The Active Future Hall of Fame Player on Every MLB Team

With the 2017 Hall of Fame class set to be announced on Wednesday, January 18th, I began to think about the active players around Major League Baseball who are inevitably going to find their way to the Hall of Fame. There are quite a few, with a wide range of teams having strong candidates. However, as I was pondering, I began to wonder: Could I name a player from every single team with a chance at the Hall of Fame? It took me a good amount of time, but I was finally able to do it.

Now, keep in mind, some of these players you will definitely agree with, but some you will question my sanity. Admittedly, some of my picks are extremely unlikely to make their way to Cooperstown, but there are some teams that are so young or sparsely-talented that I had to go with a long-shot pick or extreme projection. But the wild predictions for certain young stars is part of what makes this conversation so much fun.

With all of that said, here is my take of the top Hall of Fame player from each of the thirty MLB teams (active players only; free agents not included):

Marlinssuzuki

The Marlins have quite a few standout players who very well could be headed towards Cooperstown if they can keep up their stardom over the next decade or so, but the one player on their roster that’s already a guaranteed inductee is Ichiro Suzuki. Coming over from Japan in 2001, Suzuki has long been one of the best players in baseball, notching over 3,000 hits in his MLB career to this point and subsequently receiving countless awards. As such, he is a no-doubt Hall of Famer.

Rays

This isn’t as easy of a pick as the one of Ichiro Suzuki, but the one player on the Rays roster with enough of a track record to suggest as being on a Hall of Fame track is assuredly Evan Longoria. Hitting a career high 36 homers in 2016, and recording his most RBI’s since 2011, the next few years will tell the tale. But at only 31 years old, Longoria is the surest H.O.F. bet of all of the players currently on the Rays.

freemanBraves

He has an extremely long way to go, but with the stats he has produced over the course of his career, Freddie Freeman is well on his way to making it into Cooperstown. At just 27 years old, Freeman is theoretically in his prime, as was evident in his posting of 31 home runs last season. If he can post even a few more of those, the Braves’ All-Star first baseman could be on a very promising path towards the Hall of Fame.

Orioles

He may not be well into his 20’s quite yet, but Manny Machado is well into his Hall of Fame career. Sure, it’s a bit early to be typing up Machado’s induction speech, as anything can happen in baseball, but the Orioles’ third baseman has recorded back-to-back 30 homer seasons each of the last two years, and is posting numbers rivaling those of a previous Baltimore third base superstar: Brooks Robinson.

NationalsMLB: NLDS-San Francisco Giants at Washington Nationals

It may seem a bit of old hat to be naming Bryce Harper as the Nationals current best shot at the Hall of Fame, but it’s absolutely true. Despite having a poor season by his standards last year, Harper — who will be 24 years old all of the 2017 season — already possesses 121 homers. If Harper can have a bounce-back season this coming year, the Hall of Fame may be in the cards for him when all is said and done.

Mets

The Mets’ player I feel is the most likely to put together a Hall of Fame career when he decides to hang up his spikes is Noah Syndergaard. (Yes, you read that right.) I’m well aware that Syndergaard only has 55 career starts under his belt, but with David Wright succumbing to injuries that derailed his overall chances, and guys such as Yoenis Cespedes not having enough games remaining to put together a case, Syndergaard is my long-shot pick.

chapYankees

Gary Sanchez — no, I’m just kidding. But the player I do have slotted to be a Hall of Famer down the road isn’t all that much older than Sanchez. With Aroldis Chapman dominating the opposition for so long, it can be easy to forget that Chapman is just heading into his age-29 season. With a career 2.08 ERA thanks to his blazing fastball, as well as his ability to lock things down in the ninth, Chapman is on the fast-track to the Hall if he can continue to blow batters away.

Phillies

With the departure of Ryan Howard, and the Phillies being in a drastic youth movement, it was very hard for me to land on a single player who stands the best chance at the Hall of Fame. But even so, I decided to go with Maikel Franco. He is still extremely young, and is still adjusting to the bigs. But the potential for 30+ homer power is definitely there, and that could lead to a bright future for Franco and the Phillies.

Red SoxSTON2433.JPG

The Red Sox just lost a future Hall of Famer in David Ortiz, but picking the next player to follow in his footsteps wasn’t all that difficult. Keeping with the theme of young players with big futures, I tabbed Mookie Betts as the player on Boston’s active roster with a chance at Cooperstown. I hate to make a selection with such a small track record, but after what Betts showed the baseball world last season, a superstar has been born.

Blue Jays

I’m not sure Josh Donaldson has enough big seasons left in him to put together Hall of Fame caliber numbers, but he stands the best shot of all of the players north of the border. While some youngsters such as Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman are off to amazing starts to their career, Donaldson has become an absolute star. With back-to-back 35+ home runs season, Donalson will at the very least become a Toronto all-time great.

cutchPirates

If Andrew McCutchen can turn things around from a year ago to have another superstar season in 2017, he will also be back on track to a Hall of Fame career. The best player on the Pirates’ roster when he’s at the top of his game, McCutchen is a five-tool athlete in every sense of the word. Although the stats of McCutchen aren’t overwhelming upon first glance, when you look closely, a compelling case is certainly being made.

Indians

The newest member of the Indians is also their top Hall of Fame candidate at the moment. Edwin Encarnacion may not have the numbers yet, but he very well could get there before his career is over. Averaging 39 homers a year over the past five seasons, Encarnacion could theoretically join the 500 home run club if he can play until age 40 and blast a tick over 27 home runs per season.

Tigerscab

The Tigers have quite a few great players, despite it not showing up in the standings last season. But the one player that is an absolute Hall of Fame player is Miguel Cabrera. The former Triple Crown winner is simply one of the best players to ever play the game of baseball, and is well underway to making it to Cooperstown. At just 34 years old on April 18th, Cabrera is one of the few must-see players before they retire currently in baseball.

