Posted by: Larry Smith Jr. | February 2, 2010

Who’s Your Hall of Famer? AL West Edition 2010

This is Part Three of the six part series on current players who likely will be on the ballot for the Hall of Fame at some point within the next ten to fifteen years. You can check out Part one and Part two of the series to check out the players that I’ve talked about so far. Today I’ll turn my focus to players who played in the AL West last year. 

  

LOS ANGELES ANGELS OF ANAHEIM 

  

Torii Hunter, 34, 1997- 
274/330/472, 235 HR, 879 RBI — wRC+ 109 — 169/232 SB (72.8%) 
-22.9 runs saved in 1,424 games. 
3 Time All-Star, 9 Gold Gloves, 1 Time Silver Slugger, Black Ink – 0, Gray Ink – 18 

WHY SOMEONE MIGHT VOTE HIM IN: Hunter is a rare power-hitting Center Fielder and is regarded as the best defensive Center Fielder of his era. He’s had eight seasons with 20 or more home runs and three 20/20 seasons in his career. He has also been an outstanding playoff performer. 

WHY I WOULD NOT VOTE HIM IN: Hunter is the classic “Hall of Very Good” player, who has had a good career but not a great or transcendent one. While the perception exists that he’s a great defensive Center Fielder (as his 9 Gold gloves would suggest), that perception just doesn’t jibe well with reality, which is that he’s only had two great defensive seasons in his career (2001 and 2009) and has been below average or only slightly above average in most of the seasons in between. In some cases (Hello 2007) he’s been simply bad in the field. His penchant for highlight reel caliber plays has tended to obscure this fact. Without the benefit of great defense, his offensive numbers look far more pedestrian. He has impressive power for a Center Fielder but that’s the only outstanding part of his game and even then he doesn’t provide it at a Hall of Fame level. Hunter is a good player who has a career that he should be proud of and who is one of the great ambassadors of the game, but nothing about him is “Hall of Fame”. 

  

  

Bobby Abreu, 36, 1996- 
299/404/493, 256 HR, 1187 RBI — wRC+ 139 — 348/459 SB (75.8%)
42.4 runs saved in 1,859 games. 
2 Time All-Star, 1 Gold Glove, 1 Time Silver Slugger, Black Ink – 5, Gray Ink – 82 
 

WHY I WOULD VOTE HIM IN: First, let me say that Abreu is the player that inspired me to start this series on current Hall of Famers. I think a real argument can be made that Abreu is the most underappreciated player of his era. I think there are already players in the Hall of Fame whose careers are not as impressive as what Abreu has already done, and Abreu hasn’t even retired yet. I think Abreu has almost no chance at actually making the Hall of Fame. And I think part of the reason for that is for the same reason that Bert Blyleven has had a hard time getting into the Hall — Because of the perception that “Nobody thought he was a Hall of Famer when he played”. Bobby Abreu will suffer the same fate, and it is totally undeserved. Part of the problem is that he has continually played on teams that had players who were even bigger Hall slam dunks than he was — Playing with Bagwell and Biggio in Houston and then Jeter, Rivera, Clemens, and Rodriguez in New York. In between this sandwich he played on a bunch of Philadelphia teams that ranged from bad to average and generally were irrelevant and off of the baseball map. 

The fact is that Abreu was a highly durable player — He is currently in a streak of 12 consecutive seasons in which he’s played 150 or more games and twice in that time he managed to get into all 162 games in a season. Unlike another Hall-of-Famer whose primary claim to fame is his durability, Abreu’s ability to stay in the lineup hasn’t seemed to affect his play on the field. Only 48 players in the history of Major League Baseball have proven more skilled than Abreu at avoiding making an out. He has over 2,000 hits and 1,000 walks and will almost certainly retire with over 500 doubles and 350 stolen bases. There is still an outside chance that he’ll end his career with over 300 home runs. A versatile player offensively who could/can hit for average, for both doubles and home run power, take a walk, and steal bases at an acceptable rate, Abreu was also an elite fielder in his 20s. He’s been below average since turning 30, but has avoided being a complete butcher in the field for the most part. Abreu is a true five tool player who always showed up and contributed to victories in many ways. His wRC+ is better than that of Joe Mauer and Derek Jeter (though he’ll likely retire worse than Mauer, since Mauer is getting better and Abreu is getting worse through aging) in his career. Abreu — Particularly if he plays two or three more years at a legitimate level which will add to his counting numbers — Ought to be inducted in the Hall of Fame. 

