Adrian Beltre — Third Baseman
Teams: Los Angeles Dodgers, Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers
Quietly, Adrian Beltre became one of the best players of his generation. Beltre made his Major League debut with the Dodgers in 1998 at the age of 19. In 2004 — his final year in Los Angeles — Beltre slashed .334/.388/.629 with 48 HR and 121 RBI and finished second for the NL MVP. Not only was he a force at the plate, but Beltre became one of the greatest defensive third basemen to ever play the game. A great teammate as well, Beltre helped lead the Rangers to the World Series in 2011. Over the course of a 21-year career, Beltre accumulated 3,166 hits, 477 HR, five Gold Gloves, and four All-Star appearances. Eligible for the HoF in 2024, Beltre is more than worthy of a place in Cooperstown.
Billy Wagner — Closer
Teams: Houston Astros, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, Atlanta Braves
Wagner’s Hall of Fame case seems to pick up steam with every year he appears on the ballot. Among his peers, the only reliever from Wagner’s era who was definitively better than him was the greatest closer of all-time — Mariano Rivera. Wagner’s 2.31 career ERA and 1.00 WHIP are among the best marks of any pitcher in league history. He was one of the best relievers in all of baseball even by the time he called it quits in 2010 (Wagner sported a career-low 1.43 ERA in his final season). Wagner’s one blemish, unlike Rivera, was his lack of postseason success. However, the 5-foot-10 lefty did more than enough in 853 regular season appearances to warrant 75-percent of the Hall of Fame vote.
Thurman Munson — Catcher
Team: New York Yankees
While there a few catchers who likely deserve a spot in Cooperstown — Joe Mauer, Jorge Posada, Bill Freehan — perhaps no catcher is more overlooked than Thurman Munson. Spending his entire career with the Yankees, Munson became the Yankees’ first captain since Lou Gehrig. Munson was a complete catcher — a career .292 hitter with 113 HR and three Gold Gloves to his name. After winning the AL MVP in 1976, the star catcher helped lead New York to back-to-back World Series victories over the Dodgers in ’77 and ’78. However, in 1979, Munson tragically passed away in a plane crash while he was practicing landing his aircraft — he was just 32. In 15 years on the HoF ballot, Munson never received more than 15.5-percent of the vote.
Buster Posey — Catcher
Team: San Francisco Giants
Catcher is one of the toughest positions to play in all of sports. For 12 years, Buster Posey made things look pretty easy. The No. 5 overall pick out of Florida State in 2008, Posey quickly rose through San Francisco’s Minor League system and debuted with the Giants in 2009. In ’10, Posey won the National League Rookie of the Year Award and led the club to a World Series triumph. Two years later, Posey won the NL MVP and guided San Francisco to another World Series. In ’14, Posey’s Giants won their third World Series in five years. Posey finished his career with a .302 BA, five Silver Sluggers, seven All-Star appearances, one Batting Title and one Gold Glove. He is destined for Cooperstown.
Johan Santana — Starting Pitcher
Teams: Minnesota Twins, New York Mets
Let’s talk about a Hall of Fame vote that made zero sense. Johan Santana made his first and only appearance on the ballot in 2018. Shockingly, the lethal lefty received 2.4-percent of the votes and was therefore removed from further consideration. To be frank, that decision is disgraceful. Featuring a devastating circle change, a slider, and a fastball that could reach 94 MPH, Santana carved up the American League while playing for the Twins. Between 2002-07, Santana went 90-41 with a 2.92 ERA and 1,289 strikeouts.
He won his first Cy Young in ’04 behind 20 wins and an AL-best 2.61 ERA and 265 SO — the first of three-straight years in which he led the league in punch outs. After finishing third for the CY in ’05, Santana claimed his second Cy Young in ’06 while also winning the Triple Crown. In his first three years with the Mets, Santana claimed his third ERA Title and notched a third-place CY finish. Even though injuries shortened his career, Santana deserved a longer look.
Barry Bonds — Left Fielder
Teams: Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants
Having a Hall of Fame without the sport’s best player doesn’t make a whole lot of sense — and Bonds, by far, was the sport’s best player. The all-time home run leader won seven MVP’s in his career — two as a Pirate, five as a Giant — and was named an All-Star 14 times. Bonds was the most feared hitter in the game’s history. Opposing pitchers chose to intentionally walk Bonds a staggering 688 times — more than double the amount drawn by second-place Albert Pujols (316).
