With the inclusion of Alan Trammell and Chipper Jones in this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame induction, there are now a mere 51 players in Hall of Fame history who have spent their whole career with a single team. These players are a dying breed, with the idea of franchise stars becoming less important than teams building for the future.
It also means that with more and more frequency, as players are added to the Hall of Fame going forward, they will need to make the difficult decision of choosing which team’s cap they will wear to be immortalized in Cooperstown’s hallowed halls.
On Thursday, Vladimir Guerrero surprised fans by deciding to go into the Hall as a Los Angeles Angels, rather than a Montreal Expo. Vlad would have been the the last Expo entry into the Hall, but instead became the first Angels player to join the elevated ranks of the best.
With the Angels getting their first ever player into Cooperstown, there are now only four teams left without representation in the Hall of Fame: Colorado Rockies, Miami Marlins, Washington Nationals, and the Tampa Bay Rays.
For most of those franchises, there are lingering questions about who will be the first player to wear their team’s cap on their plaque in the Hall. Had the Angels not gotten Guerrero, their next most likely candidate would be Mike Trout, and he’s a long way from the end of his career. (Albert Pujols, a current Angel, will almost certainly go in as a Cardinal, after nine All-Star appearances, a Rookie of the Year win, three MVP titles, six Silver Sluggers, and two Gold Gloves in St. Louis). The Rockies are probably going to be waiting on Nolan Arenado (maybe, because even with five Gold Gloves, three Silver Sluggers, and three All-Star appearances, nothing is set in stone). As for the Nationals, while Bryce Harper seems like a HoF lock, he won’t go in as a National unless they extend him soon, so count on three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer being the first for the new Expos.
What about the Rays?
10-year Rays veteran Evan Longoria seems a no-brainer as the team’s best hope of making their mark in Cooperstown. A three-time All-Star, Rookie of the Year winner, three-time Gold Glove winner, and 2009 Silver Slugger winner, he has his fair share of career accolades. He will undoubtedly surpass the 300 home run mark within the next two seasons, and with several years of play left, will easily crack 2000 career hits.
Unfortunately, he will hit those milestones in a San Francisco Giants uniform.
Would it matter, though? For Longoria, who went from draft, to storied early-career success at the Trop, would a few years by the Bay be enough to make him forget the Rays? It’s hard to see him going in — if he does get in — in any uniform other than a Rays one. In fact, once his tenure with the Giants ends, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Longoria return to Tampa Bay to make his career curtain call.
Longoria is not the team’s only option, there’s one other Hall of Fame potential-candidate who might consider taking the Rays navy and Columbia blue to Cooperstown.
David Price, who has played with three clubs since being traded away from the Rays in 2014, was with Tampa Bay longer than any other, starting his career in 2008 and playing seven seasons in Florida. He was a four-time All-Star, had his only twenty-win season, and won the Cy Young award during his tenure with the Rays. The closest season he had to matching those results was in 2015 with the Detroit Tigers where he made an All-Star team and placed second in Cy Young votes.
Currently, it’s hard to imagine Price having the merits to make it into the Hall of Fame in spite of solid career numbers. He might warrant consideration if he finishes his career strong, but in that case he’d be posting some great numbers with Boston (or a fifth franchise), making it all the more unlikely he’d go into the Hall of Fame as a Ray.
There is also always an opportunity for the Rays to end up the final home of a veteran star, whose surprise final years as a player make him think fondly of the franchise. But considering the team’s focus on developing young players and not making flashy deals to acquire stars, this option seems unlikely.
Evan Longoria, then, remains the Rays best option for a player in the Hall of Fame. At least for now.
Hopefully the team will join the Angels there in good time.