is a 13-time All-Star and World Series MVP who finished his career with an impressive 2.21 ERA. Even Hall of Fame voters who don’t like voting for relief pitchers will have to acknowledge Rivera’ accomplishments.
19 Won’t Make It: Ryan Howard
At his peak, first baseman Ryan Howard was one of game's premier power hitters. While he is an all-time great Philadelphia Philly, Howard only had about five or six seasons that could be considered elite.
The former Philly had some truly impressive accomplishments over the course of his career. In 2006 he hit an eye-popping 56 home runs and batted .313, on his way to becoming the National League MVP that year. Moreover, he also led the majors in RBI’s on three separate occasions. However, after the 2011 season, his numbers dropped off considerably. He finished his career with a .258 batting average and 382 homers – which won’t be good enough to get him in the Hall.
18 Won’t Make It: Joe Nathan
Joe Nathan was a talented closer who spent the majority of his career as a Minnesota Twin. With 377 to his credit, he is currently No. 8 on the all-time saves list.
The right-hander was an elite reliever who is certainly worthy of Hall of Fame consideration. However, there of plenty of outstanding closers who haven’t been enshrined in Cooperstown. Billy Wagner, for example, had a lower ERA and more saves than the Twins stars; he’s not in the Hall. John Franco is another example of a non-HOFer with career numbers similar to Nathan. Given the comparisons, it’s fair to say that Joe Nathan has less than a 50% chance of making the cut.
17 Headed For The Hall: Derek Jeter
This is a pretty obvious one. Derek Jeter will most certainly be elected to the Hall in 2020 –his first year of eligibility. In fact, he’ll probably be a near-unanimous choice.
Jeter was the face of one the New York Yankees, one of the most popular sports franchises, for almost two decades. He helped the team win five World Series titles; earning himself the nickname “Mr. November” in the process. Not to mention he had 3,465 career hits, was a 14-time All-Star, and also won five Gold Glove Awards. His .310 career batting average is also quite impressive.
Derek Jeter’s bust will be arriving in Cooperstown in the very near future.
16 Won’t Make It: Alfonso Soriano
In the early 2000s, there may not have been a better offensive player in baseball then Alfonso Soriano. In his prime, he hit for average, stole bases, and had more than his fair share of home runs.
Unfortunately, Soriano’s skills began to deteriorate significantly during the second half of his career. The second baseman became a liability on defense and was sent to left field as a result. He also suffered an injury early on, during his stints with Cubs, that hampered his ability to steal bases. His batting average also began to decline and was basically just a power hitter toward the end of his run. Soriano has over 400 home runs and warrants Hall of Fame consideration, but he wasn’t an elite player long enough to earn a spot in Cooperstown.
15 Won’t Make It: Jimmy Rollins
Jimmy Rollins is a former shortstop who spent the majority of his career in Philadelphia. In his prime, he was an outstanding fielder and base stealer. However, he probably didn’t do enough damage with his bat to make to the Hall.
Rollins is a four-time Gold Glove Award winner who also led the National League in stolen bases back in 2001. His best season was 2007, where he hit 30 homers, stole 41 bases, and batted .296 – which was good enough to win the National League MVP award that year. However, his overall career numbers aren’t nearly as impressive as his 2007 campaign. After 17 seasons, Rollins finished his career with 231 home runs and a .264 batting average – which aren’t Hall of Fame type stats.
14 Headed For The Hall: Carlos Beltran
While it’s not a sure thing, there’s a pretty good chance that Carlos Beltran will be inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame. He was an elite post-season player who put up very solid numbers throughout the course of his 20-year career.
He played for eight different teams, which may hurt his chances a little. That being said, Hall of Fame voters tend to like consistency and Beltran was good throughout the majority of his career. He is a former Rookie of the Year, a nine-time All-Star, and won three Gold Glove Awards. Beltran is also a member of both the 30-30 and 400 home run clubs. It might not be the first time around, but Beltran should get in – eventually.