Reds

It’s going to be close, but the current Cincinnati Red who has shown any chance at a shot at the Hall of Fame is Joey Votto. The on-base-machine falls right into the coveted 3-4-5 slash line with a career .313/.425/.536 line, despite his hit numbers and homer stats sitting a bit low when compared to those players already in the Hall of Fame. But the overall play of Votto is definitely worth Hall of Fame consideration.

reyesCardinals

How weak is the Cardinals current active roster? So weak that I went with rookie Alex Reyes as their best shot at the Hall of Fame. In fact, I actually had to skip the Cardinals and come back to them when writing this, frankly because I don’t view any of their active roster with any confidence as to them having even a chance at the Hall of Fame. But having to pick a player, I ended up going with the 22-year-old Reyes, who showed a ton of potential in 2016 and is expected to breakout in 2017.

Cubs

I originally placed Jon Lester (of all people) as the Cubs’ active future Hall of Fame player, as he is somewhat underrated as a starter, especially when you look at his career numbers. But it’s hard to overlook Kris Bryant, who broke out last season to hit 39 home runs. With his 40+ homer potential, if Bryant can put together multiple big seasons in a row, his case for the Hall of Fame will begin to build.

White Soxfraz

The White Sox have made it evident that they are currently in a huge rebuild mode, trading away Chris Sale and Adam Eaton so far this offseason, with other moves expected before Opening Day. With that in mind, I ended up picking Todd Frazier as their Hall of Fame path player. Although Frazier has a somewhat weak case at the moment, if he can continue to produce numbers much like those he has posted in recent history, Frazier will be very close by the time he retires.

Brewers

I’m not the biggest Ryan Braun fan after what went down a few years ago, but there’s no denying his talent. Following a few down seasons, Braun bounced back again in 2016. If he can continue to keep his track record going, Braun could be a very compelling candidate for the Hall after his playing days are over. As the best player on the Brewers, he also claims the slot as their best chance at the Hall of Fame.

mauerTwins

There are several different ways I could’ve gone with this. If Byron Buxton produces to his full ability the way he has been hyped, he would be the top pick; the same with Miguel Sano. If Brian Dozier hit over 40 homers for a few more seasons, he would line up on that path as well. But I ended up going with the safe choice of Joe Mauer, who is a bit low in some of his career stats, but has enough great seasons to deserve some consideration.

Royals

Catchers get little recognition for just how difficult their jobs behind the plate is, and Salvador Perez has proven to be one of the best. One of the biggest low-risk high-reward examples in recent history, the Royals have a star in Perez, and he could very well be on the patch to Cooperstown as a slugging backstop. With 20 homers a year and a cannon for an arm, Perez has the whole package you’re looking for from a catcher.

Astrosbeltran

Jose Altuve is undoubtedly the biggest superstar on the Astros, with Carlos Correa and George Springer quickly joining him. But while newly acquired slugger Carlos Beltran would be all too easy to overlook, it’s important to view Beltran for the player he is. With 2,617 hits and 421 homers, one more solid season from Beltran very well could sway those who are on the fence about his candidacy for the Hall of Fame.

Rangers

While others don’t seem to agree, I feel that Adrian Beltre is a no-doubt Hall of Famer no matter how you slice it. Assuming he can stay healthy, Beltre will become the 31st player to reach the 3,000 hit mark in 2017, and that is all but a guarantee for enshrinement in my mind. One of the all-time best third baseman in the history of baseball, Beltre is an easy Hall of Fame pick.

nolanRockies

Nolan Arenado is as close to a complete player as you’ll find in the game today. Winning a Gold Glove each of his first four seasons, his future Hall of Fame case will extend far beyond his defense, as he belted over 40 homers and recorded over 130 RBI’s each of the past two seasons. Despite playing in Colorado — seen as a negative by many — Arenado would be a superstar in any ballpark. For that reason, he should still be seen as the future Hall of Fame player he likely is.

Diamondbacks

Over the course of Paul Goldschmidt‘s career to this point, he has shown a pattern of having one great season followed by a merely average season. However, if he can find a way to produce some of the superstar level seasons he has previously, Goldschmidt will have a legitimate Hall case. Given, Goldy may not be able to produce on the level needed for the Hall of Fame, but he currently stands the best shot in Arizona.

Padresmyers

Will the real Wil Myers please stand up . . . That’s the sentiment of many around the baseball world. Following a Rookie of the Year season in 2013, Myers hadn’t produced on the same level through last season. But in 2016, Myers absolutely broke out, earning his first All-Star selection and hitting 28 blasts. With the power he possesses, he has the ability to carry the Padres on his back, and if he indeed does that, could be walking towards Cooperstown.

Dodgers

Adrian Gonzalez has been great for a long time, and Corey Seager is on a rapid ascent into stardom. But let’s face it — Clayton Kershaw is Clayton Kershaw. Year in and year out, Kershaw is among the finalists for Cy Young and has consistently been the Dodgers’ best pitcher since his poor rookie season in 2008. As such, Kershaw is undoubtedly a future Hall of Fame pitcher for the Dodgers.

pujolsAngels

Mike Trout receives an extremely high honorable mention, as baring any unforeseen issues Trout is on a clear path to Cooperstown. But credit has to be given where it’s due, and therefore Albert Pujols falls as my pick for the Angles’ Hall of Fame active player. With him sitting just nine homers back of 600, Pujols is already an all-time great player, and should be fully appreciated as such while he’s still playing the game.

Giants

Buster Posey is a fantastic player and will likely continue to be for the Giants for years to come. But the player I chose as the most on a Hall of Fame path is Madison Bumgarner, who has proven time and time again the caliber of pitcher that he is. With a career ERA of 2.99, Bumgarner has been a big part in the Giants three World Series titles over the last seven seasons. As such, he is on a very special career path.

Athleticsgray

The Athletics aren’t the best team in baseball, and therefore don’t have the best selection of above-average players. But even so, Sonny Gray stands out as their best chance at fielding a Hall of Famer player down the road from their current roster. His 2016 stats of a 5.69 ERA over the course of 22 starts hurt what was beginning as a special career, but if he can rebound in 2017, Gray can get back on that track.

Mariners

With a perfect game, it is already evident that Felix Hernandez is a great pitcher. But when you take the time to dive into his career numbers, you get an idea of just how special he is. Already nearing Hall of Fame stats, Hernandez will be just 31 for all of the 2017 season. He still has numerous more seasons to add to his 2,264 career strikeouts and improve upon his 3.16 ERA. But no matter what, Cooperstown likely awaits him.

