In response to a recent blog by a good friend of mine about future Hall of Fame pitchers, we started discussing current hitters who should make the HOF as well. The list is quite long at this point, which made me start thinking about whether our criteria were still valid for today’s game. With home runs being hit at record paces each and every year, I find it increasingly difficult to use the same qualifications that we used to use when giving out invitations to Cooperstown. With the recent steroid accusations against Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro (who tested positive), Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, I think it’s important to look beyond the home run when it comes to clean up hitters. The idea of a cleanup hitter is not to just clear the bases with a 450 foot home run, but more importantly to make sure the guys on base score. With that being said, I think instead of 500 home runs being used as the necessary milestone to reach the HOF, we need to include RBI in the equation. I am proposing that the new magic number for power hitters should be 2,000; home runs + RBI should be the new criteria for instant glorification into baseball’s Hall of Fame.
As of July 17, 2006, only two active players qualify under the new benchmark: Barry Bonds (721 home runs + 1,893 RBI = 2,614 combined) and Ken Griffey, Jr. (555 + 1,587 = 2,142). Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa also qualify, however, their situation is worth its own look at another time. Mark McGwire finished at 1,997 (583 + 1,414) and the next closest is Frank Thomas, who is currently at 1,980; however, by the way Thomas has been playing, he probably has twenty solo home runs left in him to reach the milestone. The other players that round out the top 10 are: Jeff Bagwell (1,978), Manny Ramirez (1,940), Gary Sheffield (1,912) and Juan Gonzalez (1,838). I’d say from this group, Ramirez is the only sure thing.
What sparked my thinking on this topic was Jim Thome’s 461 career homeruns. Granted he is a classic modern day “slugger” in all aspects of the world, but with only 1,273 career RBI (total of 1,734 combined HR and RBI), Thome has a little more work to do before he should qualify for enshrinement. Alex Rodriguez (449 + 1,294 = 1,743) is slightly ahead of Thome at this point, but with his history as a short stop, and now a third baseman, he is easily into the Hall, as well as easily past 2,000 combined home runs and RBI in probably more two seasons.
Position does play a big factor in gaining entry into the Hall of Fame, which is why Mike Piazza’s 410 home runs and 1,265 RBI (1,675 combined) easily allows him to join the ranks as one of the greatest hitting catchers of all time.
Looking forward, there a number of young players who will put up a good fight to reach 2,000 combined HR and RBI:
Chipper Jones (34 years old) = 1,514 (345 HRs + 1,169 RBI)
Vladimir Guerrero (30) = 1,331 (325 + 1,006)
Andruw Jones (29) = 1,298 (323 + 975)
Albert Pujols (26) = 936 (232 + 704)
David Ortiz (31) = 925 (209 + 716)
Troy Glaus (29) = 917 (243 + 674)
Carlos Beltran (29) = 908 (188 + 720)
Lance Berkman (30) = 907 (209 + 702)
Pujols appears to be a sure thing, as he is pretty much a sure thing in any discussion about baseball records. Ortiz, Beltran and Berkman have a lot of work to do, but by the way they have been playing, they will almost certainly get close. Glaus was a big surprise to me, however, I don’t think he will keep up the pace to eventually reach 2,000. Jermaine Dye is currently at 982 (217 + 765), however, at the age of 32, I don’t think he comes close.
If there are any others that I missed, please comment below to continue the discussion.