While the New York Yankees is an organization that has always been associated with great athletes, the 2012 Yankees roster features numerous players that are only a few seasons from punching their ticket to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. With the recent addition of Ichiro Suzuki, the 2012 Yankees may now have as many as seven future Hall of Famers on their roster. Here are the seven candidates I feel stand a legitimate chance of being included among baseball’s greatest, listed according to their likelihood of being inducted.
Derek Jeter: With over 3,000 career hits, five World Series titles, and countless Yankee records to his name, “The Captain” is a near lock for induction into the baseball Hall of Fame. In fact, Jeter is one of those athletes where sportswriters don’t discuss if he’ll get in, they discuss whether he might be the first person to ever be inducted into the Hall with 100% of the votes. While this is unlikely, Jeter will certainly become a member of Cooperstown, whenever he is finished moving his way up the all-time lists of many major categories.
Mariano Rivera: The all-time leader in saves, Mariano Rivera is heralded by many as the greatest closer of all time. His 42 career saves and 0.70 ERA in the postseason are numbers that may never be matched, and he has been a crucial cog to the Yankees success. Like Jeter, Rivera is most likely a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and will go down as one of the best relief pitchers ever before his career is finished.
Alex Rodriguez: With over 600 career home runs and close to 3,000 hits, Rodriguez would normally be a no-brainer when it comes to Hall of Fame discussions. However, with links to performance enhancement drug use during his tenure with the Texas Rangers, Rodriguez has been linked with a select group of athletes that have become the face of PED use. Certainly, his numbers make him a worthy candidate, but whether or not Rodriguez will ever make the Hall will largely be decided next year, when the first big wave of PED users with blockbuster numbers become eligible for induction.
Ichiro Suzuki: Ichiro will finish the 2012 season with close to 2,600 hits. In his prime, he was one of baseball’s all-time great hitters, as he showed in 2004 when he broke George Sisler’s record for most hits in a single season with 262. The fact that Ichiro even has a chance to get to 3,000 hits is a huge feat considering he began his career in Japan, where he tallied 1,278 hits before coming to the states. Had he played his entire career in the United States, Ichiro would be coming up on his 4,000th career hit, and we would be counting the time until he breaks Pete Rose’s all-time hit record. If he is able to stick around long enough to get 3,000 hits in Major League Baseball, he should have no problems getting inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Andy Pettitte: With 243 wins, a career 3.78 ERA, and 2,310 strikeouts, Andy Pettitte is a borderline Hall of Famer. His numbers are very close, but he has also been tied to performance enhancing drug use through his relations with Roger Clemens. If Pettitte comes back in 2013 and can post another 10-win season, I think this will definitely help his chances of being inducted, but again it will come down to how much of a factor his association with PEDs will have when the time comes.
Well on their Way
CC Sabathia: Currently, CC Sabathia sports a career record of 188-99, a career 3.51 ERA, and 2,150 strikeouts. At only 32 years of age, there is a good possibility that Sabathia can make a run at 300 career wins and 3,500-4,000 strikeouts before he retires. Even if he maintains his current stat lines for only another three to four years, his numbers should be good enough to be inducted into the Hall.
Robinson Cano: Over the last three seasons, Robinson Cano has emerged as one of the most feared hitters in the game. At only 29 years of age, Cano is just hitting his prime, and already he has put up some impressive numbers. With a .308 lifetime BA, 1,393 hits, 168 HR, and 684 RBI, it’s not out of the question that Cano can at least double these numbers during the remainder of his career if he can remain healthy. If Cano can remain productive and match his output of the last three seasons until he is 35, he will finish his career with close to 3,000 hits, 1,400 RBI, and around 350 HR making him another serious contender for Hall of Fame inclusion.
While having seven Hall of Famers on a team is not a record (earlier Yankees teams from the 1930s had more), it is a rare feat nonetheless. If you are a purist of the game, sit back and enjoy the rest of this season for the Yankees, as you may not see a roster like this for some time to come.