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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Who Are the Hall of Famers of the Future?

I watched baseball's All-Star game last night and enjoyed it, mostly because I felt like an alien from an outer space who had come down and knew nothing about the current players.

I know I've been out of touch with baseball when there are starters on the All-Star team I've never even heard of. Marcell Ozuna? Zach Crozart? George Springer? Nolan Arenado? Charlie Blackmon? Nope, wouldn't know you if you fell on me. But now I do, so I feel refreshed, and with my head back in the game.

Now, I knew all the players when I was a kid and collected baseball cards and scrutinized the box scores. For instance, I know that the 1971 All-Star game, which was played in Detroit, featured six players that hit home runs, and all made the Hall of Fame: Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench, Roberto Clemente, Reggie Jackson, Harmon Killebrew, and Frank Robinson. Bench and Jackson were still relatively young; but the other four were established stars who had already punched tickets to Cooperstown. In fact, 20 of the players who were named to those teams are now in the Hall of Fame, plus both managers. I checked the rosters of the 1933 teams, the very first All-Star game, and 18 of those players (on a much smaller roster) are in the Hall (also including both managers).

So, forty years from now, are people going to be looking at this game and seeing Hall of Famers?Hard to tell now, because this was a very young group. There are sure-fire HOFers that weren't even named to the team, like Albert Pujols (since moving to Anaheim, he is settled into an okay but not great player, but has over 600 home runs and almost 3,000 hits, so he's in) and Adrian Beltre, who is just shy of 3,000 hits. Other probably Hall of Famers not chosen are Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander of Detroit, Carlos Beltran (who is still playing--he's back in Houston), Ichiro Suzuki (already over 3,000 hits) and possibly C.C. Sabathia.

But what of the group that was in Miami last night? The first player that comes to mind is one who didn't play, Clayton Kershaw. Pitchers can go south all of a sudden, but Kershaw, barring a complete collapse, looks like a HOFer. He's pitched ten years now, which makes him eligible, and is an incredible 140 and 62 and has been the best pitcher in the game for a few years now. Another pitcher who doesn't have to do much more to be in is Zack Greinke, who is 166-104. With pitching the way it is now, it's unlikely that anyone will get 300 wins anymore, so it will be win percentage, E.R.A., WHIP, and newer stats that determine greatness.

Of the two starting pitchers, Max Scherzer stands a good chance, should he keep it up. He's 135-74 through ten seasons. Chris Sale hasn't played long enough, but should he pitch another five years like he has now, he has a great chance.

Of the hitters, there aren't too many that were in the game that have ten or more seasons. Robinson Cano, the MVP (pictured), does, and he's on a HOF track. He has just under 2,300 hits, so if he plays another four seasons at his average of 193 hits a year, he will surpass 3,000. He also has 295 homers, a lot for a second-baseman, and a .305 lifetime batting average.

The other home-run hitter last night was Yadier Molina, who is a tough one to guess. Molina has long been most appreciated for his defense and handling of pitching. Catchers in the Hall usually have great hitting stats, but not always--consider Ray Schalk, who only had 1345 hits and 11, that's right, 11 home runs (of course playing mostly in the dead ball era). Molina will probably get to 2,000 hits, and has 117 home runs, but is highly regarded by broadcasters, sportswriters, and fellow players. He may just get in for being the dominant catcher of his generation.

And then there are the players who have less than ten years of service who certainly look like Hall of Famers, barring injury or a complete collapse: Jose Altuve, Bryce Harper, Giancarlo Stanton, and dare I say Aaron Judge, who is a rookie yet already is one of the most engaging stars of the league?

That's what's great/weird about sports. We can look back at 1971 and say, "Now those were All-Stars," but did some old-timer say, back in '71, "Now 1933, those were the real All-Stars."

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