Sure, we could sit here for the umpteenth time and argue over Jack Morris' Hall of Fame qualifications. That would be a barrel of fun.
We could all sit around and debate the role of PEDs, the ignorance and flat-out incompetence that lies within some of the living skeletons in 20-year-old cardigans and frumpy khakis who graze at pre-game lunch buffets like starved cattle who call themselves baseball writers, and the importance of character in the players who are lucky enough to be enshrined in Cooperstown, New York.
And while all of these discussions are somewhat meaningful and important to those who care about baseball, Hall of Fame debates make me want to stab myself in the face with a fork.
What I really wonder is if the Phils' recent run of success will result in any Phillies players eventually getting into the Hall. Only five current Phillies (and one recent-retired Phillie) are somewhat legitimate candidates. Here they are, in order from most likely to be enshrined, to least likely.
ROY HALLADAY (90%)
Halladay's career was simply sensational. From 2002-2011, Halladay made eight All-Star teams, finished in the top 10 of the Cy Young voting seven times, and won the award twice, once in each league. He led the league in complete games seven times, threw a perfect game as well as the second postseason no-hitter in baseball history.
What will prevent Halladay from being a first ballot Hall-of-Famer is his (begin your groan now) lack of "wins" (203). But seriously, in this day and age, if that prevents Halladay from getting in on at least his second time on the ballot, they should just shutter the damn museum's doors and be done with the whole thing.
JIMMY ROLLINS (45%)
Rollins' case may be the most heavily debated of all current Phils players. Fellow TGP'er Schmenkman outlined Rollins' case earlier this year with pie charts and graphs and villagers and everything, as did our own Ben Horrow. Both did a remarkable job making the case, both pro and con, for Rollins. But, here is my thumbnail sketch.
There's no doubt Jimmy Rollins is the greatest shortstop ever to play for the Phillies. And that's a huge honor. This year, he'll become the team's all-time hit king (at 2175, he trails Ed Delahanty, Richie Ashburn and Mike Schmidt, who holds the record at 2234), and his MVP season of 2007 was something that no Phils fan will ever forget. But Rollins' case will largely be on the strength of his longevity and consistency.
Jimmy's 199 HRs are more than all but just three Hall of Fame shortstops, Ernie Banks, Cal Ripken and Robin Yount, and he ranks 11th all-time in HRs by a shortstop. He's 19th all-time in runs scored with 1247, and is 9th all-time in doubles with 457, trailing only Honus Wagner, Ripken, Yount, and Joe Cronin among current Hall of Famers. He's also 10th all-time among shortstops in steals with 425.
That puts Jimmy in a pretty elite class of shortstops historically. However, his career WAR of 42.0 is below non Hall of Famers like Nomar Garciaparra, Omar Vizquel, Miguel Tejada and Jim Fregosi, which is surprising given how good he is defensively and on the bases. And when guys like Alan Trammell haven't been able to elbow their way into the Hall, it's hard to see Jimmy doing it.
Of course, Jimmy's career isn't over. He's likely to move up some of those lists, and with each passing year, even at the levels of productivity we saw in 2011 and 2012, Rollins' case for the Hall becomes a lot more convincing. He seems like one of those guys who will manage to stay on the ballot forever, then manage to sneak in on his last year of eligibility, if he has another couple years that are like his last three or four.
CLIFF LEE (35%)
If Lee had gotten an earlier start on his career, he'd be so much higher than this. As it is, Lee needs three or four years like his last few in order to get within reach of the Hall. His first decent year was with Cleveland in 2004 at 25 years old, when he finished fourth in Cy Young voting. Aside from one down year in 2007, when he was sent back to the minors and didn't pitch in the postseason, Lee has been awesome, finishing in the top 10 of Cy Young voting four more times, including winning the award in 2008.
Since that Cy Young season in '08, Lee has been unreal. He leads baseball with most starts and most multi-IP games with no walks and more strikeouts than innings pitched (36), better than all starters and relievers combined. His career ERA of 3.51 is a bit high for Hall of Fame standards, but Lee hasn't posted an ERA above 3.22 since 2007, and has posted an ERA of 2.40, 3.16 and 2.87 the last three years in Philadelphia.
Of course, Lee's lack of longevity has meant only 139 wins for his career. No Hall of Famer has so few. The lowest win total among starting pitchers in the Hall of Fame is Candy Cummings' 145. Dizzy Dean is next with 150. And although "wins" is a mostly useless stat, again, it's a benchmark number used by Hall of Fame voters, which is what we're really talking about right now.
Frankly, Lee has a lot of work to do. However, he is one of the top 5-10 starters in the game right now and, at 35 years old, is showing no signs of slowing down. If he can continue to pitch like he has for another three or four years, that would put him in the conversation, especially if he continues to be a walk-averse, strike throwing machine that churns out 200+ innings like poop through a goose.
