Four teams are still not represented in Cooperstown -- at least not by the caps worn on players' Hall of Fame plaques. Three of those are expansion teams from the 1990s: the Rockies, Marlins and Rays. The fourth is the Angels, born in 1961. Nolan Ryan spent eight years with the Angels and nine with the Astros, but he wears a Rangers cap on his plaque, which leaves the Angels without a Hall of Famer. The franchise will likely have to wait for Mike Trout, assuming Vladimir Guerrero eventually goes in with an Expos cap.
That brings up a fun idea: Who is the next Hall of Famer for each team? This requires some speculation not only on who gets elected -- and what active players' final stats will be -- but also in predicting the cap. Let’s take a guess. (Note: When I mention public ballots, I’m referring to voters who have revealed their ballots, tracked here by Ryan Thibodaux.)
Houston Astros: Jeff Bagwell (ETA 2017). Bagwell’s candidacy had stalled after five years on the ballot, sitting at 55 percent of the vote (which had dropped from 59 percent a couple years ago). He was one of the players most helped by the purge of more than 100 retired and nonactive voters last year, however, as his percentage increased to 71, and he’s over 90 percent so far on the public ballots.
Texas Rangers: Ivan Rodriguez (2017). It appears that he’ll get elected his first season on the ballot, and though he won a World Series with the Marlins and played in another with the Tigers, he’ll go in as a Ranger as he won 10 of his 13 Gold Gloves and his 1999 AL MVP Award with that team.
Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals: Tim Raines (2017). In his final year on the ballot, Raines appears to be a shoo-in, sitting at 90 percent of the public vote. That will drop a bit with the anonymous voters -- who never vote at the same rate as the public voters -- but Raines should easily cross the 75 percent threshold. In terms of value, Raines compares favorably to first-ballot inductee Tony Gwynn, while basically exchanging some of Gwynn's hits for walks (Gwynn had a .388 career OBP, Raines .385), stealing more bases and scoring more runs. Guerrero, in his first year on the ballot, is at 77 percent of the public vote, which means he probably falls just a bit short and will have to wait until 2018.
Atlanta Braves: Chipper Jones (2018). He should be an easy first-ballot Hall of Famer, with a .303/.401/.529 batting line, an MVP Award, 12 seasons in the playoffs and 85 WAR, which ranks sixth all-time among third basemen.
Detroit Tigers: Alan Trammell and Jack Morris (2018). Trammell never fared well on the BBWAA ballot, reaching 40 percent on only his final year in 2016. He presumably gets bumped over to the Today’s Game veterans committee, which covers 1970-87, and though the veterans committee has spun shutouts on players in recent years while electing several managers, executives and Bud Selig, I think Trammell gets in. He was just as valuable as Barry Larkin (Trammell leads in WAR 70.4 to 70.2), who cruised through the BBWAA vote, except Larkin didn’t have Cal Ripken in his league.
Morris’ election is less of a sure thing, even though he peaked at 67 percent on the BBWAA ballot. His career 3.90 ERA and 43.8 WAR are well below Hall of Fame standards, but he came so close that it’s unprecedented to not put him in. Plus, for the Hall of Fame players who sit on these committees, Morris has the feel of a Hall of Famer, one whom they would deem worthy of their club.
New York Yankees: Mariano Rivera (2019). Hoffman better get elected in 2018 because Rivera hits the ballot in 2019, and that will cost Hoffman some votes because he pales in comparison. Hoffman might be second behind Rivera in career saves, but they aren’t close in career value or dominance: Rivera had 57.1 WAR compared to Hoffman’s 28.4, and that’s before you get to the postseason, in which Hoffman flopped while Rivera starred. The only question here is whether Rivera will top Ken Griffey Jr.’s record percentage of 99.3.
Cleveland Indians: Jim Thome (2019). He actually hits the ballot in 2018, but I think he has to wait a year, even with 612 career home runs, 1,699 RBIs and a .402 OBP. Omar Vizquel also hits the ballot in 2018, and though I believe he eventually gets in, it will be a longer grind for him.