Next Players to 3,000 Hits After Ichiro?

The 3,000-hit-club is one of the most exclusive groups in all of baseball. Of the over 18,000 players to play in the majors, only 29 players have been able to amass 3,000 or more base knocks for their career. However, that list is destined to add another player within the next handful of games.Ichiro

Ichiro Suzuki, who has been one of the most consistent players in baseball history, is currently sitting just four hits shy of the milestone mark.

With the 3,000 hit achievement all but guaranteeing a player a spot in the Hall of Fame (with the exception of Pete Rose and Rafael Palmeiro), it’s certainly historic to continue to watch Ichiro, who is showing no signs of slowing down; hitting .341 on the season, which is on pace for his best average since the 2009 season — all at 42 years of age.

With all of that in mind, I thought I’d take a look at the active players beyond Ichiro within 1,000 hits of 3,000 who stand the best shots at joining him with 3,000 hits for their career when all is said and done.

Assuming that Adrian Beltre can stay healthy, the recent 2-year contract extension he signed with the Rangers all but ensures that he will be the next to 3,000 hits. Currently with 2,860 hits, Beltre has recorded over 140 hits each of the past six seasons, so he should easily reach the mark sometime in the middle of next season. While some people don’t3000 see Beltre as a player worthy of Cooperstown, perhaps reaching the mark will change their minds.

The next player who is likely going to reach the milestone is Albert Pujols. Having notched 2,756 hits in his career to this point, the future Hall of Famer still has five years remaining on his contract, in which he has stated he has every intention of completing. Although he’s had struggles at times this year, Pujols has been consistent enough to reach the 3,000 hit plateau around the 2018 season.

Miguel Cabrera is the final player on my list of those who sit next in line to get to 3,000 hits. He’s still 560 hits shy of getting there, but at just 33 years old, Cabrera stands a great chance at getting to 3,000. He’s only recorded 200 or more hits in one of his thirteen career seasons, back in 2012 when he won the Triple Crown, but Cabrera is one of the best hitters the game has ever seen, and should bump the 3,000 hit club up to 33 members in late 2019 or early 2020.

There are a number of other active players who are well in line to get to 3,000 hits for their career, but with them all sitting over a thousand hits or more back, I chose not include them in this post. Even so, the game of baseball has seemingly never had more talent and superstar players.

The 3,000 hit club should continue to steadily grow in the coming decades.

Royals Win 2015 World Series in Five

After losing games one and two of the World Series started by Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom, respectively, the Mets had reason for concern heading into game three of the World Series on Friday night. But as I stated at the end of my previous post, they had Noah Syndergaard on the mound for the game, and with him having been great all season long, they still had reason to hold out hope of a series comeback. They simply had to score enough runs to beat out the Royals and Yordano Ventura, who was sure to be equally terrific.Syndergaard

But it appeared to be more of the same for the Mets when the game started. An Eric Hosmer RBI-groundout in the very first inning struck a blow to the Mets before they even had a chance to swing the bats. But the Mets wasted no time in answering back. In the bottom half of the same inning, David Wright blasted a two-run homer to give the Mets a 2-1 lead early on, and provided some needed positivity to the club.

However, the Mets didn’t hold the lead for long. In the top of the second, an RBI-single by Alex Rios and a passed ball by Syndergaard with a man on third gave the Royals a one run lead once again. Even so, Syndergaard helped his own cause by getting a leadoff single in the third inning — the youngest pitcher with a World Series hit since Dwight Gooden in 1986 — which he was well rewarded for. The very next batter, Curtis Granderson, hit a line-drive homer that cleared the right field wall by just a few feet, making the score 4-3, Mets.

From the second inning on, Syndergaard lived up to his nickname of “Thor”. He was magnificent, retiring ten straight at one point. The Mets also helped him out, scoring another run in the bottom of the fourth, coming via a Michael Conforto ground ball to first base that lead to confusion between the second baseman, Ben Zobrtist, and Eric Hosmer. MondesiUltimately, Conforto chugged his way safely to first, and the run scored without a play.

A little history was made in the bottom of the fifth inning, when Raul Mondesi Jr. made his major league debut against Syndergaard. Although he struck out, Mondesi became the first player in the entire history of Major League Baseball to make his big league debut during the Fall Classic. That’s certainly impressive.

Also impressive was the Mets’ resurgence of a run-scoring machine. While the Royals didn’t score again after the second, the Mets posted another four runs in the sixth inning, coming from contributions from Juan Uribe, David Wright (who had four RBI’s on the game) and Yoenis Cespedes. The Mets held a 9-3 lead when the inning concluded, and that’s where things would wind up as the final score.

With game four now being a game in which the Mets were simply looking to tie things up and not worrying about being eliminated, you had to figure they could be a bit more relaxed and therefore able to perform much as they did in game three. It was sure to be a fun game.

Steven Matz — the second rookie on the mound for the Mets in back-to-back games — was on the mound in game four, opposed by the Royals’ Chris Young. Matz and Young are two completely different kind of pitchers, so it was fun to watch how each went about trying to get the other team out.Matz

Early on for the Mets’ side of things, it was a rookie show. Steven Matz lead off with a couple of scoreless innings, and Michael Conforto kicked off the third inning with a homer (the youngest players since Miguel Cabrera in 2003 to hit a World Series homer) off of Chris Young, who had been equally good to that point in the game. Wilmer Flores followed up with a fall-in single, and later advanced to second on a wild pitch and third on a terrific sacrifice bunt by Matz. Then, the unbelievable happened.

Curtis Granderson lifted a fly ball into right field which was easily caught by Alex Rios. But Rios forgot how many outs there were, and took a step or two towards the infield before realizing it was only the second out of the inning. Although it was going to be a close play anyhow, it took away any shot at nailing Flores at the plate. That simply can’t happen — not in the World Series. But it did, giving the Mets a 2-0 lead.

The Royals would answer back in the fifth, scoring a single run via an Alex Gordon RBI-single. But despite that run, Matz was still able to pitch well to get out of the inning. His opposer, Chris Young, was removed after the fourth inning, and replaced by Danny Duffy. But Duffy promptly allowed yet another home run to Conforto, who became the only Mets player other than Gary Carter to hit two homers in a Fall Classic game. Things were looking good for the Mets.

