Yesterday evening, the great Mariano Rivera became the first player in history to become a unanimous selection for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Considering the Baseball Hall of Fame has been around since 1936, it’s quite the feat for Rivera to become the first man ever inducted unanimously; but his selection could open up the floodgates and allow for more unanimous selections in the future (potentially fellow Yankee Derek Jeter—partly because he was a Yankee that is universally loved—next year). Some active players will also get strong consideration for all 425 votes when it’s their time five years after they retire.
In the discussion for best baseball player to ever live, Mike Trout should be a 100% lock for a unanimous Hall of Fame selection in about 15 or 20 years. Trout could retire today and he’d make the Hall given his greatness over his seven-plus big-league seasons, but he’s still just 27 years old with many more exceptional years ahead of him. Barring some unforeseen occurrence, Trout’s all-time numbers should be among the best in history when he calls it a career, and hopefully in future years we’ll see him in huge October moments, where he’ll probably play his best if his performances under the bright lights of the All-Star games are any indication.
As someone that hits the field every four or five days, Clayton Kershaw doesn’t have the every-day impact of a position player like Trout, but the ace lefty is similar to Trout in that he’s in the discussion for the best handful of players at his position in MLB history. Kershaw is 27th all-time in ERA with a 2.39 mark that isn’t close to being approached by other players in recent memory, and no starting pitcher has a better career ERA in the live ball era (since 1920). The only blemish is his performance taking a considerable dip in the postseason, but he’s also come up in some big moments and has time to capture an elusive World Series title.
Albert Pujols is one of four players in MLB history to have 3,000 hits and 600 home runs (the other three are Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Alex Rodriguez), and one of them (Rodriguez) cheated on his way to the feat. Throw in Pujols’ career .302 average, and it’s just him, Aaron, and Mays to hit those three marks. During his 11 seasons with the Cardinals, Pujols averaged 40 home runs and 120 RBI per season, which is simply mind-boggling. Oh, and he is a ten-time All-Star that’s won NL Rookie of the Year, three NL MVPs, and two world championships.
The overall numbers aren’t quite as impressive as Albert Pujols’, but Miguel Cabrera has a very strong case to be named a unanimous Hall of Famer five years after he retires. In addition to a World Series championship he was a key member of as a 20-year-old rookie for the Marlins in 2003, the big thing Cabrera has going for him is the 2012 Triple Crown. With a .330 average, 44 home runs, and 137 RBI in his first AL MVP season, Cabrera became the first player to win a Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. It’s an accomplishment that could help put the two-time AL MVP over the top for a unanimous selection.
If you didn’t hear, Ichiro is coming out of retirement to again play for the Mariners, so he qualifies as an active player. It might be more of a short stint that allows Ichirco to play in the Japan Opening Series which the Mariners are participating in to start off the season in March—Ichiro of course recorded 1,278 hits in Japan before coming to America. With 3,089 hits in the majors, Ichiro has 4,367 hits in his 27 professional seasons, along with a .311 average, 509 steals, and 1,420 runs in the MLB. He’ll have a strong case as a unanimous Hall of Fame selection.
With a chance
The five players above have an excellent chance to become unanimous Hall of Famers (if they aren’t locks), but there are more players that are potentially on the right track, too. Jose Altuve and Mookie Betts have led their team to World Series wins during their MVP seasons the past two years, and it’s not easy to take home a Most Valuable Player award in a league that has Mike Trout in it. Nolan Arenado’s proficiency both at the plate (37+ homers in each of the past four seasons) and in the field (six consecutive Gold Glove awards) should make the 27-year-old a legitimate candidate if he keeps it up. And Bryce Harper has shown his monstrous potential during his 2015 NL MVP season, so he might make a strong case if he gets more consistent in the final ten years or so of his career.