Seattle Mariners: Edgar Martinez (2019). Like Bagwell, Martinez was helped by the purge, with his percentage improving from 27 percent to 43 percent last year. He is seeing a huge boost in the public vote, sitting at 70 percent. He’s also a good candidate -- along with Mike Mussina -- to replace Raines as the cause célèbre for the sabermetric contingent. Plus, once you elect Hoffman and even Rivera, you can’t really hold Martinez’s designated hitter status against him. This will be his final year on the ballot, which will help get him over the hump.
San Francisco Giants: Barry Bonds (2020). When Bonds and Roger Clemens debuted at less than 40 percent in 2013, it appeared that their paths to Cooperstown were blocked. Two things have since happened: The purge -- older voters were more strongly anti-PED than younger or active writers -- led to a slight increase in their totals last year, and this year’s election of Bud Selig (and to a lesser extent John Schuerholz) has seemingly helped as well, with both players polling at 69 percent on the public ballots. The message: If you’re going to elect the commissioner who ruled during the steroid era, can you deny entrance to the two greatest players of that era?
Boston Red Sox: Roger Clemens (2020). The speeches will be interesting.
Baltimore Orioles: Mike Mussina (2020). Mussina won more games with the Orioles than the Yankees (147 to 123) and had a lower ERA (3.53 to 3.88), so when his overdue election finally happens -- he’s 19th in career WAR among pitchers since 1900 -- he goes in as an Oriole.
Chicago White Sox: Minnie Minoso (2021). It’s too bad he didn’t get elected before passing away in 2015, but he’s a worthy candidate, a player who ranked eighth among position players in WAR in the 1950s. The seven above him are in the Hall of Fame, and six of the seven below him are in as well. He didn’t reach the majors until he was 25 because of the color barrier; add three seasons or so to his counting totals and he’d have been elected long ago. I think the Golden Days committee, which reviews candidates from 1950 to 1969, finally recognizes his greatness and groundbreaking status as the first black Cuban star.
Philadelphia Phillies: Curt Schilling (2021). He’s trailing Mussina in the public vote this year (his political rants haven’t helped), but he arguably has a better case, given his sterling postseason credentials and three World Series rings. If he goes in, does he go in as a Phillie?
Phillies: 101-78, 3.35 ERA, 36.8 WAR
Diamondbacks: 58-28, 3.14 ERA, 26.0 WAR, one ring
Red Sox: 53-29, 3.95 ERA, 17.8 WAR, two rings
It's a tough call, but I think his longevity with the Phillies wins out. If the Hall elects to put him in with a Red Sox or Diamondbacks cap, it could be a long wait for a Phillies player. Chase Utley would be next in line, and though he’s a strong sabermetric crowd-pleaser, his counting stats are short and he’d likely have to get in via the veterans committee.
Mussina: 270-153, 3.68 ERA, 123 ERA+, 82.7 WAR
Schilling: 216-146, 3.46 ERA, 127 ERA+, 80.7 WAR
Halladay: 203-105, 3.38 ERA, 131 ERA+, 65.6 WAR
Halladay’s abrupt ending to his career leaves him short in the wins column, but from 2002 to 2011, he averaged 6.2 WAR per season, won two Cy Youngs and finished second twice, an incredible decade-long run of peak value that should be rewarded.
St. Louis Cardinals: Albert Pujols (2027). Pujols has five years remaining on his contract, and this projection assumes he plays to the end of it. He’s 480 RBIs behind Hank Aaron for the career record. Can he catch him? Hitting behind Trout helps, but I forecast him falling a little short, then easily going in on the first ballot as maybe the greatest first baseman of all time.
New York Mets: Carlos Beltran (2029). Beltran’s all-around brilliance will eventually be recognized, and because he played his most career games with the Mets, had his best season (2006) with the Mets and recorded his most career value with the Mets, I say he goes in with a Mets cap.