Ben Zobrist lead off the sixth inning with his eighth double of the postseason, getting things started against Matz, who many people were shocked was still in the game. As a result, the next batter, Lorenzo Cain, knocked a ball up the Murphymiddle that scored Zobrist and made it a 3-2 game with no outs. Matz was promptly removed, replaced by Jonathan Niese, and the potential further damage was contained.

That is, until the eighth inning, when the Royals took the lead an never looked back. Daniel Murphy committed an untimely error on an Eric Hosmer ground ball, which allowed Ben Zobrist to score. Singles by Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez plated two more and put Kansas City up by two runs, 5-3, which is where the game concluded after a failed attempt at a comeback for the Mets.

This isn’t the way many baseball fans envisioned things going at all. The Royals are a good team, but to win games going up against Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz is absolutely amazing. Sitting one win away from a World Series title, you knew they were sure to be on their game in Sunday’s game five potential elimination game. But going up against Harvey yet again, you had to figure it was going to be a challenge.

While the story of the game on Sunday was predicted to be Matt Harvey either keeping the Mets alive or not, it began with Curtis Granderson. As the first batter of the game, Granderson hit a homer off of Edinson Volquez to give the Mets a 1-0 lead and an extremely early spark.

Harvey struck out the side in the fourth — the second Mets pitcher (Tom Seaver being the other) to strike out the side in order in a World Series game — and was looking completely locked in, and much more like the All-Star version of HarveyHarvey that baseball fans had come to know, going on to strike out eight through the first five. Even so, despite the flaw in the first, Volquez was just as good to lead things off. With both pitchers totally dialed it, you had to figure that this was going to be one of the best games thus far.

The score remained the same through the sixth inning, when Curtis Granderson, David Wright and Daniel Murphy all lead off the inning with a walk, hit and error, respectively. The next batter, Yoenis Cespedes, looked to cash in with the bases loaded and nobody out, but he fouled an 0-1 pitch off of his left kneecap, and appeared to be headed for the clubhouse. But he stayed in the ballgame, only to pop out before limping off the field. Following Cespedes was Lucas Duda, who came through with a sac fly that plated Granderson to increase the lead to 2-0.

That’s where things would stay through the top of the ninth inning, when the Mets were faced with a huge decision: leave Harvey in after 102 pitches, or bring in the closer, Jeurys Familia, who had blown two saves through this point in the World Series, in game one and game four. After all, if Familia had closed out those games, the Mets would have been sitting three outs away from a World Championship. You simply had to leave Harvey in to finish what he started.

And the Mets did just that. After declaring that there was “no way I’m leaving this game” to manager Terry Collins, Harvey took the hill looking to shut things down in the final inning. However, he appeared a bit too amped up to start with, walking the leadoff man, Lorenzo Cain, and overthrowing some of his pitches. Cain proceeded to steal second, and was knocked in by an RBI-double from Eric Hosmer. Harvey was promptly removed, but no matter what, it was the right call under the situation.

HosmerNonetheless, the Royals, who hold the playoff record for six postseason multi-run comebacks, were now just a well placed hit away from tying the game. Familia was brought in to be the potential hero of game five, which would ultimately make up for his previous subpar pitching. But he wouldn’t complete the game. An errant throw by Lucas Duda to home plate after a groundout by Salvador Perez allowed Hosmer to tie the game at 2-2, and made for Familia’s third blown save of the Fall Classic — the most in baseball history.

The score remained tied through the twelfth, when everything completely fell apart for the Mets. What began as a simple RBI-pinch-hit-single from Christian Colon, putting the Royals up a mere run, turned into a blowout. Christian Colon would eventually score, along with three more runs via a Lorenzo Cain double that scored three runs with the bases loaded.

With the Mets down 7-2 heading into the bottom of the twelfth, you had to figure they stood little chance of a comeback, especially facing the hard throwing Wade Davis. Ultimately, Davis would strike out three, putting an exclamation point on the Royals’ season, and making them 2015 World Series Champions.

World Series

My hat certainly goes off to the Royals. I, admittedly, was pulling for the Mets to win, simply because I’m a big Matt Harvey fan and because I wanted to see the season be continued a couple more games out in Kansas City. But you got the feeling back when the Royals rallied to win and advance against the Astros in the ALDS that this was a team that wouldn’t stop until they were declared World Champions as quickly as possible.

This is the Royals’ first World Series crown since back in 1985. After making it to game seven of the Fall Classic in 2014, only to lose to the Giants, this is obvious redemption for that year. Salvador Perez, for his many contributions on multiple levels, was named MVP of the series, which was completely deserved. He was a big part of what made this Royals team so magical.

Heading forward, offseason transactions will ultimately happen. This Royals club that won the World Series will inevitably not be the exact team that takes the field on Opening Day in 2016. But there’s one thing you can guarantee: the Royals will still have a very competitive team with all sights on returning to the World Series next season and beyond.

My Ballot for the 2015 MLB All-Star Game

The ballot for the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star game has been out for awhile now, but I’ve been holding off with casting my votes for who I’d like to see in the game up in Cincinnati on July 14th. With it seeming like the ballot is coming out earlier and earlier each year, I wanted to give players enough time to put up quality numbers before I made any decisions. But I finally feel there are enough stats to make a logical decision.AllStar

Voting is simple. Although there are no longer paper ballots that you can pick up and fill out at your local ballpark, you can head over to MLB.com and fill out an online ballot with the player you feel most deserves the honor for each position. You can vote up to 35 times for the players of your choice. (Voting is open until July 2nd.)

I cast my maximum 35 votes a few days ago. Although the All-Star game is still just under two months away, I figured I’d go ahead and go over the players I picked for the Midsummer Classic. A lot of things can change, with my picks subsequently changing as well, but these are the players I went ahead and voted for to make the All-Star game:

FIRST BASE: Miguel Cabrera (AL), Adrian Gonzalez (NL)

It came down to Miguel Cabrera, Eric Hosmer and Mark Teixeira for me in the American League portion of the first base spot. While Teixeira leads in homers and RBI’s, his batting average was too low for me to select him. In addition, Eric Hosmer has fewer homers and RBI’s than Cabrera in more at-bats, and thus, I picked Miguel Cabrera.