He was also no slouch in other facets of the game. Bonds robbed 514 bags (445 of those came between ’86-’98) and was an eight-time Gold Glove winner in left field. The all-time great has been kept out of the Hall of Fame primarily because of his alleged use of PEDs and connection to the ‘Steroid Era’.
Lou Whitaker — Second Baseman
Team: Detroit Tigers
If you followed baseball during the 1980s-90s, you knew of Lou Whitaker. After a brief 11-game stint in ’77, Whitaker became Detroit’s full-time second baseman in ’78 — a role that he wouldn’t relinquish until his retirement following the ’95 season. Whitaker burst onto the scene as a rookie, hitting .285 en route to Rookie of the Year honors. The two-way star hit his prime between ’83-87. Whitaker was named an All-Star five years in a row, and claimed four Silver Sluggers and three Gold Gloves during that time. Whitaker finished his career with more walks than strikeouts, which played to his skills beautifully. Whitaker was an above-average player at the plate, in the field, and on the basepaths.
Todd Helton — First Baseman
Team: Colorado Rockies
Helton hits all the bench marks of a Hall of Famer — longevity, consistency, and the loyalty to have spent all 17 years of his career with the same organization. Helton was an absolute monster in Coors Field for nearly two decades. 2000 was the start of his breakout, when the first baseman led the National League in hits, doubles, RBI, total bases, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging (he somehow only finished fifth in MVP voting that year). He was a five-time All-Star while playing a position that was absolutely stacked from ’00-04. Often times overlooked in favor for some of his contemporaries, Helton deserves recognition for having a marvelous career.
Shoeless Joe Jackson — Outfielder
Teams: Philadelphia Athletics, Cleveland Naps, Chicago White Sox
Shoeless Joe hasn’t been alive for more than 70 years, and yet his name remains one of the most infamous names in all of sports. As we all know, Shoeless Joe was banned from baseball in 1920 due to his involvement in the famed Black Sox Scandal. Unfortunately, Joe’s excellence on the field is often overshadowed due to the scandal. The outfielder ended his career with a .356 BA — the third-best of all-time. In 1911, Joe hit an absurd .408. Quite simply, Joe was one of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen.
Jeff Kent — Second Baseman
Teams: Toronto Blue Jays, New York Mets, Cleveland Indians, San Francisco Giants, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers
Kent didn’t start ascending into a Hall of Fame trajectory until after his 30th birthday. After joining the Giants in 1997, Kent went on a torrid six-year run which included three All-Star Games, one NL Pennant, and one MVP. Kent left San Francisco at 34 years old, and managed to make two more All-Star teams as a member of the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers, respectively. In total, Kent slugged 377 homers (plus nine postseason bombs), 560 doubles, and held a career batting average of .290.
Andy Pettitte — Starting Pitcher
Teams: New York Yankees, Houston Astros
Drafted by the Yankees in 1990, it wasn’t until ’95 that Andy Pettitte made his debut in pinstripes. Standing at 6-foot-5, the lefty was a hulking presence on the mound. Pettitte was an immediate star in New York, finishing second for the Cy Young in just his second year as the Yankees stormed their way to a World Series triumph. Pettitte stayed in the Bronx through 2003, racking up a 149-78 record and four World Series wins. After three years in Houston, Pettitte returned to New York to finish his career. When the big lefty called it quits after the ’13 season, he had won 256 games, recorded a Yankee-best 2,020 strikeouts, and won more games than any other pitcher in the ’00s.
Roger Clemens — Starting Pitcher
Teams: Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, Houston Astros
While he saw his vote totals rise towards the end of his time on the ballot, Clemens failed to make the Hall of Fame. The former Red Sox and Yankee pitcher has plenty of accolades to make a strong case to make the Hall of Fame. Clemens finished his career with 354 wins — good for ninth all-time — and also holds the record for the most Cy Young awards with seven. Clemens’ play on-the-field was more than enough to warrant induction, but everything he did off-the-field is what seemingly kept him out.
