With Yankee captain Derek Jeter retiring recently, it made me think about the current state of talent level in Major League Baseball.
If MLB closed up shop tomorrow and the stats were left standing, how many Hall of Famers are currently in the league? Length of service plays heavily into this. You can’t assume a rising star is going to remain on their same course over time.
Jeter obviously is a first ballot HOFer; a career .310 hitter who sits sixth on the all-time hits list with 3,465 and 10th in runs scored with 1,923. He was a 14-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glove recipient and four-time World Series champion, too.
But now that he’s retired, I only see three other clear-cut HOFers as of right now: Albert Pujols, Ichiro Suzuki and Miguel Cabrera.
All have signature career feats that make them shoe-ins.
Pujols has a trio of MVP Awards, 520 career home runs, two World Series titles and a batting title in 2003.
Ichiro holds the record for most hits in a season with 262 in 2004, breaking George Sisler’s mark, which stood since 1920. Ichiro has two batting titles, an MVP Award and has led the league in hits seven times. He didn’t even come to the MLB from Japan until the age of 27. He has 2,844 career hits.
Cabrera is only 31 but already boasts three batting titles, two MVP Awards and a World Series title with the Marlins. His biggest highlight thus far is winning the Triple Crown in 2012, a feat that hadn’t been accomplished since Carl Yastrzemski did it in 1967.
After growing up with HOF players like Ozzie Smith, George Brett, Cal Ripken, Greg Maddux, Nolan Ryan and Tony Gwynn, it’s just interesting how pedestrian some of the talent has been recently. The career longevity of elite play hasn’t been there.
Players like Paul Konerko, Carlos Beltran, Lance Berkman, Todd Helton and Scott Rolen have been good but not able to sustain the elite success needed to be worthy of the HOF.
The jury is still out on a slew of others. Young phenoms like Clayton Kershaw, Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen are pointed in the right direction, along with guys like Justin Verlander and Robinson Cano, who have a little more tenure.
Locally, Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina are possibilities but need more polishing on their resumes.
At 33, Wainwright has 119 wins and a career 3.01 ERA. If he averages 12 wins over the next seven seasons, that would help him surpass 200 at age 40, which puts him in the discussion.
Molina, 32, is the league’s premier defensive catcher. He has six Gold Gloves to his credit and likely will get more. His offensive stats were pretty pedestrian early in his career, but as his power numbers have risen, he’s become a better overall player and definitely in the conversation, just not quite there yet, in my opinion.
With a .284 lifetime batting average, Molina’s is higher than HOFers Carlton Fisk, Johnny Bench, Gary Carter and Roy Campanella. Their power numbers are far superior, though.
Baseball was founded on arguments and opposing opinions, so if you feel differently, that’s OK. Maybe it can help pose a heated debate around the water cooler, or while you’re watching some October playoff baseball.
Just be ready for a lull in the HOF talent pool in the near future, in my opinion.