CHASE UTLEY (25%)
If Utley's career were to end right now, he'd be on the outside looking in. His longevity stats are sorely lacking, even when compared to other Hall of Fame second basemen. Utley was on the path to enshrinement when, from 2005-2009, he didn't have a single season with a WAR under 7.2. Then, the injuries starting rolling in, forcing Utley to play in only 115 games in 2010, 103 in '11, and 83 in '12, before finally coming back healthy last year.
Still, his 58.2 WAR is more than Jeff Kent, who is almost certain to be elected in the next few years. And when you consider that a healthy Utley is likely to at least put up another 6-7 WAR over the next two guaranteed years of his contract, you're talking about more WAR than Jackie Robinson (61.4) and right about where Craig Biggio finished (64.9).
Unfortunately, all those games missed, as well as the fact that he didn't become an every day player until he was 25, hurt his longevity numbers severely. Through 11 seasons, Utley has only 1410 hits, 217 HRs and 808 RBIs. Sadly, some of these are the only numbers that Hall of Fame voters look at, and unless Utley does something incredible over the next two-plus seasons, he'll likely fail to make it to Cooperstown.
If it were me, I'd put him in. I'm in favor of adding players who have amazing peaks, like Utley, Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy, in addition to players like Biggio, who amassed 3000 hits over 20 seasons, but only posted a WAR above 3.0 once in his last eight seasons.
COLE HAMELS (20%)
The only reason Hamels is this low is because of how young he is. However, if he keeps going on the track he's on, he could actually turn out to be the only member of the 2008 Phillies to make it to Cooperstown.
The advantage Hamels has over Lee and Halladay is that he became an elite pitcher at such a young age. As a full-time starter in 2007 at 23 years old, Hamels finished sixth in the Cy Young voting and was an All-Star. He was an NLCS and World Seres MVP at 24. And as he enters 2014 at 30 years old, he's already won 99 games, which is 40 wins less than Lee, who is five years older. Also, Hamels' career ERA of 3.38 is much more in line with others already enshrined, and his postseason performances (2009 aside) certainly would help his reputation among voters.
Hamels has surpassed 200 innings in every season except for 2009, when he threw 193.2. He has averaged 8.5 K/9 throughout his career, with just 2.2 BB/9. And aside from his tough '09 season, Hamels has never had a WAR under 4.1 since 2007. Even in a so-called "bad" year in '13, Hamels posted a WAR of 4.6.
Certainly, Cole still has a long way to go. But another five or six years of the kind of production we've seen thus far from Hamels should make him a very interesting Hall prospect. A Cy Young award and maybe a no-hitter or two certainly wouldn't hurt his case.
RYAN HOWARD (10%)
After the 2009 season, you wouldn't have been crazy to think that Howard had the best chance of any Phils player to make it to Cooperstown. Even though he didn't play a full season as an everyday first baseman until he was 26, that 2006 season was historic. Howard's 58 HRs and 149 RBIs won him the MVP that year, and in the next three years that followed, Howard hit 47, 48 and 45 HRs, while tallying 136, 146 and 141 RBIs. From 2006-2011, Howard finished in the top 10 of MVP voting (rightly or wrongly) each year, including a runner-up finish in '08 and third place finish in '09.
Then, the decline began. While 31 homers in 2010 and 33 in 2011 certainly were nothing to sneeze at, you could see the trend moving downward. Suddenly, defensive shifts began to kill his batting average. Pitchers learned how to pitch TO him, not AROUND him, dropping his walk rate. And now, injuries and age seem to have slowed him even further.
As Howard enters 2014 at 34 years old, he's at a crossroads. And while most are predicting that Howard's days as one of the NL's best sluggers are over, there is a chance he could become a 30-HR threat once again if he's healthy. Howard already has 311 career HRs, which obviously is not enough for a lumbering, defensive-deficient first baseman to earn entrance to the Hall. But if Howard somehow, miraculously managed to hit 35-40 HRs a year for the next three years, suddenly you're looking at 400+ homers and probably well over 1100 RBIs.
Would that be enough? Probably not. To get into the Hall, Howard needs 500 HRs. It's really that simple, and it's what makes him a very unlikely Hall of Fame candidate. Not only that, some of Howard's contemporaries, like Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera (who will likely play first base for the rest of his career), Adrian Gonzalez, Paul Konerko, and Jim Thome will likely be up for consideration around the same time Howard is. His numbers won't look good compared to theirs.
At the end of the day, Halladay is probably the only sure bet to make the Hall. The rest of these candidates would have to do some pretty awesome things over the next few years in order to avoid the kinds of debates that leave many of us banging our heads against a wall every Hall induction season.