Baseball's Hall of Fame induction ceremonies are coming up this weekend and, unlike last year, there will be three of the game's all-time great players being enshrined in Cooperstown. Orioles fans haven't had much reason to get excited about Hall of Fame weekend since Cal Ripken Jr. was inducted in 2007, and until the baseball writers get their heads out of their behinds and appreciate the greatness of Mike Mussina, that will continue to be the case.
After Mussina makes it in, or not, it's a bleak picture for O's fans wanting to see one of our own make it into Cooperstown.
A lost decade will do that to a team. The greatest Oriole of the 00s was, what, Brian Roberts? He played on terrible teams, made two All-Star teams, received MVP votes exactly one time, never won a Gold Glove, and currently has 1,526 hits, just over halfway to that magical 3,000 hit mark in his age 36 season. Maybe if he'd kept performing at the level he did in 2009 (.283/.356/.451 with 56 doubles) every year beyond that, he might have a chance.
That's generally not how aging baseball players work, barring some kind of possible chemical enhancement that helps you sustain performance and destroy dugout phones. And anyway, Roberts, whose name showed up in the Mitchell Report, would have all of that PED baggage with voters who won't even elect Jeff Bagwell, even if Roberts had the career numbers. He was a great Oriole on some bad Orioles teams, but Cooperstown? Not even close.
One year ago, I posed the question of whether there was a future Hall of Fame player currently on the Orioles. About 82% of readers answered yes in the poll, which is still crazy. As Hall of Fame weekend rolls around again, it's time to revisit the landscape and see what it would take for our current Orioles icons to build Hall of Fame cases for themselves.
This post is mostly about whether O's players have a chance of reaching certain "automatic" benchmarks like 3,000 hits or 500 home runs or 300 wins. It's possible that more lenient standards will evolve as the electorate changes and recognizes that things have changed, particularly in the PED testing era. Walks may start to matter more, for instance - not that this would help a member of the Orioles anyway.
MLB seasons: 9
Once, Markakis had the calling card of hitting lots of doubles. When it comes to doubles, 600 is something of a benchmark in the sense that every player who has ever hit 600+ doubles is either in the Hall of Fame or happens to be Pete Rose or Barry Bonds. Only 14 players have ever recorded 600+ doubles in the history of baseball.
Markakis opened up his first full MLB season at age 23 by racking up 43 doubles and 23 home runs. That's pretty good, and yet he would have still had to fire off another 14 seasons just like that to get to 600 doubles. That's no easy task.
Two years later, the home runs tapered off, and two years farther, even the doubles started to fade. He currently has 309 career doubles, with 20 so far this year. If he hits another 10 in 2014, he'll need 28 doubles a year for the next decade to get to 600. It's not happening.
Age: 28 (turning 29 on August 1)
MLB seasons: 9
If you think of the face of this Orioles team, you're probably thinking about Adam Jones. He deserves the recognition, a charismatic player who's embraced Baltimore and has a level of great performance on the field to back up when he decides to pop off to reporters by saying things like, "Why don't you ask Tanaka what it'll be like to face me?"
As far as his chances of hitting a magic Hall of Fame number, he's probably looking at 500 home runs as his ticket in. He'll be 29 in a matter of days and he has 159 home runs to date in his career. That is a long climb. If he equals adds another 10 home runs this year - 19 so far in 101 games - he'd only need to hit 33 home runs a season for the next decade to get himself to 500. That would put him at age 39 at the end of his journey. Not likely.
One thing working in Jones' favor, though, is that he's actually developed power as a hitter as his career has gone on. He probably doesn't have any 50 homer seasons in him to shave time off the back end. Father Time will come for him eventually.
Still, what if the Orioles continue to be a good team for the next five years, Jones continues to be the best player on those good teams, and they eventually win a World Series? That would be something. Jones has it in him to get some of the postseason heroics that voters love, if the rest of the team can keep getting him there. Four All-Star teams, three Gold Gloves, at least one top-10 MVP season and possibly more coming. Voters love that stuff too. A long shot, but not a no-shot.
MLB seasons: 3
Winning the first ever Platinum Glove for best fielder in the American League in his age 20 season certainly doesn't hurt for Machado, because double-digit Gold Gloves is just the sort of thing that gets you Hall of Fame steam. Does Machado have that in him? He might not add another this year since he missed a lot of time, but once he got back up to game speed, he looks to have the same brilliance in the field, just mind-blowing transcendental defensive talent.
He stands something of a chance as a hitter too, if his bat grows the way that we hope. Machado, at his young age, has already gotten himself 308 hits in his career. He is getting about a hit per game played this year; if he adds another 60 by year's end, that would leave him needing 2,632 hits to get 3,000, a fortuitous number for Orioles fans. If Machado chips away at that number over 15 years, leaving him "only" 37 at the end of it, that would be about 174 hits per year through 2029. No big deal, right?
Machado's still young enough that we can dream about how his bat will develop, but as Markakis shows us, sometimes that never really happens. Machado hit 51 doubles last year, for instance, about one for every three games played, but he only has 10 through 66 games this year. If he gets better and stays better for a long time, and stays healthy, he could be a player with a strong case for multiple facets of his game. Then, we'd still have to hope he spent all of that time on the Orioles to get elected as an Oriole.
Also a long shot, if only because so much can go wrong over 15 years.
MLB seasons: 7
This was worth talking about briefly last year as Davis went on to hit 53 home runs. He's now batting .203/.312/.392, a full 300 points of OPS below where he was last year. Davis has 146 career home runs. He's even behind Jones, though he's a year younger.
Davis has hit about one home run for every five games played - let's say he's good for another 12 this year, putting him at 158 career homers. He'd only need 34 home runs a year for the next decade from that point. It's hard to even imagine him playing for another decade.
MLB seasons: 6
300 wins? Tillman had 32 career wins heading into this season. At this time last year, he was on a pace to win 20 games on the season, making it briefly worth considering, well, what if he kept up that pace. This year, he's on pace to win 10. Thanks for playing, Chris. He has one 200-inning season under his belt and is not on pace to get another one this year.
Perhaps in a year's time, Kevin Gausman will be wowing us enough to shift our wild pitcher extrapolation dreams to him.
Let's get crazy and say that Jones plays out his career with the Orioles, has a few years where he's solidly in the second tier behind Mike Trout, wins a World Series, and crawls over the 500 home run plateau when he is 39 years old, then retires. The year is now 2024, meaning that, if Jones somehow got in on the first ballot, he would be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2030. I will turn 47 later that year.
All things are possible in this crazy new world of Orioles baseball, make no mistake. But when it comes to one of these guys getting into the Hall of Fame, it would be a good idea not to hold your breath.