13 Won’t Make It: Jason Giambi
Jason Giambi was a power-hitting first baseman and DH who spent the majority of his career with the A’s and Yankees. Giambi did hit 440 home runs over the course of his career, but a history of off-field incidents make it unlikely that he’ll ever be a Hall of Famer.
Giambi was a five-time All-Star and was among the best hitters in baseball in the early 2000s. He won the American League MVP in 2000 by finishing the season with 43 home runs and .333 batting average. The former MVP played well past his prime but still ended up finishing his career with borderline HOF numbers. While the Barry Bonds of the world will likely eventually make it into the hall, borderline guys associated with the stuff Bonds, etc. were probably never will.
12 Won’t Make It: Carlos Zambrano
Right-handed pitcher Carlos Zambrano was the long-time ace for the Chicago Cubs. He was a very popular player in the “Windy City,” but doesn’t have the numbers required to make into the Hall.
While he was on the HOF ballot for the first time in 2018, Zambrano didn’t receive a single vote. “Big Z” was a three-time All-Star who pitched a no-hitter back in 2008, but he really only had four outstanding seasons over the course of a relatively short, 12-year career. He was an exciting player to watch but wasn’t elite long enough to warrant a spot in Cooperstown.
11 Headed For The Hall: David Ortiz
Hall of Fame voters are sometimes hesitant to give designated hitters the nod – just ask Edgar Martinez. However, DH or not, “Big Papi” will most certainly become a first ballot HOFer.
After all, he was one of the most beloved players in Red Sox history and helped the team win three World Series Championships. The fact that he hit 541 home runs while maintaining a respectable .286 batting average, all but guarantees him a spot in Cooperstown. Considered one of the best clutch hitters to have ever swung a bat; the 10-time All-Star is easily one of the safest bets on our list to become a member of baseball’s most prestigious club.
10 Won’t Make It: Kevin Youkilis
The man was known simply as “Youk” was a fan favorite in Boston – the place he spent the majority of his career. The infielder had some great seasons with the Red Sox, but not enough of them to be inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame.
Known for his beard, stocky physique, and unorthodox batting stance, Kevin Youkilis helped the Red Sox win two World Series Championships. His best season came in 2008 when he hit 29 home runs with a .312 batting average. Despite his notoriety, he really only had three outstanding seasons (2008-2010) over the course of his 10-year career, but that didn’t stop fans from chanting “Youk” whenever he stepped onto the field.
9 Won’t Make It: A.J. Pierzynski
A.J. Pierzynski was a player who was known for his colorful personality. He was a good catcher and could swing the bat, but doesn’t exactly have a Hall of Fame resume.
Pierzynski spent the majority of his career playing for the Twins and White Sox. He was a member of the White Sox team that won the World Series back in 2005. The catcher made two All-Star appearances and won a Silver Slugger Award in 2012. He retired with a .280 batting average and 188 homers – solid, but not Hall of Fame-caliber numbers. Pierzynski may not make it to Cooperstown, but he remains a favorite amongst White Sox’s fans.
8 Headed For The Hall: Alex Rodriguez
If not for his association with some infamous off-field incidents, Alex Rodriquez would easily be a first ballot Hall of Famer. However, the aforementioned association has kept players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens out of the Hall – at least for now.
Rodriguez is a three-time American League MVP and 14-time All-Star who hit 696 home runs ( which puts him at No. 4 on the all-time HR list). On paper, there’s no question that the former shortstop was Hall of Fame caliber player. That being said, the aforementioned past controversies will keep “A-Rod” out of the Hall for the foreseeable future. However, over time, voters will begin to soften their stance on certain all-time greats and as a result, players like Bonds, Clemens, and Rodriguez will eventually be inducted – though it may not happen in their lifetime.
7 Won’t Make It: Adam Dunn
Adam Dunn was a 6-foot-6, 285-pound powerhouse who could knock the cover off the ball. However, when he wasn’t hitting homers, he was often striking out.