In the National League, it was another tough decision. While Paul Goldschmidt is producing another year worth of MVP caliber numbers, and although Anthony Rizzo is getting better and better, I voted for Adrian Gonzalez. Getting off to a hot start to begin the year, Gonzalez holds the second highest batting average in baseball and deserves to make it.

SECOND BASE: Jose Altuve (AL), Dee Gordon (NL)

Jose Altuve leading all of American League second baseman in stolen bases, sitting second in average and third in homers was enough to get him selected by me to make the All-Star game. Although Devon Travis of the Blue Jays has been a highlight reel each night, Altuve is one of the most exciting second basemen in baseball.

The National League race for All-Star second baseman was an easy decision on my part. Dee Gordon is deserving of the spot, no question about it. Gordon doesn’t have any home runs, but that’s not his game. He leads all NL second basemen in stolen bases, and holds a batting average above .400. That’s deserving of All-Star recognition.

SHORTSTOP: Marcus Semien (AL), Brandon Crawford (NL)

I’ll be honest — I had to double check Marcus Semien’s stats when I was casting my vote for American League shortstop. I knew he was having a good year, but I didn’t realize how good. Leading the American League shortstops in homers and stolen bases, Semien is the unlikely frontrunner for the honor.

It was no easy task to choose a shortstop that had the best stats for the All-Star game. There are a ton of them with good numbers in one category or another. But while names such as Zack Cozart, Jhonny Peralta, etc., stood out, I went with Brandon Crawford, who has good numbers as well as the amazing defense to match.

THIRD BASE: Josh Donaldson (AL), Todd Frazier (NL)

You could make cases for Manny Machado, Mike Moustakas, Josh Donaldson and even Evan Longoria for the American League third base spot in the All-Star game. But I went with Donaldson, who is having a fantastic year. Sitting second in homers but first in RBI’s among AL third basemen, Donaldson should be in Cincy in July.

The first and only Red on my list — likely to be a favorite with the Reds hosting the All-Star game — is Todd Frazier, who I selected for NL third base in the midsummer classic. His batting average isn’t the best, but he is at the top in homers and is deserving in my mind of the honor.

CATCHER: Stephen Vogt (AL), Buster Posey (NL)

This is somewhat of a shocking pick, but a very deserving one. Stephen Vogt wasn’t all that well known as recently as a year ago, but his bat is making him more of a common name. Vogt leads AL catchers in average, home runs and RBI’s, and should lead them in voting when all is said and done.

I could’ve easily picked Miguel Montero or Yasmani Grandal to make the start behind the plate for the National League, but I went with the always consistent Buster Posey instead. Posey leads AL catchers in homers, and should be adding another All-Star game to his already impressive resume.

DESIGNATED HITTER: Nelson Cruz

Although the designated hitter role in the All-Star game goes to David Ortiz the majority of the time, there is simply no other choice for DH this year than Nelson Cruz. It’s not even close. Cruz leads all designated hitters in homers, runs batted in and average, and will be in the All-Star game up in Cincinnati.

OUTFIELD

It’s never easy to narrow down several dozen players to three All-Star picks for each league, especially when you could make a strong case for a dozen of the outfield choices for each league, but it’s a requirement when casting a ballot. So, while I voted for the players who I felt were All-Star caliber players at the moment, there are a few more I would’ve liked to vote for, but couldn’t. Keep that in mind when reading the outfielders I selected for the American League and National League:

Mike Trout, Josh Reddick and Adam Jones (AL)

Mike Trout was a nobrainer, as he once again is in the process of posting another fantastic season, but the other two spots were somewhat difficult with all of the great players. In the end, after examining all of the stats, I made the tough choice of Josh Reddick and Adam Jones. I hope to see them in the All-Star game starting lineups.

Bryce Harper, Justin Upton and Giancarlo Stanton (NL)

As with Mike Trout in the AL, picking Bryce Harper for National League outfield was the easiest choice of the three. But after a lot of debate between the candidates to fill the other places, I wound up choosing Justin Upton and Giancarlo Stanton. Upton is having a good year, and despite a subpar average, Stanton is dominating yet again.

Trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame

A little over eight years ago, back in June of 2006, I took a trip with my family to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, as part of a two week journey around the Northeast. I wasn’t extremely into baseball back then, but I enjoyed it just enough that I would’ve gotten a decent experience out of the visit. However, it wasn’t meant to be. Due to major flooding in the surrounding area, the Hall of Fame was closed, and we had to settle for a visit to a nearby baseball wax museum — an interesting place, but one that obviously paled in comparison to the main attraction in town.

In the years since, I’ve become one of the biggest baseball fans you’ll ever meet, constantly following the game and studying up on the stars of today and years past. Therefore, it had slowly become a must for me to make it back to Cooperstown at some point during my life. Although I imagined a return trip would take place a couple of decades or more from the time I last made the long trek up to New York from North Carolina, a plan for my dad, grandpa and I to take another trip to the Hall of Fame was quickly orchestrated over the past few months. And thus, on the Friday after Thanksgiving, the three of us made our way to New York.

On Saturday, November 29th, we got up early and made the drive from our hotel in Binghamton, NY, over to Cooperstown, arriving at a little bit after 9:00 in the morning:

DSCN7426As you may have noticed, there was snow on both of the trees to each side of the doors, as well as icicles hanging at various lengths from the roof. The cause of the snow and ice is one element of the trip that wasn’t present in June of 2006: cold weather. Far from the warm summer temperatures of our last visit, it was fairly cold (as is to be expected in late November), with the day starting off at around 10 degrees. But, thankfully, the Hall of Fame doesn’t close for cold temperatures, and we were actually able to make it past the front door this time around.

Upon entering the Hall and purchasing our tickets, we walked up the stairs to the second floor, where we caught a brief introduction movie, before beginning the tour of the museum.

One of the first pieces of memorabilia that we saw, and one of the most interesting of the day, was an old baseball that was used to “prove” that Abner Doubleday was the inventor of baseball, back in 1839:

DSCN7427However, contrary to popular belief, Doubleday didn’t invent baseball. As the display discussed, Doubleday was given credit for the sport’s origin, but a version of baseball had been being played for numerous years prior to 1839. Although the exact inventor of baseball isn’t fully known, credit for the rules of today’s version of the game — 90 feet between bases; 9 innings; 9 players per team — was awarded to Alexander Cartwright, the “Father of Modern Baseball”.

