What do Vincent Van Gogh and Tim Raines have in common? By all accounts, Van Gogh never led the league in steals for four straight seasons, nor was Raines as auricularly challenged as the Dutch painter.
But both were drastically underrated during their careers, only to be revived by diehard fans long after their relevance had faded. Now, Van Gogh is Van Gogh, and this summer, after 15 years on the ballot, Raines was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
It shouldn’t have taken so long for the all-time-great Expo to be enshrined, and yet it did. Part of it comes from a reputation as a compiler, and part of it comes from the lack of advanced statistics that reflected Raines’ true value.
So rather than wait until it’s too late for a player to make the Hall to debate their credentials (I love you Alan Trammell), here, in descending tiers, are the Hall of Famers in our midst today (all stats courtesy of Baseball Reference).
Albert Pujols, STL/LAA
Miguel Cabrera, FLA/DET
Adrián Beltré, LAD/SEA/BOS/TEX
Ichiro Suzuki, SEA/NYY/MIA
Mike Trout, LAA
Every day spent watching Mike Trout play baseball is a day well spent. Before this season, Trout had either placed first or second in the AL MVP race in every full season of his career, and accumulated a very good career’s worth of WAR in just six seasons. If you wonder what Mickey Mantle probably looked like in his prime, you’re watching him right now, playoffs be damned. The craziest part is he’s still getting better.
Shouldn’t be a discussion, but it will be:
Carlos Beltran, KCR/HOU/NYM/SFG/STL/NYY/TEX
Yadier Molina, STL
Robinson Cano, NYY/SEA
Clayton Kershaw, LAD
Molina is the best defensive catcher of his era and could swing the bat better than most of them, too. He was the leader of the last decade of the Cardinals’ dominance, and hasn’t really slowed down in his fourteenth season. A few more above-average years, and he’s a no-brainer.
Should get in:
Francisco Rodriguez, LAA/MIL/NYM/DET/BAL
Justin Verlander, DET
Chase Utley, PHI/LAD
Joe Mauer, MIN
Buster Posey, SFG
Verlander is still pumping high-90s into the twilight of his career, so his case could be goosed by hitting 3,000 strikeouts. Even if he doesn’t hit that mark, he’s got a Cy Young on his resume and two second-place finishes that could’ve easily swung his way. Plus, an MVP award as a pitcher doesn’t hurt.
The Zack Greinke category:
Zack Greinke, KCR/MIL/LAA/LAD/ARI
Of all the players on this list, Greinke is the one with the highest Van Gogh potential. As volatile as he’s been — his two best seasons were each followed up by two of his worst — his peaks have been as high as anyone’s during his career. If he was a little more personable and/or had been on a team that made a deep playoff run, it wouldn’t even be a debate. Get this man in the Hall.
The dreaded hall of very good:
C.C. Sabathia, CLE/MIL/NYY
Dustin Pedroia, BOS
I just don’t think he’s going to have enough. Pedroia has been the proverbial heart and soul of the Sox for a decade, but unless he puts in a few more top-shelf years, his counting stats just don’t bode well for his chances.