WHY SOMEONE MIGHT NOT VOTE FOR HIM: He wasn’t exceptional at any of the glamour numbers, instead being merely good. His .299 career BA is good, but not exceptional. Same of his home run and stolen base totals. He’s been devoid of recognition of his achievements in his career and hasn’t spent a ton of time among the league leaders, as his gray ink total shows. His three years with the Yankees saw a team in the middle of a lengthy dynasty fail to win a playoff series and in one season fail to make the playoffs for the only time in the entire decade. He was rarely the best player on his team and when he was the team generally wasn’t very good. 

  

  

Vladimir Guerrero, 35, 1996-   NOW WITH RANGERS 
321/386/568, 407 HR, 1318 RBI — wRC+ 143 — 175/262 SB (66.8%) 
45.1 runs saved in 1,588 games. 
8 Time All-Star, MVP, 7 Time Silver Slugger, Black Ink – 6, Gray Ink – 158
 

WHY I WOULD VOTE HIM IN: Vlad is one of the elite players of his era, and it’s a shame that his best days when he was a true five-tool threat were spent in relative obscurity in Montreal. I can personally remember a game he played in Detroit where Jeff Weaver — Who would go on to give up just two hits in the game in nine innings — threw him a pitch and he hit it about three feet on the foul side of the foul pole, where I was seated. The very next pitch he hit about six feet to my left…..for a home run. In spite of his underrated career as an Expo, Guerrero became a household name during his time with the Angels and won his lone MVP award there in 2004. Guerrero is was a tremendous power threat who had an uncanny ability to cover the plate — He could hit balls out of the park that were well over his head, that bounced off of the ground, and that were well out of the strike zone on the inside or outside parts of the plate. It appears that his career is winding down at this point and if so then what he has done now is essentially what his career will look like when its over — A player who had eight seasons of 30+ home runs (five of 35+ and two of 40+), eleven seasons of 25+ home runs, and is top 50 in batting average and slugging percentage in his career. His .568 slugging percentage is 14th of All-Time. 

WHY SOMEONE MIGHT NOT VOTE FOR HIM: He’s never played in a World Series. Maybe he snubbed a writer for an interview one time and that writer will hold a grudge and withhold his vote for Vlad. That’s about all for the reasons I can come up with. 

  

  

TEXAS RANGERS 

  

Andruw Jones, 33, 1996- NOW WITH WHITE SOX 
257/338/488, 388 HR, 1174 RBI — wRC+ 115 — 143/200 SB (71.5%) 
As CF: 223.9 runs saved in 1,707 games. As RF: 15.8 runs saved in 120 games. 
5 Time All-Star, 10 Gold Gloves, 1 Time Silver Slugger, Black Ink – 10, Gray Ink – 47 

WHY I WOULD VOTE HIM IN: Jones is the best defensive player of the last quarter century and arguably one of the best defensive players in the history of Major League baseball. There has been no Outfielder in my time on Earth that has been comparable for such a lengthy period of time while playing such a premium defensive position. Barry Bonds had a similar run, but he played Left Field. Ken Griffey had comparable seasons, but he didn’t keep it up for nearly as long as Jones did. Jones was one of a kind in his prime. He didn’t only play defense though. He was a top tier power hitter, with three seasons where he had at least 30 doubles and 30 home runs, seven seasons of 30+ home runs (two seasons of 40+, and one season with 51), and six seasons where he slugged over .500. An elite power hitter who was an above average overall hitter and one of the best defensive players of all-time, Jones is essentially the Andre Dawson case, only better. 

WHY SOMEONE MIGHT NOT VOTE FOR HIM: His prime lasted for too short of a period of time and his career was essentially over at age 30. In fact, his marked fall from his prime years and the amount of time that has elapsed since he was an elite player is so dramatic that I’m sure many might be surprised to learn that he’s only going to be 33 in the 2010 season and could theoretically play for at least another half decade. Jones has a career OBP of .338, which is far from impressive, although its not so prohibitive for a Center Fielder as it might be for a corner outfielder. While well acknowledged in his heyday, Jones was never mentioned in that legendary class of players during his prime. 