But while the invention of baseball wasn’t Abner Doubleday’s, there was an interesting non-baseball item that was in fact his own:

DSCN7436As a lover of history, including the Civil War era, these shoulder epaulets belonging to Doubleday during the war were very cool to see. Though not directly related to baseball, I came to find that the off the wall items such as these — not just baseballs, bats, jerseys, etc. — were some of the most interesting things to see.

But the baseball memorabilia was amazing as well; especially that of baseball’s well known all-time greats, such as Honus Wagner. Playing from 1897 through 1917, mainly for the Pittsburgh Pirates, there was a locker filled with Wagner stuff, such as one of Wagner’s full uniforms (used while he was a manager):

DSCN7442Wagner’s 1909 T206 baseball card holds the record for the most valuable sports card in existence, having sold for a whopping 2.8 million dollars back in 2007. So seeing the rare items tied directly to Wagner was amazing.

But things kept getting better and better as the journey through the museum continued. Next up was an entire section dedicated to the most well known player in baseball history: Babe Ruth. Among the items on display were a baseball estimated to have been hit by Ruth over 500 feet (picture 1); Ruth’s glove from the 1926 World Series (picture 2); a display of various things, such as one of Ruth’s bats (picture 3); and an autographed Babe Ruth baseball (picture 4):

RuthFollowing the Ruth exhibit, there was an exhibit dedicated the Negro Leagues, titled “Pride and Passion: The African-American Baseball Experience”. The most well known Negro League player has to be Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s color barrier back in 1947, going on to be inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. However, the exhibit focused on more than just Robinson. Also included in the exhibit, that helped tell the story of the Negro Leagues, were uniforms worn by Satchel Paige (left) and James “Cool Papa” Bell (right):

Negro LeaguesPaige is likely the most widely known Negro League pitcher, having pitched three shutout innings against the Boston Red Sox in 1965 at the age of 59, becoming the oldest player ever to play in the majors. Bell, while not as much of a household name as Paige, was just as amazing in his own way. Possessing blazing speed, it was said that Bell could “turn off the light and be under the covers before the room got dark” and that Bell once “hit a ball up the middle of the field and was struck by the ball as he slid into second base”. Though merely stories people liked to tell, it goes to show just how much Bell’s speed stood out to people.

Next in line on the path through the museum was “Diamond Dreams”, which showcased the many roles that women have played throughout the history of baseball, including playing the game themselves. The 1992 movie ‘A League of Their Own’, staring Tom Hanks, Geena David and Madonna, among others, covered this very topic of women playing the baseball. And therefore, the exhibit included costumes from the movie itself:

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After spending some time reading about the history of women in baseball, the three of us then made our way through a collection of items from 1930-1970, including things used by all-time greats, Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle, before finding ourselves in a portion of the museum dedicated to Latin American baseball players, entitled ‘Viva Baseball’:

DSCN7483Although everything in the exhibit was interesting and fun to learn about, there were some items that interested me more than others. Two of the key items for me were David Ortiz’s 2004 World Series jersey (left), from the year the Red Sox broke their 86-year Championship drought, as well as a jersey worn by Albert Pujols (right) during his 2001 Rookie of the Year winning season:

LatinBoth players are likely on their way to the Hall of Fame for their careers once they retire.

The next section we came upon covered baseball up through the year 2000. Some of the top things around the exhibit were a Tom Seaver display (Seaver holds the record for highest Hall of Fame induction voting percentage, with 98.8 %) that included the red cleats from his 300th career win (picture 1); George Brett’s pine tar bat from 1983 (picture 2); Robin Yount’s batting helmet from his 3,000th hit (picture 3); and Derek Jeter’s 1998 World Series cleats (picture 4):

Today's GameAlthough I enjoyed every portion of the museum, seeing this type of stuff from players that I’ve seen countless hours of video on truly made it all the more impressive.

That’s one of the reasons I most enjoyed the last room of the second floor that had items from the last decade or so of the game. One of the great things about these items was that I could remembered seeing a lot of the unique events they were tied to take place on TV, either live or in a recap of the game. The room was organized into thirty different lockers (one for each team) positioned around the walls, with several items for each team in each locker.

Remember back in 2012 when Orioles’ slugger Chris Davis came on to finish out the marathon 16 inning game on the mound against the Red Sox after beginning the game as the designated hitter? Well, the cap Davis was wearing was there:

DSCN7516Do you recall the unbelievable home-run-robbing catch made by DeWayne Wise in 2009 to preserve Mark Buehrle’s perfect game? They had the glove he used to snag the ball:

DSCN7520In fact, pretty much anything of significance that has happened within the past number of years was included in this exhibit. The cleats Miguel Cabrera was wearing the night he secured baseball’s first Triple Crown since 1967 (picture 1); the cleats Mike Trout wore when he recorded his first career cycle (picture 2); Jim Thome’s 600th career home run (picture 3); and the cap Mariano Rivera wore during his final All-Star outing of his career in 2013 (picture 4):

todays-game

It was all there.

Also in the room — in a display case in the very center — was an arrangement of items specifically from the 2014 Major League Baseball season. Although a bat from Jose Abreu’s rookie year was awesome to see, as were the cleats Albert Pujols was wearing when he blasted his 500th career home run, the thing that stood out to me the most was the jersey worn by Mo’ne David during the Little League World Series:

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Having watched Davis pitch on T.V. throughout the series, as well as seeing her on the cover of Sports Illustrated and basically anywhere you looked, it was awesome to see the jersey used by the first girl to earn a win in Little League World Series history.

After taking in all the things from this season, and doing my best to photograph it all, we all made our way up to the third floor of the museum. There, in a Hank Aaron exhibit, we saw another unique item not directly related to baseball, like the Abner Doubleday epaulets talked about earlier — bricks from Aaron’s childhood home in Alabama:

DSCN7557But while that was awesome to see, the Hall of Fame also had the full uniform Aaron was wearing the night he passed Babe Ruth for most home runs on the all-time home run list:

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That was pretty remarkable to see after watching him hit that historic blast over and over on T.V.

