In June of 2013, in the midst of the Mariano Rivera retirement tour, I posted about one-team Hall of Famers and whether they were a dying breed in modern baseball. I figured that they were, that free agency had ruined the iconic “one team” home-town legend that we grew up knowing (especially in DC, with Cal Ripken Jr. just up the road).
Now that Derek Jeter has wound down own his 2014 retirement tour, and the fact that we’ve seen some recent player movement that has eliminated some HoF candidates from being one-teamers, I thought this was a good topic to pick back up.
Here’s a quick glance at the landscape of one-team Hall of Fame candidates in the game today.
- Recently Retired One-team Hall of Fame locks: Chipper Jones, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter
You have to think each of these three guys is a first ballot Hall of Famer, and each was a one-team guy.
- Recently retired one-team Hall of Fame candidates: Todd Helton
I’m not sure Helton will make the Hall; if Larry Walker can’t get in because people think his numbers were inflated by Colorado’s home park, then Helton will be in the same boat. His embarrassing, ridiculous DUI arrest in mid 2013 while driving to get lottery tickets (despite the fact that he has more than $160M in career earnings just in salary alone) certainly won’t help his case.
- Active HoF one-team promising candidates: Joe Mauer, Justin Verlander, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Dustin Pedroia, Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez, Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey, Mike Trout
If Verlander finished out his contract just being a 14-11 guy each year, he’d probably end up with 250 wins to go with his Cy Youngs, MVP, and Rookie awards. People will remember how good a hitter Mauer is when the time comes. Yes, I think Utley is on track to be a hall of famer; he’s been hurt for so long that people have forgotten how good he is. No I don’t think Rollins is a HoFamer right now, but he deserves to be in this category not the “borderline” category. Now, not all of these guys are guarantees to stick with their current teams (especially McCutchen, who eventually cashes in on a big contract that Pittsburgh cannot afford), but for now this is the list. Almost all of these guys managed to be excellent players for huge-payroll teams, meaning that they can easily finish their careers without having to move on.
Yeah I put Mike Trout on this list. Did you know that Trout already has as much career bWAR (28.3) by age 22 that Paul Konerko has for his entire 18-year career?? If Trout flamed out before the age of 30 he’d have the same case for inclusion that Sandy Koufax had, and he’d be in.
I cannot see the likes of Rollins, Utley or Pedroia moving teams at this point; do you view Pedroia as a HoFame candidate? He’s got more than 40 bWAR by the age of 30, an MVP vote, two rings and a bunch of All-Star and Golden Gloves.
- Active Borderline HoF one-team guys who need to step it up: David Wright, Evan Longoria, Troy Tulowitzki, Joey Votto, Cole Hamels, Adam Wainwright, Jordan Zimmermann
These are all perennial all-stars, kings of the game, but none of them really screams out “Hall of Famer” right now. I may be slightly down on these guys (especially Hamels, who might be more than borderline right now). I’ve thrown Zimmermann in there thanks to his second stellar season in a row and his no-hitter; he’s likely to have another top 5 Cy Young finish in 2014 and with a few more such seasons he may put himself into the conversation. Of course, the odds are that he departs the Nats after 2015, so he may be off the list anyway.
- Active One-team players who have taken themselves out of HoF candidacy lately: Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Jered Weaver, Ryan Howard
I used to think Zimmerman was on track, especially after his monster 2009 season. Now I think he’s destined to be just a middle of the order solid hitter on teams with better hitters surrounding him. Think Scott Rolen. Braun may be one of the best players in the NL, but getting caught with PEDs not once but twice will prevent him from ever being enshrined no matter what kind of career he puts together. The fall-off of the San Francisco duo of pitchers speaks for itself; what the heck happened to Lincecum? Similarly, Weaver now looks like a guy who peaked during his expected peak years and now is settling into being a slightly better-than-average pitcher. Fair? Maybe not, but his ERA+ for 2014 is 104; not exactly Kershaw-territory.
- Recently traded/free agent one-team HoF promising candidates: Albert Pujols, Ichiro Suzuki, Robinson Cano, Justin Morneau, David Price, Jon Lester, Prince Fielder
I’m not saying all these guys are HoF locks right now, just that they’re top players who have made big moves recently to break up a string of years with one team.
Conclusion? I think there’s plenty of one-team candidates out there. So no, one-team hall-of-famers aren’t going to be a dying breed. Teams are locking up their marquee players to long-term contracts earlier and earlier, meaning the likelihood of having big-name one-team players present their cases to the voters is that much higher in the modern baseball climate.
Did I miss anyone worth talking about?