  

Omar Vizquel, 43, 1989-   NOW WITH WHITE SOX 
273/338/335, 78 HR, 906 RBI — wRC+ 89 — 389/545 SB (71.4%) 
133.9 runs saved in 2,681 games. 
3 Time All-Star, 11 Gold Gloves, Black Ink – 0, Gray Ink – 25 

WHY I WOULD VOTE HIM IN: Certainly, Vizquel is on the borderline of Hall inclusion and exclusion in my mind, but I lean towards voting him in. A no-hit, good field shortstop in an era generally devoid of such players, Vizquel was an elite defending shortstop for an incredibly long period of time. A great irony is that the player who won 11 Gold Glove awards had his best defensive season in a year where he didn’t win the award — 2007. That he was still performing at such a high level at age 40 is also extremely noteworthy. In a twenty year career Vizquel has only had four below average defensive seasons (2000-02, 04) and only one of those was “bad”. During his prime as a hitter he was an average to moderately above average hitter as well. Vizquel is no slam dunk, but if he appeared on the ballot in a year where there weren’t ten more qualified candidates and I had a vote, he would get my vote. 

WHY SOMEONE MIGHT NOT VOTE FOR HIM: He was a markedly poor hitter for most of his career. He leads all active players in games played without winning a championship. He might go to the ballot with the tag of being a bit of compiler — He has high career hits totals (2,704), games played (2,742), and stolen bases (389) even though he may in the eyes of some been better served retiring after the 2004 season. People who think in this manner may elect to forget that he had many great defensive seasons after that year. Players of his profile don’t often go into the Hall of Fame and when they do they almost always get in via the Veteran’s committee. 

  

Ivan Rodriguez, 38, 1991- NOW WITH NATIONALS 
299/336/471, 305 HR, 1264 RBI — wRC+ 109 
155 runs saved in 2,288 games. 626/1358 CS (46%) 
14 Time All-Star, MVP, 13 Gold Gloves, 7 Time Silver Slugger, Black Ink – 0, Gray Ink – 37 

WHY I WOULD VOTE HIM IN: He has a case as the best Catcher ever, and until Joe Mauer’s career concludes, he’ll finish his career up as the best Catcher since Johnny Bench. An elite defensive catcher both in fielding and in throwing runners out, in his prime he routinely threw out more than 50% of would-be base stealers, doing so eight times in his career. In 2001 he caught 35 of 58 would-be thieves, for an incredible 60% caught stealing rate. An elite defender most of his career who was anywhere from slightly above average to slightly below average in years after his prime, Rodriguez was a well above average hitter during his best years. In the eleven years from 1994-2004, he put up a 315/357/513 line at the plate, averaging 27 home runs for every 162 games during that span of time and posting an OPS+ of 120. Outside of that eleven year run, he was an average to below average hitter and above average defender in most seasons. He is a no doubt Hall of Famer. 

WHY SOMEONE MIGHT NOT VOTE HIM IN: They think being great on offense and defense while playing the toughest defensive position on the field isn’t very impressive? 

  

  

SEATTLE MARINERS 

  

Ken Griffey Jr., 40, 1989- 
285/371/541, 630 HR, 1829 RBI — wRC+ 138 
As CF: 6.4 runs saved in 2,145 games. As RF: -18.8 runs saved in 231 games. 
13 Time All-Star, MVP, 10 Gold Gloves, 7 Time Silver Slugger, Black Ink – 26, Gray Ink – 162 

WHY I WOULD VOTE HIM IN: Ken Griffey Jr.’s Hall of Fame pass was stamped before the last decade began. It was stamped before he’d ever left the Seattle Mariners the first time around. By the time he signed his long-term deal with Cincinnati prior to the 2000 season, having only made it through his age 29 season, Ken Griffey Jr. was already a Hall of Famer. Much in the way Joe Mauer is. No more reasoning is truly needed. At that time, the discussion is whether he would end up retiring while being recognized as one of the best players ever to play, not whether or not he would make the Hall of Fame. The ten seasons of his career that have elapsed since that first run in Seattle have been an abject disappointment. Were they a career unto itself, it would not be Hall worthy. In fact, the last ten years of his career it could be argued that he hasn’t even been the caliber of player of Jermaine Dye or Magglio Ordonez, or other players who are not Hall of Famers but are recognized as being very good. He’s been an above average overall hitter who was a significant power threat, and an extremely poor fielder. However, his original run in Seattle was truly transcendent both on offense and on defense, and when combined with his years since, clearly define a no doubt Hall of Fame case. 

