On Wednesday, MLB will announce its 2014 Hall of Fame class. With a loaded ballot that includes an absolute lock in Greg Maddux and several other deserving first-time candidates like Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine and Mike Mussina, in addition to a strong selection of holdovers and controversial PED cases, we won't see a repeat of last year's vote when nobody got in. As usual, there are a slew of former Yankees in the Hall of Fame discussion this year. Besides Moose, Roger Clemens, Tim Raines, Lee Smith and Don Mattingly will get votes. It'll be five years before he's eligible, but Mariano Rivera can start planning his Cooperstown weekend for mid-summer 2019, while Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada will be definite maybes when their time comes.
But what about the players on the team right now? Here's a look at the 2014 Yankees who have a decent shot at eventual enshrinement.
Derek Jeter would have to get caught stabbing someone to death with a steroid needle in order to not be a first ballot inductee...assuming he ever actually retires. The captain's career batting line is .312/.381/.446 and he's accumulated 73.8 fWAR, topping every shortstop already in Cooperstown besides Honus Wagner, Cal Ripken Jr. and George Davis. He's thirteenth all-time in runs scored and tenth in hits, and a healthy season this year could propel him as high as ninth and sixth in those two categories respectively. Jeter's face-of-baseball status and his signature moments in the playoffs - the flip, Mr. November and so on - certainly won't hurt his case either.
Ichiro is one of the most unique players of the past twenty years and he's nearly as sure a thing Hall of Fame-wise as Jeter. He's hit .319/.361/.414 for his career while stealing 472 bases and picking up 2,742 hits in the US, including 262 in 2004 - the most ever in a single season. Beyond his hitting prowess, the 2001 American League MVP has won ten Gold Gloves, accumulating a career UZR of 129.7. Though we've seen only a shell of what once was during his time in the Bronx, Ichiro's clearly hall-worthy.
There's really no argument to be made on whether A-Rod's numbers make him a Hall of Famer. In baseball history, he's tenth in runs scored, sixth in RBI and fifth in home runs with a .974 career OPS and an fWAR of 111.0. The problem of course, is that pesky PED use, which A-Rod admitted to in 2009 and was accused of once again in 2013. Should-be locks Clemens and Barry Bonds got only 37.6 and 36.2 percent of the vote on their first ballot last year (I want to know who voted for Clemens but not Bonds), while Mike Piazza was held to 57.8 percent despite there being no actual evidence against him.
I do believe that PED users, at least the upper-echelon ones, will get Hall of Fame recognition eventually. Murray Chass is supposedly giving up his vote after this one, so that's a small step in the right direction, and many of his curmudgeonly, holier-than-thou brethren will eventually fade away, too. (Never mind.) You know them - the guys who start their points with "In my day..." and end them with "dagnabbit!" - the ones who've sanctimoniously appointed themselves "protectors of the legacy of the game" even though nobody's asked them to.
2013 struggles notwithstanding, CC Sabathia would have a decent Hall of Fame argument if he retired tomorrow. His career fWAR of 61.5 is 54th all-time among pitchers which may not seem that impressive, except that it beats plenty of inducted pitchers including Rube Waddell, Sandy Koufax, Whitey Ford and Ed Walsh. CC's 205 wins are a rare commodity among modern-day pitchers, he's a six-time All-Star, he finished top-five in Cy Young voting five straight years between 2007 and 2011 and he's now thrown 200 or more innings eight seasons running.
Of course, CC's career isn't over. He's only 33 years old, and he can easily solidify his case with a bounce-back season in 2014 and more good years beyond that. What may hurt him are his career ERA and FIP, 3.60 and 3.54, which are on the higher fringes among Hall of Famers. His first five years with the Indians were fairly pedestrian contributed to that, but if he continues to pitch into his late thirties, those overall numbers are more likely to go up than down.
Despite eight All-Star appearances, three Gold Gloves and a career batting line of .283/.359/.496, Carlos Beltran has managed to fly slightly under the radar for most of his career, at least in terms of getting recognized as a true great. But Beltran's Hall of Fame case is actually pretty strong with a career wRC+ of 122, an fWAR of 64.1 and a rare combination of power, speed and above-average defense. Beltran is one of only eight players in major league history with 300 home runs and 300 stolen bases. If he can slug 66 more bombs over the next three years, he'll be one of five in the 400/300 club, joining Willie Mays, Andre Dawson, Barry Bonds and A-Rod. He has a 30-30 campaign on his resume, and he had both 100 runs scored and 100 RBI in seven different seasons.
Back in 2009, Mark Teixeira seemed to be well on his way to a Hall of Fame career. Through his age 29 season he was hitting .290/.378/.545 with a wRC+ of 135, a wOBA of .391 and 242 home runs. Then, Tex turned 30 and things began to change. Falling into pull-happy tendencies, his batting averages and OBPs dipped drastically and injuries started to take their toll costing him a chunk of 2012 and virtually all of 2013. Still, Teixeira will be just 34 this season and he's got 341 homers and 1,113 RBI in his coffers. If he can stay healthy, 500 and 1,500 aren't out of the question and voters will probably look kindly on power numbers they consider clean. Five Gold Gloves and counting will help, too - though defensive matrices don't seem to agree, Teixeira's generally considered one of the better fielding first baseman of his generation.