Oakland A's: Mark McGwire (2032). Big Mac was shut out by the Today’s Game committee that elected Selig and Schuerholz this year, and I do think he, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro and Manny Ramirez are in a different boat than Bonds and Clemens, who were clearly great players before they allegedly started using PEDs. Time heals wounds, however, and McGwire eventually gets in.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw (2035). Yes, he’ll get a ring as well when he outduels Lucas Giolito in that memorable 1-0 shutout in Game 7 of the 2023 World Series. Pitching on two days’ rest, Kershaw goes all 10 innings and strikes out 16. Oh, he also finishes with a record eight Cy Young Awards, breaking Clemens’ mark of seven.
Miami Marlins: Giancarlo Stanton (2037). That $325 million contract he signed looked terrible at first, but six straight 40-homer seasons from 2017 to 2022, including a 55-homer peak in 2020, will justify the deal. He opts out of the contract with the Marlins at that point, however, and signs with the Dodgers, but 394 of his 605 career home runs come with the Marlins. Gary Sheffield is a future veterans committee candidate, and he’s more Marlin than anything else, so he could get in first.
Los Angeles Angels: Mike Trout (2038). I have Trout playing through his age-41 season, finishing his career in 2032 (don’t worry, Angels fans, he plays his entire career in Anaheim) and joining the ballot in 2038. He becomes the first unanimous Hall of Famer after finishing with 158.5 career WAR, which places him third among position players, behind Babe Ruth and Bonds and just ahead of Willie Mays.
Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto (2039). Votto’s case will be a tug-of-war between the sabermetric diehards and the “RBIs are everything” crowd. Of course, fewer of those will still be around when Votto retires after 2024 and enters the ballot in 2030. His power numbers won’t match those of most Hall of Fame first basemen, but his OBP and career value will eventually be considered Hall-worthy. Note what Votto's being the next Red means: No Pete Rose.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Andrew McCutchen (2040). He’ll spend the first 10 seasons of his career with the Pirates and help them to a stunning World Series title in 2018, when he has one final big season and finishes third in the MVP voting two years after being the subject of offseason trade rumors. Similar to Raines, his run as one of the best players in the game gets him elected.
Colorado Rockies: Nolan Arenado (2041). The veterans committee passes on Larry Walker and Todd Helton, making Arenado the first Rockies player to get inducted. His six consecutive seasons leading the NL in RBIs from 2015 to 2020 and 10 lifetime Gold Gloves make him a quick selection by the BBWAA.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Robbie Ray (2043). He didn’t seem like a future Hall of Famer when he was 14-31 after three seasons in the big leagues, but those 218 strikeouts in 174.1 innings in 2016 were the sign that he was about to break out. He finishes with 254 career wins, a Cy Young Award and three NL strikeout titles.
Minnesota Twins: Joe Mauer (2046). His split career at catcher and first base made for a complicated case, but he eventually gets in via the veterans committee, which rewards his high peak value at catcher, three batting titles and MVP Award.
Milwaukee Brewers: Mauricio Dubon (2047). In one of the great heists in trade history, Dubon came over from the Red Sox as part of the Tyler Thornburg trade in 2016 and ends up winning four batting titles, stealing more than 300 bases and playing good shortstop for more than a decade with the Brewers.
Tampa Bay Rays/Carolina Mustangs: Evan Longoria (2052). He never tops 50 percent on the BBWAA vote but finally gets in after years of contentious debate when the veterans committee (including former teammate David Price, elected as a member of the Red Sox in 2035) puts him in, citing his 400-plus career home runs, nearly 1,500 RBIs and excellent defense.
Kansas City Royals: Yordano Ventura (2054). Ventura never lives up to his potential as a starter, but he moves to the bullpen in 2020 and has new life as a dominant closer, with seven 40-save seasons and several more of 30-plus. He ends up part of the great closer election of 2054, when the veterans committee, fed up with what to do with relievers, votes in Ventura, Billy Wagner, Kenley Jansen, Francisco Rodriguez, Zach Britton, Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, Lee Smith, Jonathan Papelbon, Joe Nathan and Roberto Osuna in a special election, which only leads to the infamous “What about John Franco?” debate that tears apart the Hall of Fame and leads to its eventual destruction.