bring a mix of excitement and nostalgia to the baseball world. These players, who have left their mark on the game, now have the opportunity to be immortalized in Cooperstown. Let’s take a closer look at some of these candidates and their remarkable careers.
Adrián Beltré, known for his exceptional defense and powerful bat, spent 21 seasons in the major leagues. He amassed an impressive 3,166 hits, making him one of only 32 players in history to reach the 3,000-hit milestone. Beltré was also a four-time All-Star and won five Gold Glove Awards. His infectious love for the game and his playful antics, like his famous aversion to having his head touched, endeared him to fans and teammates alike.
Joe Mauer, a three-time batting champion, was a model of consistency throughout his 15-year career with the Minnesota Twins. Mauer, a former catcher turned first baseman, was known for his smooth swing and ability to hit for both average and power. He won the American League MVP Award in 2009, becoming the first catcher to do so since 1972. Mauer’s career was unfortunately cut short due to concussions, but his impact on the game cannot be understated.
Alex Rodriguez, one of the most polarizing figures in baseball history, had a career filled with both incredible highs and controversial lows. A-Rod, as he was often called, was a three-time MVP and a 14-time All-Star. He hit 696 home runs, putting him fourth on the all-time list. However, his career was marred by his involvement in performance-enhancing drugs and his suspension from the game. Despite the controversy, Rodriguez’s talent and accomplishments cannot be denied.
José Reyes, known for his blazing speed and electrifying plays, was a fan favorite during his time with the New York Mets. Reyes led the league in stolen bases multiple times and was a four-time All-Star. However, injuries and age caught up with him, and his production declined in the latter part of his career. Reyes will always be remembered for his exciting style of play and his impact on the Mets’ success.
James Shields, though not a household name like some of the other candidates, was a workhorse on the mound. Shields consistently logged a high number of innings and was known for his durability and competitiveness. He played a crucial role in the Kansas City Royals’ resurgence, helping lead them to back-to-back winning seasons and a World Series appearance in 2014.
Chase Utley, a key member of the Philadelphia Phillies’ championship team in 2008, was known for his gritty play and clutch performances. Utley’s aggressive baserunning and exceptional defense made him a fan favorite in Philadelphia. He was a six-time All-Star and won four Silver Slugger Awards. Utley’s impact on the game extended beyond his statistics, as he was widely respected for his leadership and intensity.
David Wright, the face of the New York Mets franchise for over a decade, was a seven-time All-Star and a career .296 hitter. Wright’s leadership and professionalism made him a beloved figure in New York. Unfortunately, injuries cut his career short, but his determination to return to the field for one final season was a testament to his love for the game.
These players, each with their own unique contributions to the game, now await the verdict of the Hall of Fame voters. Their careers have left an indelible mark on baseball, and their potential induction into Cooperstown would be a fitting tribute to their accomplishments.deliver thunderous hits and power the offense of any team. These players were not just sluggers, though. They were also skilled defenders, with multiple Gold Glove awards among them. Their impact on the game extended beyond their individual statistics, as they were leaders in the clubhouse and set an example for younger players.
Adrián Beltré was known for his incredible defensive skills at third base. He won five Gold Glove awards and was a master at making difficult plays look routine. Beltré was also a consistent offensive threat, with a career batting average of .286 and over 3,000 hits. He played with a passion and intensity that made him a fan favorite wherever he went.
Joe Mauer was a rare breed of player, excelling both as a catcher and a hitter. He won three batting titles and was known for his ability to hit for both average and power. Mauer was also a skilled defensive catcher, winning three Gold Glove awards. His leadership and work ethic made him a respected figure in the game.
Ellis Burks was a dynamic outfielder who could do it all. He had a combination of power, speed, and defensive prowess that made him a force to be reckoned with. Burks was a two-time All-Star and won a Gold Glove award in 1990. He was a key contributor to the success of the teams he played for.
Will Clark was a fan favorite known for his smooth swing and clutch hitting. He was a six-time All-Star and won a Gold Glove award in 1991. Clark had a knack for coming through in big moments and was a leader on and off the field.
Reggie Smith was a versatile player who could play multiple positions and excel at all of them. He was a seven-time All-Star and won a Gold Glove award in 1968. Smith was known for his smooth swing and ability to hit for both power and average.
Adrián González was a consistent offensive threat throughout his career. He had a smooth swing and was known for his ability to drive in runs. González was a five-time All-Star and won four Gold Glove awards. He was a leader in the clubhouse and set an example for younger players.
Paul O’Neill was a fiery competitor who played the game with passion and intensity. He was a key contributor to the success of the New York Yankees in the 1990s, winning four World Series championships with the team. O’Neill was a five-time All-Star and won a Gold Glove award in 1994. He was known for his clutch hitting and ability to come through in big moments.
These players left a lasting impact on the game of baseball. They were not just great players, but also leaders and role models. Their contributions to the game will be remembered for years to come.