Dunn was one of the best power hitters of his era; there were six seasons where he hit at least 40 homers. However, “The Big Donkey” also happens to be third on the all-time strikeout list. Moreover, in 2012, he acquired the American League record for most strikeouts in a season – having done so 222 times that year. While he finished his career with 462 home runs, his tendency to strike out and .237 career batting average will likely keep him out of the Hall.
6 Won’t Make It: Matt Cain
Right-handed pitcher Matt Cain was a key figure in helping the San Francisco Giants win the World Series in 2010 and 2012. However, he struggled with injuries during the last five seasons of his career which hurt his numbers and will probably keep him out of Cooperstown.
Cain spent his entire career in San Fransico where he became a three-time All-Star and also pitched a perfect game in 2012. Unfortunately, during the latter half of his run, he struggled mightily. For example, in his last three seasons, his ERA numbers were 5.79, 5.64, and 5.43 respectively. Moreover, he had an ERA in the 4’s the two years prior. He played 13 seasons and was a top-shelf starter in his prime, but only has five or six seasons on his resume that could be considered elite.
5 Headed For The Hall: Mark Teixeira
Mark Teixeira was a first baseman who is best known for being a part of the New York Yankees team that won the 2009 World Series. As a member of the 400 home run club, who was an elite player throughout most of his career, Teixeira will likely become a member of the Hall of Fame at some point.
Having hit at least 30 home runs and 100 RBIs for eight consecutive seasons, Mark Teixeria was one of the most feared hitters in the league throughout the mid to late 2000s. He was also a very good fielder – having won five Gold Glove Awards. While not a lock, Teixeira warrants serious Hall of Fame consideration and the fact that he played for the Yankees will likely help his case.
4 Won’t Make It: Bobby Abreu
Bobby Abreu was an outstanding right fielder who played for several teams including the Phillies, Yankees, an Angels. He had an excellent career and even won the Home Run Derby, but his numbers don’t compare favorably to other right fielders who are in the Hall.
A versatile player, “El Comedulce” could steal bases, hit homers, and also maintain an excellent batting average. After 18 seasons, he retired with .291 batting average and 288 home runs. The problem is most RFs who were recently inducted had either 400+ home runs (Andre Dawson and Dave Winfield) or a .300+ career batting average (Tony Gwynn).
3 Won’t Make It: Aramis Ramirez
Ramirez was a third baseman who spent the majority of his career with the Chicago Cubs. He was a good ballplayer who could hit home runs while also maintaining a high batting average.
Additionally, Ramirez was a three-time All-Star who won a Silver Slugger Award in 2011. He was also a very consistent player who put up solid numbers for the majority of his run in the majors. Ramirez finished his career with .283 batting average and 386 home runs. Had he stuck around long enough to hit 400 dingers, he would have had a better shot, but even then he would still be a borderline candidate.
2 Headed For The Hall: Torii Hunter
Torii Hunter has the distinction of being the only player on our list who will likely make into the Hall based largely on his defensive skills. The Twins star was considered to be the best centerfielder in the league for (roughly) a ten-year stretch.
Hunter won nine consecutive Gold Glove Awards (2001-2009) and made five All-Star appearances. He was also a very good hitter who finished his career with 353 home runs and a .277 batting average. There will be enough voters out there who appreciate an exciting defensive player like Hunter. Moreover, his offensive numbers, while not HOF-worthy, are well above average. He’ll likely be a somewhat controversial choice but look for Hunter to sneak in one of these years.
1 Won’t Make It: Paul Konerko
For many years, first baseman Paul Konerko was the heart and soul of the Chicago White Sox's franchise. He is probably best remembered for hitting a grand slam in the 2005 World Series.
The long-time Sox captain made six All-Star appearances and was the ALCS MVP in 2005. Konerko could hit the ball out of the park while maintaining a very solid batting average as well. A career .279 hitter who is also a member of the 400 home run club (with 439 homers); Konerko will probably get a few Hall of fame votes. However, compared to first basemen like Frank Thomas and Jim Thome, who were recently inducted, Konerko’s numbers aren’t up to snuff.