Kenny Lofton — Center Fielder
Teams: Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, Chicago White Sox, San Francisco Giants, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers
17 years, 11 teams. Clearly, Kenny Lofton was a wanted man. Lofton made his professional debut with Houston, but was shipped to Cleveland following the 1991 campaign. While in Cleveland, Lofton became a star. From 1992-97, Lofton was one of the best players in baseball. During that span, Lofton slashed .319/.387/.436, stole 352 bases, and drew nearly as many walks (366) as strikeouts (407). Not only was Lofton an excellent hitter and base runner — leading the league in steals five-straight years — but he played tremendous defense. Manning centerfield, Lofton captured four Gold Gloves for Cleveland.
Albert Pujols — First Baseman
Teams: St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers
Albert Pujols will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. The legendary slugger finished his career in 2022, and he went out on a high note. In his first stint with the Cardinals, Pujols won three National League MVP Awards, was runner-up four times, and led St. Louis to two World Series. The superstar didn’t continue to dominate the league after joining the Angels, but he remained a good player for a long time. Overall, Pujols was named an All-Star 11 times, and claimed six Silver Sluggers and two Gold Gloves. A career .296 hitter, Pujols finished with 3,384 hits and 703 home runs — the fourth-most all-time.
Rafael Palmeiro — First Baseman
Teams: Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles
“Let me start by telling you this: I have never used steroids, period. I don’t know how to say it any more clearly than that. Never.”
Rafael Palmeiro uttered those words, under oath, on March 17, 2005 at a congressional hearing related to steroids in baseball. Less than five months later, on August 1, Palmeiro was suspended for a positive steroid test. And that is why Palmeiro was kicked off the HoF ballot after four years. At the conclusion of his 20-year career, Palmeiro had slugged 569 HR and recorded 3,020 hits. Those numbers are historic. Palmeiro was a consistent hitter throughout his career and was a Gold Glove defender. Steroids have tainted his legacy, but the man could play.
Omar Vizquel — Shortstop
Teams: Seattle Mariners, Cleveland Indians, San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox, Toronto Blue Jays
Omar Vizquel making it to the Hall of Fame would be a major win for all of the great defenders in the game’s history. While scoring runs is ultimately the goal of baseball, preventing the other team from scoring runs is equally important. Few in the sport’s history were more sure-handed than Vizquel. The defensive wizard started an MLB-record 2,709 games at shortstop and was awarded 11 Gold Gloves for his efforts. He wasn’t just a one-dimensional player, either. While Vizquel wouldn’t be confused with teammate Jim Thome at the plate, he was a solid contact hitter who registered a .333 batting average in 1999 and finished his career at a respectable .272 clip. He finished 123 hits shy of 3,000.
CC Sabathia — Starting Pitcher
Teams: Cleveland Indians, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees
A first-round pick by Cleveland in 1998, Sabathia earned his Major League promotion in 2001 at the age of 20. Despite posting an above-4.00 ERA as a rookie, Sabathia went 17-5 in 33 starts — his reputation as a workhorse had just begun. Punctuated by his Cy Young season in ’06, Sabathia started 219 games (100-63) for Cleveland between ’01-07 and made three All-Star teams. CC won more games than any other pitcher between ’05-12, going a remarkable 137-67. CC finished his career in the Bronx, pitching for the Yankees from ’09-19. While in New York, Sabathia earned three more All-Star nods, was named the ’09 ALCS MVP, and captured the World Series that same year. The 6-foot-6 lefty left the game with 251 wins and 3,093 strikeouts.
Alex Rodriguez — Shortstop/Third Baseman
Teams: Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, New York Yankees
Rodriguez was a star from the moment he stepped on the field. In his first full year as a Major Leaguer, A-Rod was named an All-Star and finished No. 2 in MVP voting — as a 20-year-old. He went on to win three MVP’s, 10 Silver Sluggers and was named an All-Star 14 times. The SS-turned-3B shook off his early-career playoff woes by finally capturing a World Series title as a member of the 2009 New York Yankees. PED issues will make it very difficult for A-Rod to earn entry into the Hall, but his numbers don’t lie — he is an all-time great. 696 HR, 3,115 hits, 2,086 RBI, .295 BA…undeniably great.