(*Rodriguez opted out of his original contract after 2007 and signed another 10-year deal; his stolen-base high in the second deal was 18.)
Reyes was a wondrous young player, exciting in the ways MLB wants to encourage. But age, as they say, is undefeated.
James Shields wore a three-piece suit for one of his first road trips with the Kansas City Royals in 2013. The team had a travel dress code — sports coats and slacks — but to Dayton Moore, the general manager who traded for Shields, this represented a more serious commitment to professionalism.
“Getting young guys to do it, OK, fine, they’re going to do whatever you want,” said Moore, now a senior advisor for the Texas Rangers. “But then James Shields comes over and he’s dressing that way on the plane. And people may look at that and say, ‘Whatever, who cares about that stuff?’ But when you’re looking for veteran-type players that would model greatness and expectations at the highest level for young guys, it’s really important.”
Maybe there wasn’t quite greatness in Shields, not as there was in, say, C.C. Sabathia, Justin Verlander, Roy Halladay and Félix Hernández, who all won the Cy Young Award. But from 2007-2012 — the six seasons before the Royals traded for Shields — those were the only pitchers who threw more innings.
You knew what you’d get in Shields: a durable, fearless competitor, and that’s what Moore wanted. That’s why he traded some of his top prospects to the Rays for Shields and Wade Davis, hoping to jolt a young team that had slogged through four consecutive 90-loss seasons.
“We went to the Capital Grille after the press conference,” Moore said, “and this guy was all about: ‘We’re winning. I mean, this stuff’s over. We’re winning here.’”
And they did. In Shields’ two seasons with the Royals, the team had its first back-to-back winning records (in non-strike years) since the 1980s. Shields worked more innings than any other American League pitcher in those years, and when the World Series finally returned to Kansas City, in 2014, Shields threw the first pitch.
It was a midweek afternoon in August 2006, broiling hot in Atlanta, two teams buried in the standings. In the seventh inning, Chase Utley slashed a three-run double to left to put the Phillies ahead of the Braves. On the next pitch, Ryan Howard chopped a ball off the plate. The pitcher gathered it, flipped to first for a routine out — and there went Utley, charging around third, diving in safely at home under a throw. Two bases on a groundout to the pitcher.
“Wow!” shouted Chris Wheeler, a Phillies broadcaster, whose partner then delivered a line that would follow Utley for the rest of his career.
“Chase Utley,” Harry Kalas declared, “You are the man!”
St. Louis had Stan “The Man” Musial, and Philadelphia had “Chase Utley, you are the man” — the whole phrase, best delivered with Kalas’ signature flourish. That moment began Utley’s ascent from mere superstar to civic icon. Two years later, he was a champion.
“He didn’t want attention, he didn’t want: ‘You’re the man,’” Wheeler said last week. “But to come from Harry, he always appreciated that, and that was important to him. Harry would call him ‘The Man’ all the time, so it just came out on the air that day when he made that unbelievable play.”
Utley didn’t say much, and he didn’t have to. In Philadelphia, everybody adored him. His Baseball Reference page lists two nicknames: “The Man,” of course, and also “Silver Fox.” He was tough, he was cool, and he knew it.
David Wright made seven All-Star teams and finished with a .296 career batting average. (Jim McIsaac / Getty Images)
David Wright is part of a club capped at 30, stocked with hallowed, one-name titans of the game: Aaron, Brett and Clemente; Cobb, Gwynn and Ichiro; Jeter, Mays and Musial; Ripken, Yaz and Yount. Each is the career hits leader for a major league franchise.
It’s funny, though: More than a third of the 30 are not in the Hall of Fame. Ichiro Suzuki will be, and Todd Helton is trending that way. Pete Rose is ineligible. Even so, that still leaves 10 players who hold a franchise hits record but are not in Cooperstown:
Garret Anderson, Angels: 2,368
Bert Campaneris, A’s: 1,882
Luis Castillo, Marlins: 1,273
Carl Crawford, Rays: 1,480
Tony Fernandez, Blue Jays: 1,583
Luis Gonzalez, Diamondbacks: 1,337
Jimmy Rollins, Phillies: 2,306
David Wright, Mets: 1,777
Michael Young, Rangers: 2,230
Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals: 1,846
Rollins is back on the ballot for a third try this year, and Zimmerman is not yet eligible. The other seven did not get the 5 percent required to last beyond year one.
Wright probably won’t, either. He played fewer than 100 games after turning 32, limited by a spinal condition. But he was healthy for the Mets’ World Series run in 2015, and when he fought his way back for a cameo at the end of the 2018 season, it symbolized every athlete’s desire to triumph, even in a small way, over physical limitations.
“I honestly believe I reached my ceiling as an athlete, playing the game the right way and squeezing the most out of my ability,” Wright wrote in his memoir, with Anthony DiComo. “I don’t think many players can say that.”
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(Top photo of Adrián Beltré and Joe Mauer in 2017: Brace Hemmelgarn / Minnesota Twins / Getty Images)