However, as we all know, Aaron’s career mark of 755 home runs didn’t stand. Barry Bonds went on to pass Aaron, with his 756th home run coming on August 7, 2007. The helmet Bonds was wearing when he hit the homer was on display, as was the ball itself:

DSCN7573You may have noticed that the ball has an asterisk cut out of the cover. The story behind that lies with Marc Ecko — the person who bought the ball online for $752,467. After purchasing the baseball, Ecko held an online contest to determine its fate. Voters had three choices: put an asterisk on the ball; leave it alone; or shoot it to the moon. Around half of the ten million votes said an asterisk should be added before the balls donation. And thus became the ball you see above.

Also in this room, focusing on records and such, were some pretty incredible things. Among them was Derek Jeter’s batting gloves from his 3,000th hit game (picture 1); a cap from each of Nolan Ryan’s record seven career no-hitters (picture 2); first base from Armando Galarraga’s infamous near-perfect game (picture 3); a ball from the 2007 game in which the Rangers defeated the Orioles 30-3 (picture 4); the jersey from Roy Halladay’s postseason no-hitter in 2010 (picture 5); and, my personal favorite item, possibly of the entire museum, the glove Willie Mays used to make “The Catch” in the 1954 World Series (picture 6):

Baseball

In all, I took more pictures in this one section of the museum than any other section. It was truly amazing stuff.

Towards the end of items on the third floor was a display with memorabilia solely from the 2014 World Series between the Giants and the Royals. Watching every single inning on T.V. as it happened, is was awesome to see some items from the series in person. But the one thing that stood out the most was rookie pitcher Yordano Ventura’s cap that he wore for his game six start:

DSCN7598

In addition to being a standout item because of the great outing Ventura had, it’s the inscription on the cap that makes it stand out the most. After the tragic death of 22-year-old Cardinals’ prospect, Oscar Taveras, Ventura took to the mound with “RIP O.T # 18” written on his hat as a tribute to his native Dominican Republic friend. It was touching on T.V., and even more so in person.

Once we had viewed all there was to see on the third floor, my grandpa, dad and I headed down the street to grab a bite of lunch at a nearby restaurant before returning to continue walking around the Hall of Fame. Believe it or not, after over three hours spent at the Hall (and after 35 pictures and 2,000 words in this blog post), there was still more to see and do.

After returning to the Hall of Fame, we headed over to an art exhibit, which normally isn’t my thing but really intrigued me this time around. Following that, we headed through a room dedicated to this year’s Hall of Fame inductees — Joe Torre, Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa, Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux — before arriving to the Hall of Fame’s main point of interest: The Hall of Fame Gallery:

DSCN7618With the current number of Hall of Famers standing at 306 total people — 211 players, 35 negro leaguers, 28 executives, 22 managers and 10 umpires — there were a lot of plaques to cover, but we made our way around to every single one.

As with every part of the museum, there were a few portions (in this case, people) that stood out the most.

The first of such was the inaugural class of five plaques (located at the far end of the picture above), being of Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson, all of which were inducted in 1936 — three years before the Hall of Fame’s opening in 1939:

DSCN7636Standing out as a member of the Hall of Fame that isn’t necessarily as known as the everyday players such as Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Cy Young, etc., was Wesley Branch Rickey (left), accompanied by Jackie Robinson (right):

Robinson

Rickey was the person who brought Jackie Robinson to the Dodgers in 1945, making him the first African American player to break baseball’s color barrier when he made his debut two years later.

Another lesser known member is Effa Manley — the only woman in the baseball Hall of Fame:

DSCN7633

Manley was greatly involved in the Negro Leagues as the only woman owner among an industry of male owners. Her induction came in 2006 as a “reflection of her commitment to baseball and civil rights”.

One last person who is more known for what he did than who he was is Bill Veeck:

DSCN7657

Mostly known for his stunt of bringing the shortest player in MLB history to the plate in 1951 — 3 foot 7 inch tall Eddie Gaedel — Veeck made a major impact on the game, stating, “I try not to break the rules but merely to test their elasticity”.

Upon completion of viewing all of the plaques, we made a brief stop by the gift shop, where I picked up a T-shirt and a magnet to commemorate my second trip and first successful visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Following that, after half a dozen hours or so spent at the Hall of Fame, my dad, grandpa and I swung by historic Doubleday Field, which was covered in snow . . . :

DSCN7686. . . before making our way out of town and back to our hotel.

I didn’t fully know what to expect from the Baseball Hall of Fame. Sometimes you can get your hopes up so high that the actual experience fails to meet those lofty expectations. But I can honestly say that the Hall of Fame completely blew away all my expectations. It was so well set up and so greatly stocked with some incredible pieces of baseball history that there was no way I could document it all — both with my camera or in this blog post.

So, if you haven’t, go see the Hall of Fame for yourself. It’s truly something that every single baseball fan should do at least once in their lifetime. You’ll never forget it.

Trout and Kershaw Win MVP Award

The Most Valuable Player award was first given out in 1911 to Ty Cobb of the American League and Frank Schulte of the National League. Originally known as the Chalmers award, named after Hugh Chalmers, the award didn’t catch on as well as had been hoped, and therefore was discontinued after the 1914 season.

In 1922 the League Awards were established to honor the baseball player in the American League (National League began being recognized in 1924) who provided the greatest all-around service to their club. The winner — who received a medal and cash for winning — was voted on by a committee of eight baseball writers, with a player not being able to win more than once. Like the Chalmers awards, these awards didn’t last long, stopping in 1929.

Finally in 1931 the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Most Valuable Player award was established, which is the award still given out today.

Sixty-five players who have won the Most Valuable Player award have gone on to the Hall of Fame up until this point — several of those winners are still active players, however. The current record for most MVP awards is held by Barry Bonds, with seven, but thirty total players have won multiple Most Valuable Player awards in their career.

Voting for the award is fairly straightforward.

Two writers from each city of both the American League and National League make up the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) voters for the Most Valuable Player award, making a total of thirty voters for each league (fifteen teams, with two voters per city). A first place vote earns a player fourteen points, a second place vote gets nine points, a third place vote receives eight points, a fourth place vote is worth seven points, and so on, all the way until tenth place for one point. Once added up, the player with the highest overall total wins.