Pete Rose — Outfielder/Infielder
Teams: Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies, Montreal Expos
Pete Rose has more hits — 4,256 — than every other player in MLB history. Over the course of his 24-year career, Rose also played more games (3,562) than anyone else in history. Rose won three World Series, one MVP, three Batting Titles, two Gold Gloves, and was selected to 17 All-Star teams. A career .303 hitter, Rose is sixth all-time with 2,165 runs scored. And yet, Rose is not a member of the Hall of Fame. Rose has been banned from baseball since 1989 after being accused of betting on games that he both played in and managed. Rose being held out of the Hall of Fame is a mistake.
Andruw Jones — Center Fielder
Teams: Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees
Jones is an ideal Hall of Fame candidate seeing as he was a true five-tool player. From ’98-07, Jones won 10-straight Gold Gloves for his work in center field — more than anyone not named Willie Mays. In addition to his defensive skills, Jones smashed 434 homers (led the league with 51 in 2005) and swiped 152 bags. His approval rating is improving, but there should still be more momentum based upon his body of work.
Gary Sheffield — Outfielder
Teams: Milwaukee Brewers, San Diego Padres, Florida Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves, New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, New York Mets
When the 2023 Hall of Fame voting results were released, Gary Sheffield remained a sizable amount of votes away from the 75-percent needed. His name will remain on the ballot for the 2024 election, but that will be his final chance. Much like many of his peers, PED allegations could ultimately keep Sheffield out of the Hall of Fame. His career numbers are certainly enough to be named a Hall of Famer. Wielding one of the most recognizable batting stances in baseball history, Sheffield smashed 509 homers over 22 seasons in the league.
Manny Ramirez — Left Fielder
Teams: Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox, Tampa Bay Rays
The enigmatic Manny Ramirez was simply one of the greatest hitters of all-time. His 555 career home runs are good for 15th all-time. Ramirez is 11th all-time in career OPS (on-base plus slugging). He ranks sixth all-time in slugging percentage among right-handed hitters. He’s hit the most home runs in postseason history (29). Working against Ramirez’s case are two failed PED tests over his career. But by performance only, Ramirez is no doubt worthy of enshrinement.
Sammy Sosa — Right Fielder
Teams: Texas Rangers, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles
In 1998, Sammy Sosa was instrumental in making baseball popular once again. Throughout the famed summer of ’98, Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in a home run battle — with the ultimate goal being to surpass Roger Maris’ single-season HR record of 61. While Sosa would end the year behind McGwire, he smashed Maris’ record by clubbing 66 homers. However, Sosa won the NL MVP for his overall stellar play — as he slashed .308/.377/.647 with 158 RBI. In ’99, Sosa hit another 63 dingers. In ’01, he hit 64. Sosa finished his 18-year career with 609 HR and six Silver Sluggers…but also with a corked-bat scandal and steroid allegations.
Mark McGwire — First Baseman
Teams: Oakland Athletics, St. Louis Cardinals
One of the main faces of the steroid era, Big Mac himself. McGwire is one of the rare stars from the era that has admitted to using PEDs, although he has stated he used them for health reasons rather than to improve his play. The 6-foot-5 slugger became a superstar with the stacked Oakland A’s in the late 80s. As a rookie, Big Mac slashed .289/.370/.618 with an MLB-best 49 HR and 118 RBI — capturing the AL Rookie of the Year and a sixth-place MVP finish. After hitting 363 homers with the A’s, McGwire was shipped to St. Louis. There, Big Mac hit a then-record 70 HR in ’98. In 545 games with the Cardinals, McGwire hit 220 HR. Big Mac retired with 583 HR and 12 All-Star nods.
Curt Schilling — Starting Pitcher
Teams: Baltimore Orioles, Houston Astros, Philadelphia Phillies, Arizona Diamondbacks, Boston Red Sox
Schilling was undoubtedly one of the best pitchers of his era. Despite never winning a Cy Young Award (finished second in voting three times), the dominant 6-foot-5 hurler was always among the league’s top performers throughout his career which spanned 20 seasons. He saved his best for the postseason, where Schilling was a member of three World Series winning teams and was named co-WS MVP for the Diamondbacks in 2001.