This Hall of Fame stuff sure gets people talking.
Eyebrows were certainly raised Wednesday when Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar barely missed joining Andre Dawson in Cooperstown's Class of 2010, and the water-cooler chatter will continue until this time next year when Jeff Bagwell, Rafael Palmeiro, Larry Walker, Juan Gonzalez and others hit the ballot for the first time and learn their fates.
But what about the future Hall of Famers who continue to enhance their already stellar numbers on the Major League stages of the present day? Who will we see gunning for a World Series title in 2010 and baseball immortality five years after they hang up the cleats?
Not surprisingly, there is a busload of active future Hall of Fame contenders, and here's a quick list to ponder while we continue to honor The Hawk:
Ken Griffey Jr: Junior has 630 home runs and counting, placing him fifth on the all-time list, and his 1,829 RBIs rank 16th in baseball history. In his prime he was one of the best center fielders in the game, and his career OPS of .912 isn't bad, either. Book it.
Alex Rodriguez: A-Rod's already got 583 home runs and he won't turn 35 until late July. Add to that his lifetime .305 batting average, 1,706 RBIs, three MVPs, two Gold Gloves and World Series ring and you see a player well on his way to the Hall and baseball immortality. His admission of steroid use could cost him votes when all is said and done, but probably not nearly enough to prevent him from being inducted.
Mariano Rivera: The undisputed best closer in postseason history is now widely regarded as the best closer in history, period. The quiet assassin has 526 saves and a lifetime ERA of 2.25 in the regular season. In the postseason, where he's won five World Series rings, he has 39 saves and a 0.74 ERA.
Derek Jeter: The Yankees' captain would be a lock for the Hall already as one of the best and most popular players of his era, but if he stays healthy for another two seasons, he'll get to 3,000 hits, which makes it virtually automatic, especially for a shortstop. You add in the .317 career batting average and it's a no-brainer.
Ivan Rodriguez: Thirteen Gold Gloves, a lifetime average of close to .300, an MVP award, 300-plus homers and the reputation as the best catcher of his generation? Check.
Ichiro Suzuki: He's only played in MLB for nine years, but he's had 200 or more hits in all nine, which is a Major League record. He takes a .333 career batting average into the 2010 campaign. He owns the single-season record for hits (262), set in 2004. He might be the only 36-year-old player in history who has any shot at getting the 970 big league hits he needs for 3,000. And that doesn't even count what he did in Japan.
Albert Pujols: Pujols has a .334 career batting average, 366 home runs (an average of 40.7 per season), 1,112 RBIS (123.6 per season), a career on-base percentage of .427 and slugging percentage of .628, 1,071 runs (119 per season), 1,717 hits (190.8 per season), 387 doubles (43 per season) and 811 walks (90.1 per season). Oh, and three MVPs, a Gold Glove and a World Series ring. Oh, and he's 29.
Pedro Martinez: Martinez won't get close to the hallmark total of 300 wins -- entering 2010, he's at 219 for his career. But his brilliance -- three Cy Youngs, five ERA titles, 2.93 lifetime ERA, career WHIP of 1.054 and 10 strikeouts per nine innings -- is very likely to be rewarded.
Trevor Hoffman: He's baseball's all-time saves leader right now with 591. He might eventually get passed in that category, but Hoffman has a career ERA of 2.73, his changeup is one of the best in baseball history, and Bruce Sutter, Goose Gossage, Rollie Fingers and Hoyt Wilhelm are already in the Hall of Fame. That means Hoffman should be, too.
Manny Ramirez: Manny has been a lot of things in his career, including a performance-enhancing drug user, but he's also one of the best right-handed sluggers in history, with a .313 career batting average entering 2010 plus 546 homers, 1,788 RBIs and 2,494 hits and two extremely Hall-worthy numbers: a lifetime OBP of .411 and slugging percentage of .591.
Omar Vizquel: Vizquel is widely considered the best defensive shortstop since Ozzie Smith, with 11 Gold Gloves to prove it. He also is batting .273 for his career, has an outside shot at 2,800 hits, stole close to 400 bases, and drove in more than 900 runs. Smith, who batted .262 and had 2,460 hits, was an easy Hall of Famer with 13 Gold Gloves, so things are looking up for Vizquel.
Chipper Jones: Very quietly, Jones has racked up what look like surefire Hall numbers, particularly for a third baseman. He's hit .307 with 426 homers, driven in 1,445 runs, compiled an OBP of .406, had more walks than strikeouts and won an MVP and a batting title, all with one team so far.
Jim Thome: This classic slugger has 564 home runs, which gives him an outside shot at the now-magic number of 600. Thome also has driven in 1,619 runs and has a career slugging percentage of .557, which will make him tough to ignore when the Hall comes calling.
Gary Sheffield; Vladimir Guerrero; John Smoltz; Todd Helton; Lance Berkman; Andy Pettitte; Carlos Delgado; Jorge Posada; Roy Halladay.
YOUNG AND PROMISING
Joe Mauer; Tim Lincecum; Dustin Pedroia; Kevin Youkilis; Miguel Cabrera; Ryan Howard; Chase Utley; Prince Fielder; Adrian Gonzalez; Francisco Rodriguez; Johan Santana; Joe Nathan; CC Sabathia; Mark Teixeira; Jonathan Papelbon; Justin Morneau; Carl Crawford; Evan Longoria; David Wright; Jose Reyes; Matt Holliday; Ryan Zimmerman.
Mark Buehrle; Jamie Moyer; Josh Beckett; Brian Roberts; Miguel Tejada; Michael Young; Tim Hudson; Billy Wagner; Garret Anderson; Johnny Damon; Jason Giambi; Nomar Garciaparra.