The 2014 Major League Baseball Most Valuable Player award winners for both the American League and National League were announced Thursday night on MLB Network. Here are the winners, along with my thoughts on each:

AMERICAN LEAGUE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

Original Pick: Mike Trout

Finalists: Mike Trout, Michael Brantley and Victor Martinez

Winner: Mike Trout

Thoughts On Mike Trout Winning

After finishing runner up in the American League Most Valuable Player award voting to Miguel Cabrera the past two seasons, it was finally Mike Trout’s turn to receive the honor. With Cabrera having a down year, by his standards, Trout finally picked up his first career MVP award on Thursday night, joining Mickey Mantle as the second player ever to win their first MVP after having placed second in the previous two MVP votes.

Mike+Trout+85th+MLB+Star+Game+bFwsOZWoltLlTrout also joins the likes of Stan Musial, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays as the list of players to win an MVP at age 23 or younger, with Trout being the youngest ever unanimous winner.

Picking up all 30 first-place votes, Trout received a total of 420 points, beating out Victor Martinez, who finished in second with 229 points, and Michael Brantley, with his 185 points.

Despite batting just .287 on the year — a full 48 points lower than Victor Martinez — and finishing third in strikeouts (184) in all of baseball, Trout did more than enough to take home the MVP. Blasting a career high 36 home runs and 111 RBI’s, while scoring over 100 runs for the third straight season, Trout had the “most valuable” season of any other player in the American League.

Although Mike Trout needs to work on putting the ball into play a bit more, which will subsequently bring his average up to around .300, there’s little argument that he’s the best player in baseball at the moment. And at just 23 years old, the remarkable thing is, he’s going to get better and better.

NATIONAL LEAGUE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

Original Pick: Clayton Kershaw

Finalists: Clayton Kershaw, Giancarlo Stanton and Andrew McCutchen

Winner: Clayton Kershaw

Thoughts On Clayton Kershaw Winning

Clayton Kershaw was hands down the best pitcher in baseball this past season. The only question up for debate was whether or not Kershaw was the most valuable player in the National League. While some people simply don’t believe that a pitcher should win the MVP award, with them playing every fifth day instead of everyday, enough of them wound up voting for Kershaw, earning him the honor.

Clayton KershawThe ninth player to ever win the Cy Young and MVP in the same season, and the first National League pitcher to win the MVP in 46 years, Kershaw definitely had a historical season. Although he missed the first full month of the season, Kershaw still ended up with the most wins (21) in all of baseball, in addition to posting the best overall ERA (1.77) and the highest strikeout per nine innings rate (10.8).

Kershaw’s dominance gained him 18 of the 30 first place votes, totaling 355 points. Giancarlo Stanton, who many felt had a great shot at winning the MVP after blasting 37 home runs this season, finished runner up with 298 points and 8 first-place points, with Andrew McCutchen getting the remaining 4 first-place nods, good for 271 points altogether.

Having pitched just a total of 198.1 innings in 2014, Kershaw breaks the old record for fewest innings tallied by a pitcher to win the MVP award, previously held by the last pitcher to win the MVP award, Justin Verlander, who threw 251 innings in 2011.

Although it’s difficult to predict from season to season which player will win a given award, there’s the chance that Kershaw could eventually become the fourth pitcher to ever win more than one Most Valuable Player award in their career. Given, that’s somewhat unlikely. But if anyone can do it, Clayton Kershaw surely can.

My Vote for 2014 A.L. Most Valuable Player

Choosing the Most Valuable Player from each league is the most difficult decision of all the major baseball awards handed out at the conclusion of each season. With Rookie of the Year and Cy Young you can look solely at which player had the best overall stats, but Most Valuable Player sometimes involves a bit more than just stats. While it’s important that an MVP winner had a great statistical year, the best offensive player doesn’t automatically become the most valuable.

With that said, it was an even more difficult vote for me this season than it has been in seasons past. There are several players, including Corey Kluber, Felix Hernandez, Victor Martinez, Nelson Cruz and Mike Trout, who were all extremely valuable members of their given team in the American League. However, in the end, only one player can win the Most Valuable Player award.Trout

Corey Kluber and Felix Hernandez, while they were both terrific and extremely valuable parts of their team, can quickly be eliminated off the list for Most Valuable Player. Despite the fact that I have them finishing in the top two spots in Cy Young voting with their 2.44 and 2.14 ERA’s, respectively, they simply didn’t post historical stats that overtake the offensive numbers of an everyday position player in the American League. Therefore, while their teams would’ve definitely ended their seasons with much different records without them, neither one has the numbers for MVP.

On the other side of the coin, Victor Martinez posted some of the best numbers in all of the American League, and deserves to at least be in the MVP discussion. After breaking out and blasting 32 home runs and driving in 103 runs, Martinez certainly helped carry a Tigers team that held a lot of issues with their pitching staff, on this a year that Miguel Cabrera posted subpar numbers by his standard. Batting .335 on the season, second to only Jose Altuve in all of baseball, Martinez was one of the most well rounded players this season. Even so, he likely won’t end the year with MVP honors.

Nelson Cruz is one of the top options for American League MVP in my opinion, despite the fact that many people don’t see him as a top choice at all. Coming over to the Orioles in the offseason, and posting career highs in a number of categories, Cruz helped carry the Orioles to the postseason even at times when things weren’t looking too promising. Leading all of baseball in homers, with 40, and driving in over 100 runs for the first time in his career, Cruz had a fantastic season. But it wasn’t good enough to come out on top.

For me, the door has finally opened for Mike Trout to walk away with the 2014 American League Most Valuable Player award. Although his batting average was down from 2013, and his strikeouts were way up, Trout put together an MVP-caliber season to say the least. Along with scoring over 100 runs for the third straight season, Trout also blasted 36 home runs and recorded over 100 RBI’s (111) for the first time in his career. Everything together, after finishing runner up to Miguel Cabrera each of the past two years, the numbers Trout posted in 2014, combined with the down year by Cabrera, make things very likely that Trout will finally receive the Most Valuable Player award for his efforts.