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Nomar Garciaparra was one of the “Holy Trinity” of shortstops of the late 90s, with Jeter and A-Rod. All were considered at the time to be likely Hall of Famers. Unfortunately for Nomar, the early part of this decade has not been kind to his chances, and 2004 continued the trend. He hit well enough for a 30 year old Hall of Fame candidate shortstop, .308/.365/.477, but he was traded by the Red Sox to the Cubs in a 4 team trade at the deadline. It will undoubtedly will be remembered that the Sox went on to their first Series win in over 80 years after the trade.
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At age 28, Alex Rodriguez had his least productive season (.286/.375/.512) since he was 21, and he was moved to third base to accommodate Derek Jeter. Still, the question about Alex is not whether he will be a Hall of Famer, but where he stands against the very best who have played the position.
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Evaluating shortstops is toughest of all. Defence is recognized to be very important, and yet our tools for evaluating defence are rudimentary. Fortunately, for most of today's candidates- Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra, Barry Larkin and Julio Franco, defence is not the major issue. With that in mind, let's look at who is in the Hall and who is not.
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Let’s move on to the current Hall 2nd base contenders.
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As all three of the second base contenders for the Hall of Fame are into their late 30s, I decided to explore the question of which second baseman have been admitted to the Hall a bit before talking about each of them.
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Jim Thome probably advanced his Hall of Fame case more than any first baseman this year. He did not have a great year by his own standards, but he put up another solid year at age 33, going .279/.396/.581 with 42 homers. He has now hit 423 homers in his career. Two to three more seasons like this, and there will be little question.
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Carlos Delgado, Hall of Famer. It has a nice ring to it. Whether that will come to pass in 15 years is an open question.
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After McGriff and Palmeiro, Bagwell completes our 2nd matched set of first basemen with Frank Thomas. Like Frank, Bagwell just completed his age 36 season, had by far his best season in 1994, and is definitely on a Hall of Fame course.
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Big Frank is headed to the Hall of Fame. That much we know. His standing among the great first basemen still is not known, after a .271/.434/.563 half-season in 2004 at age 36.
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Keeping on with old guys, we now turn our gaze to Fred McGriff. Crime Dog was always the strong, silent type, and that might eventually be what keeps him out of the Hall. It certainly won’t be the merits of his cause.
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Bush won, so Raffy goes first. Rafael Palmeiro had a typical age 39 season in 2004 for a great first baseman, going .258/.359/.436 and passed the 550 homer plateau. He has recently signed another 1 year contract with the Orioles and figures to collect his 3,000th hit in 2005. As far as I am concerned, he's a lock for the Hall of Fame.
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How do you assess the chances of a catcher who has the worst patch of his career by far at age 30-31 and immediately follows it up with the best 2 year patch of his career by far? Will the real Javy Lopez please stand up?
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Jorge Posada, Hall of Fame? I can see noses crinkling and eyebrows elevating across web-land. The short version of events is that after hitting .272/.400/.481 in 2004, he has compiled a little more than half a Hall of Fame career at age 32. One might think that time was liable to run out on him, but as he has caught only 955 games, he is basically where you want to be at his age.
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The series continues with Mike Piazza. This year he had his second straight off-season hitting .262/.366/.442, while splitting his time between catching and playing first base. Still, at age 35, he has an impressive resume.
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This is the first in a series of profiles of players who are potential Hall of Famers. I will look briefly at their career history, how they compare at this stage in their career with other greats, and what to expect from them in the future. We’ll start with the catchers.
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