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Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Hey, what hat you gonna wear?
By Joel Sherman
Special to

Tony Gwynn decided to stay a Padre. Cal Ripken enlisted for one more year as an Oriole. Jeff Bagwell re-upped for five years as an Astro. So when it comes time for Hall-of-Fame enshrinement -- sure things for Gwynn and Ripken, and a growing likelihood for Bagwell -- there will be little doubt about how they will cap their careers.

Mark McGwire
Mark McGwire has become the great Big Mac in St. Louis, but he did win his only World Series while with the '89 A's.

Such certainties are dwindling. With greater frequency, the Hall-of-Fame announcement is not only about who is in, but in whose headwear. For many enshrinees, their election forces them to make a selection. Which team do they align themselves with for eternity?

The question of which chapeau would be apropos arose for Nolan Ryan in 1999, Carlton Fisk in 2000 and now for likely 2001 inductee Dave Winfield, who broke in successfully with the Padres, had his longest sustained renown and excellence as a Yankee, revived his career as an Angel, won a World Series as a Blue Jay and played for his hometown team in Minnesota. When it comes to deciding which hat he will choose to be enshrined in, Winfield's only sure elimination is his final team, the Indians.

And these hat tricks are not about to stop. A quarter-of-a-century of free agency and more financially motivated trades of superstars than ever has forged a burgeoning class of well-traveled, Hall-viable players to stir plaque flak. Here are 10 active players (listed alphabetically) to demonstrate a lid will not be put on this issue. Hat's off to these men, who ultimately may have to decide which hat they want to wear forever in Cooperstown:

1. Roberto Alomar
He has played for four organizations, but two can be excluded: the Padres, for whom Alomar was first establishing his career; and the Orioles for whom he did much to destroy his reputation. The finest of Alomar was his five seasons (1991-95) as a Blue Jay, when he was the best player on two World Series champions.

Alomar's numbers
Years Team G HR RBI Avg.
'88-90 S.D. 448 22 157 .283
'91-95 Tor. 703 55 342 .307
'96-98 Balt. 412 50 210 .312
'99-00 Clev. 314 43 209 .316

He has been reborn the past two seasons in Cleveland. His Indian contract does not expire until after the 2002 season. But with his brother, Sandy, having left as a free agent this offseason and rumors Roberto might get traded back to Toronto, you have a feeling the younger Alomar has not yet finished making pitstops on the way to Cooperstown.

2. Barry Bonds
You think of him as a Giant. But did you know it wasn't until last season that Bonds actually accumulated more at-bats as a Giant than as a Pirate? And do you remember that two of his three MVPs were won in Pittsburgh? And do you realize he actually has gone to more postseasons with the Pirates (3) than with the Giants (2), though he would probably like to forget his miserable performances in all five?

Bonds' numbers
Years Team G HR RBI Avg.
'86-92 Pitt. 1,010 176 556 .274
'93-00 S.F. 1,133 318 849 .303

And have you noticed that San Francisco has made no inroads to keep Bonds, who will be a free agent after the 2001 season? So, it could still end poorly by the Bay for Willie Mays' godson.

And, who knows, the Pirates are opening a new ballpark in 2001 and maybe -- just maybe -- they will want to make a big free-agent splash after next season and bring back their best player since Roberto Clemente.

3. Roger Clemens
He became The Rocket with the Red Sox, won two Cy Young Awards in two seasons with Toronto and has won two World Series in two years as a Yankee. So, it is going to be an interesting debate, much like the one that will soon face Wade Boggs. The star third baseman played his best as a member of the Red Sox, won his lone title as a Yankee and came home to finish his career in Tampa Bay. The hitch could be that Boggs might have made promises that in exchange for a contract, he would go into the Hall as a Devil Ray.

Clemens' numbers
Years Team W-L BB SO ERA
'84-96 Bos. 192-111 856 2,590 3.06
'97-98 Tor. 41-13 156 563 2.33
'99-00 NYY 27-18 174 351 4.13

The answer may be similar with Clemens. There is speculation that in exchange for his two-year, $30 million extension, Clemens promised George Steinbrenner he would be immortalized as a Yankee. Forget the denials. These were the same guys who denied they had a secret side deal worked out for a Yankee extension at the time of Clemens' acquisition in February 1999. Well, Clemens now has that extension.

4. Ken Griffey Jr.
The greatest player in Mariners history forced his way out of Seattle to go home to Cincinnati. At this time last year, though he had yet to even have an at-bat for the Reds, you would have bet Griffey would go to the Hall as a Red.

