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Baseball Hall of Fame: Do any current Orioles have Cooperstown in their future?

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Orioles fans haven’t had much of a reason to pay attention to the HOF ceremonies since 2007. When’s the next time that we’ll have a player going into Cooperstown?

This weekend marks the induction weekend for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Two great players, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza, will be inducted in the festivities this weekend. Congratulations to them for great careers.

As has been the case every year since the 2007 induction of Cal Ripken Jr., Orioles fans won’t have much of a stake in the proceedings. Until the HOF voting baseball writers get their heads out of their butts and acknowledge the undeniable Hall of Fame-caliber career of Mike Mussina, that will continue to be the case.

Whether they get around to recognizing Mussina’s greatness or not, the fact remains that it will be a while still beyond Mussina before there’s another potential Hall of Fame Oriole. The best Orioles of the 2000s, Melvin Mora and Brian Roberts, aren’t exactly Hall of Famers. Neither is Nick Markakis headed towards Cooperstown. That means we must pin our hopes on the current crop of Orioles.

Mussina, by the way, improved to being named on 43% of ballots returned this year. That’s up from only 24.6% the year before. Good progress there and he has seven years remaining to be elected. He will have to pass the 75% threshold to eventually to get there.

Is there someone on the team now who could end the Orioles Hall of Fame drought?

To keep things simple, this article is working under the assumption that it would take reaching what are generally viewed as automatic benchmarks - like 3,000 hits or 500 home runs - in order for a player to be inducted. Of course, by the time today’s great Orioles have retired and find themselves on HOF ballots, standards may have changed somewhat. It’s a different era of the game after all.

There’s always a chance, too, that the Orioles could end up with some kind of narrative-based HOF candidate - someone with either a very, very good peak, or a lot of career hardware (All-Star teams, Gold Gloves), or someone with particularly notable postseason success. It’s been a long time since the Orioles have had an MVP and longer still since they won a World Series. That kind of glory has been in short supply.

Adam Jones

Age: 30 (31 on August 1)
MLB Seasons: 11

You can make a strong argument that, at this moment, Jones is the greatest 21st century Oriole to date. He hasn’t quite passed Roberts and Mora in Wins Above Replacement, but he’s close and he has the advantage of actually being good on good Orioles teams. What’s that worth to a HOF cause? Probably not much.

For a few years there, Jones was cranking out 180+ hits per season, a pace that would only take him something like 16-17 seasons to get to 3,000. That fell off last year and doesn’t look like it’s getting any better this year.

Assorted injuries have cost Jones both playing time and performance the last two seasons. He has 95 hits in 94 team games. If he averages 162 hits per season from here on, it will take him almost another ten seasons to get to 3,000. Unless Jones has Ichiro Suzuki-like longevity, it’s not happening.

Jones does have some hardware in his favor, like four Gold Gloves and five All-Star selections, but it seems unlikely he’ll get any more Gold Gloves and unless his performance rebounds, All-Star teams are looking like they’re done with too.

Chris Davis

Age: 30
MLB Seasons: 9

So far this season, Davis has hit 22 home runs. That puts him on pace for about 38 home runs. If he hits another 16 home runs this season, he’ll end his age 30 season with 241 career home runs.

From there, Davis would need another 259 home runs. If he played another decade, he’d need to average 26 home runs per season. If he plays for eight more years - his current Orioles contract plus two more - he’ll need to average a bit more than 32 home runs per season for those eight years.

The good news for Davis is that the fewest home runs he’s had in a season since 2012 is 26. He’s had 33 or more in three of the four seasons and is on pace to top that number this year as well.

Given that he seems to have years where he slumps more, can he bank enough home runs in 45+ or 50+ home run seasons to make up for slump years? Or can he just hit home runs more consistently from season to season? I wouldn’t bet on it. It’s hard to get into the Hall of Fame.

Manny Machado

Age: 24
MLB Seasons: 5

Machado is easily the most promising of the bunch since he started out young, just in his age 19 season when he debuted. It helps, too, that Machado was good as soon as he debuted and has gotten even better as a hitter ever since.

There are a lot of ways Machado could make it beyond getting these automatic benchmark numbers. He’s that good. But as far as notching those, starting young gives you a good chance since you have more years to pull things off.

