It's Never Too Early: Predicting which Active Players are Future Hall of Famers
With the 2017 Hall of Fame vote looming, now is the time of the year those "Which Current Players Are Future Hall of Famers?" articles begin to sprout like begonias. Here's MLB.com's take; Fangraphs chimes in here. For a longer view, Jay Jaffe offered his appraisal last year, as did Ted Berg at USA Today.
If you're not inclined to click around, here's the money blurb: Pujols, Ichiro, Beltre and Cabrera can start working on their speeches at their earliest convenience (Ichiro, in particular, has set an extraordinarily high bar for himself – his might be the most anticipated speech in the history of this grand but genteel stage). Clayton Kershaw is a lock as of his first pitch of 2017 (when he officially plays in his 10th major league season). Carlos Beltran is mentioned more often than not, but far from a sure thing. Robinson Cano is on the cusp, and is a sure thing with another or two (seemingly) effortless seasons of gorgeous swings, vicious line drives and rakish double plays. Joe Mauer seemed a mortal lock as of three years ago – but those three years since haven't been kind. Mike Trout? Pshaw. After but five full seasons in the Bigs, it's waaay too early to fit Mike Trout for his ring (Isn't it? No? He's in? Ok, fine).
Stylin' and Profilin' the Legends
- ESPN's Mark Simon compiled a delightful oral history of 2017 HOF hopeful Vladimir Guerrero. Our take on Guerrero is that he was a fearsome hitter and a wonderful athlete, but he just misses our imaginary HOF cut. That said, the HOF certainly isn't diminished with Vlad as a member.
- Pudge Rodriguez, on the other hand, makes our cut with room to spare (though his taste in music… does not).
- Curt Schilling's legend was built on blood and guts and grit – but he seems intent on undoing it with bile and bigotry. Randy Miller offers anything but a joyful reminiscence of Schilling the man. As we wrote, the HOF is populated by cheaters, gamblers, racists, drunks, and abusers of women. It's also filled with kind, decent, generous men. One's view on where Schilling lands on this character spectrum is irrelevant when assessing his qualifications as a player (well… unless of course you invoke the character clause). Our take? Schilling is worthy of induction even if he had never pitched an inning in the post-season – and as the record shows, there were few better when the stakes were highest.
Let's hope it's the only ballot he ever tops.
- Joe Posansnki profiles every player in the 2017 ballot. They're all pretty great (the profiles, that is), but if you're short on time, start with Roger Clemens (wherein Posnanski finds something new to say about Roger Clemens), Bill Wagner (wherein Posnanski reveals something about Wagner's arm that wil leave you wide-eyed and muttering) , and Edgar Martinez (wherein Posnanski draws an extended comp between Edgar Martinez and the late comic Johnathan Winters -- and somehow makes it work).
It hasn't always been customary for BBWAA members to reveal their HOF ballots in advance of the big reveal. In the past, you might read a story or three devoted to the topic, but generally speaking, the writers kept their vote to themselves. It wasn't until fairly recently that the "Ballot Column" (and the posting of actual ballots to social media) became de rigueur. Count Plate Coverage among those who appreciate the transparency: It's always interesting to glean insight into the thought process of a HOF voter - especially one who takes the process and the responsibility seriously. We may not always agree on which boxes to check, but if the reasoning is sound, we can find grounds for respect.
And then there's Murray Chass.