Dec 31, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Seattle Mariners former player Ken Griffey Jr. photographs during the first half of the game between the Arizona Wildcats and the Boise State Broncos in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl at Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
The glut of strong candidates on recent and upcoming Hall of Fame ballots has garnered a lot of attention among baseball pundits who think more guys should be elected, but it’s mostly a moot argument for fans of the Cincinnati Reds. With apologies to Aaron Boone, there haven’t been any viable Reds candidates since Barry Larkin was elected in 2012, and it may be awhile before another Riverfront denizen gets the call. With that bleak though in mind, who is likely to be the Reds’ next Hall of Famer?
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Here are the top three candidates:
Griffey, of course, is a lead-pipe lock to be elected to Cooperstown in his first year of eligibility next year, but there is a problem: he began and ended his career with the Seattle Mariners. Add in that he played in significantly more games (1685 v. 945) and hit a lot more home runs (417 v. 210) for the M’s than for the Reds, and it’s nearly a lock that Junior will enter Cooperstown as a Mariner.
Unlike Griffey, Votto is a dyed-in-the-wool Red, but he, too, presents us with a problem: Votto simply does not project as a Hall of Famer. At 31 years old and coming off a major quadriceps injury, Votto enters 2015 with 1055 hits, 163 home runs, and a significant decline in power over his last four seasons. According to the Hall of Fame standards tracked by baseball-reference.com, Votto is about halfway to making the grade for Cooperstown.
Votto has been great for the Reds, and he will make a lot of money over the next 10 years or so, but it’s hard to imagine his staying healthy and productive long enough to fill in the gaps in his resume that would get him elected.
As hard as it may be to believe, Pete Rose looks to be the next guy most likely to wear a Reds’ “C” into Cooperstown. His record on the diamond is unassailable, and he’s gathering more sentimental support for reinstatement as the years pass. With a new commissioner coming on board at the end of January, Rose is in his best position in 25 years to shed his pariah label and finally come back into the MLB fold, at least to the extent of being considered for Hall of Fame honors.
As disheartening as it may seem, these three guys are as good as it gets when it comes to the Reds’ next Hall of Fame member. Other players have thrilled us on the Riverfront since Rose went away in 1989, but Eric Davis, Paul O’Neill, Adam Dunn, Reggie Sanders, and others fall short of Cooperstown levels.
Maybe Billy Hamilton or another youngster will make the cut someday, but for now, Pete looks like or best chance.