The newest Hall of Fame class is set to be announced later on today, with some of the game’s best being enshrined forever. As I noted yesterday, the Red Sox organization is well-represented on the ballot, though it’s unlikely they’ll have any of these players elected. Their best chance is Jeff Bagwell, but that hurts more than anything given the lopsided trade that sent him out of the organization.
Let’s not worry about the past, though. As Secretariat says in Bojack Horseman, don’t ever look back. There’s nothing for you there.* Instead, let’s take a gander at the future. The Red Sox have a loaded roster that is poised to be among the American League favorites in 2017. As such, they have some players that could have their eyes on Cooperstown after they hang up their cleats. There’s no David Ortiz, who had already more or less locked up his legacy before last year, but there are a few interesting cases on the roster.
*We can ignore the fact that just yesterday I wrote glowingly about a decade-old team.
Not only is Pedroia taking Ortiz’s place as the veteran leader and (arguably) face of the franchise, but he’s also taking over as the position player most likely to be elected to Cooperstown. Just a couple of years ago, this would’ve appeared unlikely given that his career appeared to be in decline. He’s turned it around in recent years, though, and may be back on track. He has the hardware, with a Rookie of the Year, MVP, two other top-ten MVP finishes, four Gold Gloves and four All-Star appearances. He also has the narrative behind him, as he’s seen as the emotional leader of a team that has won championships and contended for others. There’s certainly still work to do, but with a few more solid years he could be firmly on the path. The biggest issue would be that he doesn’t shine in traditional stats. He is a .300 hitter, but his best qualities are his glove -- something that’s hard to measure — and abilities to hit for extra bases. Doubles just aren’t that sexy. Still, there’s a real shot for Pedroia getting in as long as he can stay healthy through most of his 30’s.
Although his first year in Boston was a disappointment, there’s no denying Price’s track record. He’s been in the conversation for best pitcher not named Kershaw over most of his career, and for good reason. He’s won a Cy Young, finished second twice and has one other top-ten finishes. He’s also made the All-Star team five times. On top of that, Price has been a legitimate workhorse, leading the league in innings twice and topping the 200 mark six times. This is on top of leading the league in ERA twice over his career. The knock on him, of course, will be his performance in the playoffs. It’s not exactly a secret that he’s had issues in October, and that’s the type of thing Hall of Fame voters will hold against you. He’s had a great first half of his career, but he’ll need a strong finish to get into Cooperstown.
Sale obviously hasn’t thrown a pitch for the Red Sox yet, but he still gets to be included in this. His inclusion in this discussion is likely a bit premature, but he’s built up a hell of a resume early on. The hardware hasn’t really been there, as he’s never won a Cy Young. However, he has finished in the top-five each of the last four years with a sixth place finish five years ago. He’s also made the All-Star team in each of the past five seasons. The bad news for Sale’s early career is that his win total is low due to lackluster White Sox lineups and a total lack of postseason experience. Both of those should turnaround in his new home, though. As a peripheral darling, he will surely benefit a new class of voters that will emerge by the time he’s eligible. There’s a long way to go for Sale to be seriously discussed in this fashion, but he’s built himself a solid base.
For a reliever to make Cooperstown, they need to be at an even higher level than your typical Hall of Famer compared to the rest of his position. While someone like Sale would benefit from a new class of voters, closers will get the opposite treatment. However, Kimbrel spent a long time as the best closer in baseball, and is still outstanding. The control issues that popped up in 2016 clearly need to improve if he’s going to be on that track. As I said, relievers need to be nearly flawless and that walk rate was a flaw. On the other hand, he’s still an absurd strikeout pitcher. You never know when relievers will fall off a cliff, but Kimbrel has been around long enough to get the benefit of the doubt. I’d bet against him making it, but he has as good a chance as just about any other reliever currently playing.
I’m like 95 percent joking by including him here, but if any of the young core is on a Hall of Fame path it’s Betts. He’s got everything you want to see out of a superstar. He’s shown the ability to adjust on the fly. He’s shown the ability to put up big numbers all over the board. He’s a WAR darling. He has a winning personality. Obviously, you bet against anyone at Betts’ age making the Hall of Fame, but it’s fun to think about the best case scenario for guys like this.
In the future, there will be a section of the Hall of Fame dedicated to hair, and another dedicated to baseball-related emoticons. Holt will be in both. Andrew Benintendi blew his chance.