Mar 31, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates former outfielder Barry Bonds (left) and former manager Jim Leyland (right) react at a news conference prior to the Pirates hosting the Chicago Cubs in an opening day baseball game at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
With the election of the latest members to the baseball hall of fame, it gets you thinking about who might be the next Pirate player to enter the hall of fame. The current ballot has 3 former Pirates on it (Barry Bonds, Jason Schmidt and Brian Giles). Next year Jason Kendall and Jose Guillen are both eligible, and likely to be on the ballot. In the coming years, Tim Wakefield, Jeff Suppan, Freddy Sanchez, Jack Wilson, Jason Bay, Octavio Dotel and a few others are going to be eligible. With names such as Chipper Jones, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Vladimir Guerrero , Manny Ramirez, Scott Rolen, Ivan Rodriguez, Ken Griffey, Todd Helton, Andy Pettite, Lance Berkman and Jorge Posada all coming eligible during the same time frames, with the exception of Bonds, its hard to believe any Pirates are going to make the Hall any time soon.
So who might be the next Pirate to make the Hall of Fame? With the exception of Bonds, recently retired players do not have much of a shot. It is hard to believe that there are going to be any Veterans Committee nominees in the near term that make it, as the nominees for this year were Dick Allen, Ken Boyer, Gil Hodges, Bob Howsam, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Billy Pierce, Luis Tiant and Maury Wills, with the only former Pirates being Wills and Tiant, but neither making a meaningful contribution to the club.
This all leads you to believe that the next Hall of Famer for the Pirates is either going to be Barry Bonds, or, someone who is playing today. With the perception of steroids and scandals surrounding Bonds, and his terrible, terrible attitude, it is hard to imagine that Bonds will get in soon. There is no doubt that he will eventually get in, but it will take time for the Biogenesis scandal to leave the minds of voters. It is very likely that the next Pirate Hall of Famer is going to be someone who is playing today.
Likely candidates are:
A.J. Burnett – A.J. is a 16 year veteran with 155 wins, 2370 strikeouts in 2567 innings. A.J. also has 10 complete game shutouts, and 1 no hitter to go on his resume. Nearing the end of his career, we have a pretty good picture of what A.J.’s credentials for the HOF are going to be, and his numbers are very, very similar to a lot of other borderline HOF pitchers. Having a no hitter will help his candidacy a lot, and the intangibles that he brings to the game may convince voters to put him over the edge. His leadership in bringing the Pirates out of 20 years of futility cannot be overstated, and given a healthy year this year, he may work himself into the top 30 in strikeouts.
Jose Batista – When looking at former Pirates who may make the list, Jose Bautista is at the top. Bautista is a legitimate All-Star, and a force in the American League. The problem with Bautista’s candidacy is one of longevity. For the first 6 years of his career, he had very pedestrian numbers. I was surprised to learn that he only has 246 home runs, and at age 34, the clock is ticking.
Fransisco Liriano – Liriano is still only 31 years old, but his career strikeout ratio of more than 1 strikeout/inning is elite level pitching. Hampered by control issues in his late 20’s, Liriano’s candidacy took somewhat of a hit, but that all seems to be behind him now. If Liriano can string together another 5 or 6 years of dominant pitching, he may pitch himself into a strong candidacy for the Hall of Fame.
Andrew McCutchen – McCutchen’s MVP makes him an immediate candidate. Being in the final 3 for 3 years in a row shows the consistency of an elite play that not only makes him a candidate, but makes him a first ballot candidate. Really the only thing missing from McCutchen’s resume at this point are the life time numbers. I believe McCutchen is going to be in the 300 HR/2,500 Hits range. If he can stay healthy enough to accumulate those kind of numbers, he will be a first ballot shoe-in.
McCutchen is a shoe-in, but (hopefully) he isn’t going in until 2030 at the earliest. Between now and McCutchen, does anyone else get in? I don’t see it, but who did I miss? Please let me know what you think.