The Baseball Hall of Fame holds its induction ceremony on its grounds in Cooperstown, New York this weekend. In contrast to some other recent years, it'll be quite a party this time around, with four great players getting elected to the Hall. That's not a typical year. It's hard to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Orioles fans have not had any real stake in the Hall of Fame's induction weekend since Cal Ripken Jr. was elected back in 2007. Until the voters come to their senses and elect Mike Mussina, Orioles fans will continue to be waiting for a reason to really get involved in the Hall of Fame festivities. Mussina collected 24.6% of the vote this season; a player needs 75% to be elected. That's a long climb. He has eight years to make it. Maybe he will.
Whenever Mussina makes it (or doesn't), there will be another long drought for O's fans. There were no future Hall of Famers grinding out their Orioles careers in the early/mid-2000s. That just wasn't happening. The greatest Orioles of the decade were Melvin Mora and Brian Roberts, fine Orioles for a long time who will never get anywhere close to induction into the baseball Hall.
Could there be someone on the Orioles right now who might someday end the years where there are no Orioles players inducted?
For the most part, this post assumes that it will take the generally-believed "automatic" benchmarks, such as notching 3,000 hits or 500 home runs, to get into the Hall of Fame. It's possible that as the electorate changes to a younger crowd, less rigid standards will start to evolve for players who are in the era where PED testing is in place. Or something could evolve like walks becoming as important as hits, not that O's fans would know what it's like to have a player in the modern game who maintains an impressively high OBP year after year.
Maybe, though not likely, the Orioles could even have somebody perform at such a high level in their peak that they get in even with a sub-par rest of their career. You benefit from that kind of narrative by winning World Series titles, MVPs, and Gold Gloves, and by getting picked to a lot of All-Star Teams. You have probably noticed a lack of Orioles winning the World Series or winning MVPs in recent years, so that won't be happening unless something changes.
Age: 29 (turning 30 on August 1)
MLB seasons: 10
Jones has the greatest Orioles career of anyone else to date in the 21st century. By year's end he'll have probably passed Brian Roberts and Melvin Mora in total bWAR - and each of those guys accumulated their numbers over more seasons than Jones. What's that worth to the HOF voters? Probably not much.
Since the 2010 season, Jones has maintained a pace of 183 hits per 162 games. At that total pace, it would take him a bit shy of 16.5 seasons to reach the 3,000 hit summit. Jones got 292 hits before that 2010 season (his age 24 year) and, due to time missed from injuries this year, figures to end this season with around 162 hits. That's rough math with 94 hits in 94 team games to date.
That would leave Jones with 1,331 career hits at the end of 2015, meaning, if he resumed a 183 hit/season pace, it would take him slightly more than nine seasons, putting him over the line with hit #3,000 during the 2025 season at age 40. There's a lot of ifs there.
What Jones does have in his favor is hardware. He's been selected to five All-Star teams and figures to have many more left in his career. He's won four Gold Gloves, though whether he'll end up with many more of those is uncertain. He'd need more than that to be a narrative candidate for the HOF - for that, it would probably take something like Jones leading the Orioles to a World Series championship. As Buck Showalter said in his recent MLB Network special, to get a statue in Baltimore, you've got to win a World Series.
MLB seasons: 4
One good way to get a leg up on the quest for a 3,000 hit MLB career is to get started young. Machado made his debut in his age 19 season and picked up 50 hits then. Even with his two knee injuries combining to cost him about half of the 2014 season, he still had 330 hits by the end of his age 21 season.
This year, Machado has 107 hits through 94 team games. That puts him on pace for 184 hits over the full season, just about in line with the per 162 game pace for his big league career so far. At that pace, Machado would end the season with 510 career hits, leaving him 2,490 short of 3,000. That would leave Machado needing to put up another 13.5 seasons while notching hits at that pace, which would see him picking up that 3,000th hit in the vicinity of his 37th birthday.
That's a long way away. Things could work in Machado's favor in that time. He might have some 200+ hit seasons in his future as he passes through the typical prime years of a baseball player; he's certainly been much improved at the plate this year. If he goes up another level still, that will help him get to the benchmark by buying him more leeway to taper off in his mid-late 30s.
Of course, there are plenty of reasons it could not happen, too. Machado is a player who's already had two knee surgeries. Who knows how that will play out as his career stretches on? And there's no guarantee of a long career that stays in Baltimore, either; tough as it is for O's fans to think about right now, Machado's only under team control through the 2018 season unless they work out a contract extension. He could blossom into a surefire Hall of Famer - for someone else.
MLB seasons: 5
When I wrote this article two years ago, my long shot pitcher to demonstrate how unlikely/impossible it is was Chris Tillman. This year, Tillman's been so bad I don't feel like talking about him here, so instead let's look at Britton, who has emerged as a top flight closer only within the last two seasons. After only inheriting the closer role in the team's 39th game in 2014, he went on to finish with 37 saves. He has 24 so far this year, although as we've noticed, this year's Orioles team is not as good.
Perhaps generously, let's give Britton ten saves the rest of the way. That would leave him with 71 over two seasons; if he kept that pace up for another eight years he'd have 355 career saves. As it is, that's a big if, and what's 355 saves worth anyway?
There isn't really an established "automatic" number for saves yet - though both of the guys over 600, Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman, figure to be locks. Dennis Eckersley is in with 390 saves, though he also threw nearly 2,500 innings before converting to relief for another decade. Rollie Fingers is in with 341, but he threw over 100 innings in nine seasons, which just isn't done with modern closers. Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter, who have 310 and 300 saves respectively, got elected, though nobody knows why Sutter got elected.
In other words, forget about it.
MLB seasons managed: 17
Three Manager of the Year wins for three different franchises, each in a different decade. He's helped to turn around four different franchises in his second full season of managing each one. That doesn't seem like a coincidence. But, he hasn't won the big one, and if he doesn't, he'll have to be elected for achievements like that, not for hoisting a trophy.
Over his 17-year managing career, Showalter has notched a total of 1,305 wins to date. That puts him in 32nd all time in wins for MLB managers. Of the 31 skippers above him, 21 are already in the Hall of Fame and another 4-6 might get there.
If we make an assumption that the Orioles average 81 wins for the rest of Showalter's contract - which could turn out to be wildly pessimistic, or wildly optimistic - he would have 1,583 wins at that time, moving him up to 21st all time, with 14/20 ahead of him in the Hall and another 3-4 looking like likely inductees. Would that get him in some day? Maybe. If it did, surely it would get him in as an Orioles manager. He's already been here longer than anywhere else and could be here three years more.
Plus, he was in that one episode of Seinfeld.
Let's say Showalter is the most likely Orioles inductee out of anybody currently with the Orioles. If he manages out his contract through the 2018 season and then retires, he would be eligible to be inducted following the 2023 season. Under the current process, the Expansion Era Committee, which is who elects the managers, would next meet after that during the 2025 Winter Meetings to consider candidates to be inducted in 2026.
So if Showalter manages that long, if he gets inducted in his first crack at the ballot, and if he gets inducted as an Oriole, then we could look forward to that in the summer of 2026. I will be 42 years old.
All of which is to say that, whether or not Mussina gets inducted into the Hall of Fame, we're going to be waiting a while for the next Oriole. Maybe one of our current favorite players, or our current manager, will beat the odds and get enshrined in Cooperstown. Just don't hold your breath.