WHY SOMEONE MIGHT NOT VOTE HIM IN: They forgot how great he used to be when he was in his 20s. Which astoundingly was more than a decade ago now. 

  

Ichiro Suzuki, 36, 2001- 
333/378/434, 84 HR, 515 RBI — wRC+ 122 — 341/420 SB (81.2%) 
As RF: 104.7 runs saved in 1,134 games. As CF: 20.9 runs saved in 266 games. 
9 Time All-Star, MVP, Rookie of the Year, 9 Gold Gloves, 3 Time Silver Slugger, Black Ink – 35, Gray Ink – 118 

WHY I WOULD VOTE HIM IN: It is truly a shame Ichiro did not begin his career in the States, for he would’ve been capable of challenging Pete Rose’s hits record. Even at his advanced age, it’s not out of the question that he will retire with 3,000 career hits. Ichiro is an above average overall hitter who is an elite contact hitter. He’s an elite defender and an elite base stealer. He’s had one of the most impressive nine year runs of performance in the history of the league, such that even though he doesn’t qualify for this exercise (doesn’t have 10 years), I am including him anyway. Ichiro is one of the best and most amazing players of his time. 

WHY SOMEONE MIGHT NOT VOTE HIM IN: There are those who might hold against him the fact that he began his career during his prime years (at age 27 in 2001), and whenever he retires (which doesn’t appear to be coming anytime soon) there will be those who will attack the length of his career. 

  

Adrian Beltre, 31, 1998- 
270/325/453, 250 HR, 906 RBI — wRC+ 107 
94.5 runs saved in 1,664 games. 
2 Gold Gloves, Silver Slugger, Black Ink – 4, Gray Ink – 23 

WHY SOMEONE MIGHT VOTE HIM IN: Beltre is one of the top power hitting third basemen of his time. He has seven seasons of 20+ home runs, four seasons of 25+, and one season where he hit 48 homers. He will likely retire with over 2,000 hits and 300 home runs as a third baseman. Beltre is an elite defender at third, with only one season in his entire career when he wasn’t somewhere in the range of above average to great. 

WHY I WOULD NOT VOTE HIM IN: Beltre has a career OBP of .325 and other than 2004 has never had a season at the plate that could be defined as anything more than slightly above average. In spite of his great defense, he doesn’t play enough of a premium field position to make up for his generally average offensive production. It’s worth noting that Beltre’s Hall case isn’t settled. He’s been in the league for 12 years, but could conceivably play 5-10 more seasons, and there are reasons to believe that his best offensive years are yet to come, which could bolster his case considerably. That said, I don’t think it will likely turn out that way, and its more likely that he’ll end his career a solid member of the Hall of Very Good. 

  

  

OAKLAND ATHLETICS 
 
 

Nomar Garciaparra, 36, 1996- 
313/361/521, 229 HR, 936 RBI — wRC+ 128 
As SS: 33.5 runs saved in 1,055 games. As 1B: -4.1 runs saved in 210 games. 
6 Time All-Star, Rookie of the Year, Silver Slugger, Black Ink – 15, Gray Ink – 78 

WHY SOMEONE MIGHT VOTE HIM IN: When Nomar left Boston, he looked to be a sure thing. A top shelf defender and one of the best offensive shortstops of All-Time, an argument can be constructed that like Griffey, Nomar’s “first career” is enough on its own to vote him in. In seven full seasons and two partial seasons in Boston, Nomar was 323/370/553 (OPS+ 133) while playing an excellent shortstop. He won two batting titles and finished top 10 in OBP both years. He hit 20+ homers six times with the Red Sox and seven times in his career. Of the “big 4” shortstops of his time: Jeter, Tejada, and an elder Cal Ripken being the others, I think it can be reasonably argued that Nomar in his prime was better than all of them. 

WHY SOMEONE MIGHT NOT VOTE HIM IN: Unfortunately, after he left Boston, Nomar’s career was injury riddled and mostly ineffective. His run there wasn’t as long or impressive as Griffey’s first Seattle run, and his post-Boston years weren’t anywhere near as good as Griffey’s 2000-on seasons. He had trouble getting on the field and when he got there he was scarcely above average, save for the 2006 season. He played bad defense at several positions, eventually ending up at first base where his level of offense was considerably less impressive. He just couldn’t keep it together long enough to legitimately earn a Hall vote.

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