Machado already had 511 hits in the bag before his age 23 season. He’s on pace to get another 194 hits this season. At that kind of annual average, it’d only take Machado a bit shy of 13 more seasons to reach the 3,000 plateau. Of course he probably won’t keep up that pace.

Something like 500 home runs seems less likely unless Machado shows off the ability to crank out 40+ homers in a season. He hit 35 last year and is on pace for 33 this year. That would leave him with 101 home runs, or 399 to go. At a 33 home runs per season pace, that would take him 13 more seasons to get there.

It is do-able, and he’d still potentially have his late 30s to scratch out some dingers if his pace falls off a bit. Don’t bet in that either, though.

Machado has already made three All-Star teams and won two Gold Gloves. If the voters don’t give him another Gold Glove this year, that would be a surprise. Depending on how he finishes off the season (and how the Orioles finish off the season) Machado might even find himself in the MVP conversation. Voters do pay attention to that stuff. What if Machado was MVP this year or next and ended up with a number of career top 5 finishes? That’s worth something.

On the other hand, as far as getting the next Orioles Hall of Famer, there is one grim thought we don’t want to contemplate with Machado. He’ll be a free agent after two more full seasons. He could go on to play his peak years and 30s and really rack up HOF-caliber numbers and then go into the HOF with a different cap.

Zach Britton

Age: 28
MLB Seasons: 6

Not to get all carried away here, but the three year stretch that Britton is on compares favorably to any three year stretch of Mariano Rivera’s career that you could name. I’m not saying Britton will go on to have a Rivera-like career - though it is noteworthy that Rivera only became the closer in his age 27 season; Britton was a year younger.

There’s not really a benchmark automatic for saves. Rivera and Trevor Hoffman will end up in there. Both of those guys are over 600. There are Hall of Famers in the 300s, like Dennis Eckersley (390) and Rollie Fingers (341), but the four guys from 400-500, including Billy Wagner and former Oriole Lee Smith, are not in.

Would 500 saves get Britton in? Let’s say that it would. Britton’s on pace for 51 saves, or 21 more than he has now. I’ll be pessimistic and give him 45, or 15 more. He would have 115 saves after his age 28 season and would need 385 more. That would require him to average 32 saves per season until his age 40 season.

Saves are funny, of course, because they kind of require a good team. You need some leads to have to get saves. Will the Orioles, if Britton stays with the Orioles, be able to be so consistently good? Will Britton himself be so good for so long? Don’t bet on that, either. Still, the longer his dominant streak continues, the more it’s worth pondering a little bit.

Of course, Britton, too, has only two full seasons before becoming a free agent, and he also may be pricing himself out of what the Orioles are willing to pay to a closer, even a great closer. So if he went on to get the last 300 saves somewhere else, well, that probably wouldn’t put him in as an Oriole either, if he even made it to that point.

Buck Showalter

Age: 60
MLB Seasons Managed: 18

With Thursday’s win, Showalter now has 1,394 wins as a manager. That’s good for 29th all time on the managerial list. Of the 28 managers ahead of him, 20 are in the Hall of Fame already. Two of the retired ones may get elected, and the three active managers ahead of him could also get elected.

By season’s end, Showalter will likely be in 25th place on this list. Even if we go for something of a pessimistic outcome and suppose that Showalter will only average 81 wins per season for the rest of his Orioles contract, he would end that contract with 1,583 wins. That’s 21st all time.

Would that, along with Showalter’s winning the Manager of the Year award with three different teams in three different decades, be enough to make him a Hall of Fame manager? You’d think so, and there’s no doubt he’d go in as an Oriole.

Plus, he was in that one episode of Seinfeld.

**

Even if Showalter’s an automatic shoo-in for the HOF, Orioles fans will be waiting a bit to get to celebrate him. If he plays out his Orioles contract and retires after 2018, he would be eligible to be inducted following the 2023 season. The Expansion Era Committee, which elects managers, would next meet to consider managers during the 2025 Winter Meetings for induction in 2026.

So if Showalter manages that long, if he is elected in his first crack at the ballot, and if he is inducted as an Oriole, then we could look forward to that around this time in 2026. I will be 42 years old.

It’s hard to be good for long enough to have a Hall of Fame career and it’s even harder to actually get elected. Maybe one of these Orioles is already on the way to a Hall of Fame career and we just don’t know it yet.

If you’re curious how this column and different Orioles’ chances have evolved over the years, here they are: 2015, 2014, and 2013.