Griffey's numbers
Years Team G HR RBI Avg.
'89-99 Sea. 1,535 398 1,152 .299
2000 Cin. 145 40 118 .271

But one acrimonious season in Cincinnati at least raises doubt. He did, after all, hit 398 homers as a Mariner and win the AL homer title four times, all while establishing his reputation as the Willie Mays of his age.

5. Randy Johnson
Two years in Arizona, two Cy Young Awards. That is one more than he won in a decade as a Mariner.

Johnson's numbers
Years Team W-L BB SO ERA
'88-89 Mont. 3-4 33 51 4.66
'89-98 Sea. 130-74 884 2,162 3.42
1998 Hou. 10-1 26 116 1.28
'99-00 Ari. 36-16 146 711 2.56

However, he is the greatest pitcher in Mariners history (wait, this is sounding like Griffey) and it was in Seattle that he established himself as the Sandy Koufax of his age. He left angry at Mariners management, which hurts the chances of seeing him in the Mariner cap.

6. Pedro Martinez
The Red Sox probably lost Clemens for the Hall distinction, but gained Martinez. He won a Cy Young as an Expo, but two so far as a member of the Red Sox.

Martinez's numbers
Years Team W-L BB SO ERA
'92-93 L.A. 10-6 58 127 2.58
'94-97 Mont. 55-33 248 843 3.06
'98-00 Bos. 60-17 136 848 2.25

Greg Maddux has won three as a Brave to one as a Cub. The reason we put Martinez's name here is because after the Red Sox signed Manny Ramirez, Pedro began talking about redoing his contract, which does not expire until after the 2003 season. So who knows where Pedro may be playing in a few years.

7. Mark McGwire
What McGwire has done in 3½ years as a Cardinal has obscured his 12 years in Oakland. But for the A's, McGwire was a Rookie of the Year, part of the fabric of a three-time AL pennant winner (1988-90) and the all-time Athletics home run leader (363), ahead of such luminaries as Jimmie Foxx, Reggie Jackson and Jose Canseco.

McGwire's numbers
Years Team G HR RBI Avg.
'86-97 Oak. 1,329 363 941 .260
'97-00 St.L. 448 191 409 .287

You do get the feeling, however, that it will be Big Red in Cardinal red for posterity because of those 70 homers in 1998 and the joy he seems to have found playing in St. Louis.

8. Mike Piazza
OK, let's remove the Marlins from consideration, since Piazza spent just five games with Florida in 1998. That '98 season nevertheless confuses the whole Piazza/Hall issue.

Piazza's numbers
Years Team G HR RBI Avg.
'92-98 L.A. 726 177 563 .331
1998 Fla. 5 0 5 .278
'98-00 NYM 386 101 313 .323

Up until May of that year, he was exclusively a Dodger, creating the bedrock to be viewed as the finest offensive catcher ever. He still holds the record for the Los Angeles Dodgers in career batting average (.331) and slugging (.572). What he no longer holds is any affinity for the Dodgers, who rather than meet his contract demands traded him to the Marlins, who quickly shipped him to the Mets.

With the Mets, he has changed the perception of the organization from afterthought to NL champion with him as the centerpiece. He has completed two seasons of a seven-year contract that -- if trends hold -- likely will mark him as the greatest Mets position player ever. But if the tolls of catching catch up to him and his numbers dwindle in the next few years then, perhaps, he would reconsider going into immortality as a Dodger. Don't bet on it.

9. Manny Ramirez
He joins the Red Sox having completed a wonderful seven-year run in Cleveland, which he finished in style by leading the AL in slugging the last two seasons and driving in 432 runs over 415 games the last three years, including 165 RBI in 1999, the most in the majors in 61 years.

Ramirez's numbers
Years Team G HR RBI Avg.
'93-00 Cle. 967 236 804 .313

Will he find happiness and production amid high expectations, a big payday and the Green Monster faithful? Whether he makes it to Cooperstown and how he will be dressed for eternity is riding on it.

10. Alex Rodriguez
The Mariners not only lost Johnson, Griffey and A-Rod in successive years, but probably lost their historic claim to all three, as well.

Rodriguez's numbers
Years Team G HR RBI Avg.
'94-00 Sea. 790 189 595 .309

You would think for $252 million that the Rangers bought not only 10 years of play out of Rodriguez, but his allegiance when it comes to enshrinement.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes occasionally for

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