When Ichiro Suzuki bounced from one clubhouse to another on Monday in Seattle, he gave the New York Yankees another player destined for Cooperstown. Just how many future Hall of Famers do the current Bronx Bombers have?
Ichiro long ago secured his place as a Hall of Famer, with an MVP award, Rookie of the Year award, 10 Gold Gloves, and 10 All-Star selections. Add in two batting titles, 10 200-hit seasons, and the single-season record for most hits (262 in 2004) and Ichiro has established himself as one of the most prolific hitters in baseball history. He also won seven consecutive batting titles in the Japan League, and given the fact that he hit .350 and won the MVP in his first season in the U.S., it’s safe to say that Ichiro was a major league caliber player years before the Mariners brought him to America.
The Yanks have a legend at the top of their lineup already, which is why Ichiro will hit 8th or 9th in their lineup. Derek Jeter has more than 3,200 hits to his credit and he seems to be prepared to chug along for a few more years.
To the right of Jeter in the Yankee infield is Alex Rodriguez and his more than 640 career homers, three MVP awards, and countless other accomplishments. Of course, ARod has a big stinky salami hanging around his neck – his admitted steroid use – but it’s quite possible that given his repentance, he’ll get his HOF plaque some day. That’s three for Cooperstown from the current Yanks.
But wait! There’s more. Mariano Rivera (out for the season on the DL) is a lock for the Hall of Fame. Andy Pettitte is also on the team, and given his impressive post-season resume, he’ll get serious Cooperstown consideration as well.
Then there’s a quartet of younger players in their primes: Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, C.C. Sabathia, and Mark Teixeira. It’s reasonable to assume that at least two or three of them, and possibly all four depending on how their careers shake out, will earn selection to the Hall of Fame. Sabathia at age 31 has a Cy Young Award and nearly 200 wins under his big belt. He’s the strongest candidate of the four. Teixeira is one year older and has more than 330 homers, a figure that ranks among the leaders all-time among switch-hitters. He’s hit at least 30 homers in eight straight seasons as of 2012, and if he stays in New York he could loft homers into the short right field corner for many more years. It’s very likely he’ll get 500-550 homers, which would give him a strong case for the Hall. Cano is considered by many to be the best hitting second baseman in the game, and there are fewer second basemen in the HOF than any other position. Assuming he stays at that position and continues to develop more power as he matures, the perennial .300 hitter will be a slam dunk for the Hall of Fame. He’s only 29 years old and he has a decent chance to join Jeter in the 3,000-hit club one day. Granderson’s case for the HOF is the least certain at this point – he’s in just his seventh full season but is already 31. He has accomplished some impressive things though: the second player to ever hit 20 doubles, triples, and homers and also steal 20 bases in a season; 41 homers and an RBI title as a Yankee; 136 runs scored in 2011; and he has led the league in triples twice. In Yankee Stadium he’ll continue to slug home runs, and if he can get to 400 (5-6 years of 35 per would do it), and he wins some more rings as a Yankee, Grandy could get HOF consideration.
There’s one more current Yankee who should get inquiries from the voters for Cooperstown: Andruw Jones. Jones already has 400 career home runs, he’s hit 50 in a season, like Ichiro he has 10 Gold Glove Awards (as a center fielder), he was a 20/20 man (HR and SB) four times, and he’s appeared in 11 post-seasons. At his peak, in his 20s, Jones was the best center fielder in baseball, and he may be one of the best to ever play the position. In 2005 with the Atlanta Braves he won two-thirds of the Triple Crown, and he’s inching up on 2,000 hits and 400 doubles for his career. He’s spent the last five seasons as a platoon player, which makes his HOF argument harder to make, but take a look at his career from age 20 to 29 and it stacks up well against Kirby Puckett and other second tier center fielders in the Hall.
Jeter, Rivera, Ichiro, ARod, Sabathia, Pettitte, Cano, Teixeira, Granderson, and Jones: that’s 10 current Yankees who could one day have their plaques hanging in the gallery in Cooperstown. Not a bad group to choose from, eh Mr. Girardi?