Baseball folklore is unforgiving, and sometimes the most dominant athletes in their era can have a span of elite play essentially forgotten. There are a number of factors that contribute to this phenomenon, but if you aren’t truly the best player at your position during your playing career, your sensational play can become forever lost in the sands of time.
Johan Santana was perhaps the second-best pitcher in the early-to-mid 2000s, and now the two-time Cy Young Award winner is fighting just to stay on the Hall of Fame ballot. Jeff Kent revolutionized the second-base position with his unparalleled power in a spot known for none of it, but he still can’t get the nod from voters. Billy Wagner struck batters out at will but couldn’t find the same popularity of the other relievers in his era, Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman. The list goes on.
As we know, the Hall of Fame is in no way perfect. Nonetheless, it’s the ultimate honor for in-game superiority, and in a sense, the paramount achievement of Major League Baseball players. To cement a legacy as a baseball ne plus ultra is still important despite the controversy of Cooperstown, and baseball media will still obsess over the cherished and fabled walls and plaques of the exhibit.
So, it’s safe to say, the players in MLB now are still competing and stretching out for an accomplishment like standing atop a stage in a sunny, summer-enriched Cooperstown, New York. There are the obvious locks, such as Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Ichiro Suzuki, and Adrian Beltre. There are bubble players like Robinson Cano, C.C. Sabathia, and Yadier Molina. Where among these players does Justin Verlander sit?
Before you answer that, I’ll give you the correct response. Justin Verlander is 100 percent a future inductee of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
We hear a lot right now about the bubble pitchers on the ballot currently, such as Curt Schilling or Mike Mussina. Each pitcher was great in his own right, but neither has the resume of Verlander, who emphatically enhanced his during the later parts of 2017.
The former American League MVP, ALCS MVP, Cy Young winner, 2017 World Series champ, AL Rookie of Year, pitching triple crown winner, and six-time All-Star has an extremely impressive list of accolades that will appease the baseball purists in the voting panel.
For the statisticians, Verlander is still perhaps the best pitcher of his generation. His 188-114 record borders on ridiculous, as does his compilation of 56.6 wins above replacement at just 34 years old. He has three times led the AL in starts and innings, twice led the league in wins, WHIP, and ERA+, and four times paced all AL pitchers in strikeouts. He has displayed the physical ability and mental fortitude needed to continue this almost absurd success, riding his talents to six top-five finishes in the Cy Young voting.
His postseason resume isn’t shabby either. 11-6 despite zero World Series wins in five starts, including a perfect 6-0 in the AL Divisional Series. If he laces them up for 4-5 more years, he can hit those elusive 250-win, 3,000 strikeout plateaus that Hall voters herald as the greatest indicator for sustained success.
Verlander might fail to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but that’s a mark very few pitchers can say they hit. All in all, Verlander has as good of a Hall of Fame case as any active pitcher does.
He’s a legend, a fearless ten-speed bike who can also find another gear. He’s an elite, undoubted ace; the last of a seemingly dying breed. And, Justin Verlander is a Baseball Hall of Famer.