|ESPN Network: ESPN.com | NBA.com | NHL.com | WNBA.com | ABCSports | EXPN | INSIDER | FANTASY|
ESPN.com Baseball Page
Stark: My Hall of Fame ballot
Who ESPN.com writers voted for
Rogers: On any stage, Puckett is a hero
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Hey, what hat you gonna wear?
By Joel Sherman
Special to ESPN.com
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.
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 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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 ESPN.com.
Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories