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Who else could be unanimous? Here are 7 picks

January 23, 2019

The threshold has finally been reached: We have our first unanimous Hall of Fame selection, with Mariano Rivera, the best closer in baseball history and, perhaps just as important, one of the most beloved baseball players of the last 50 years (even Red Sox fans like him!), receiving every single

The threshold has finally been reached: We have our first unanimous Hall of Fame selection, with Mariano Rivera, the best closer in baseball history and, perhaps just as important, one of the most beloved baseball players of the last 50 years (even Red Sox fans like him!), receiving every single vote of the 425 cast.
While an argument could be made that a unanimous selection being made now for the first time in history says more about our current monolith (and transparency-obsessed) cultural moment than it does necessarily about Rivera himself -- nobody dared to be the one person to vote against Rivera -- we can all agree it couldn't happen to a better guy. If it were going to be anyone to do it, we're all glad it was Rivera.
But now that the door has been pushed open -- now that it's no longer an impossibility that someone would receive every vote -- the idea of a unanimous selection is no longer inconceivable. Which means there will someday be another. It will, in fact, now that we know it can be done, probably happen sooner rather than later.
Thus, in honor of Mariano's unprecedented achievement, here are seven potential candidates who someday might be able to pull it off themselves, with a prediction as to whether they really will.
Derek Jeter
If Rivera can do it, it certainly feels like Jeter will be able to, right? If you vote for the closer of the Yankees dynasty, after all, how do you not vote for The Captain? The case against Jeter? He never won an MVP, he has a lower career WAR than Larry Walker (a guy who will make his final appearance on the ballot next season), and he was a subpar defensive shortstop with a lower career on-base percentage than, uh, Jack Clark. On the other hand: He was Derek Jeter.
Will he pull it off? Yes
Trying to find someone who votes for Mo and not Jeter seems ... difficult.
David Ortiz
All right, so, yes, he was a designated hitter. But Edgar Martinez broke that barrier this year, and if Edgar is in, then Big Papi has to be in. The guy won three World Series titles -- including that one in 2004 -- and he was a monster in every single one of them: His lifetime World Series batting average was .455, with an insane OPS of 1.372. Also, he left us all wanting more: In his final season, he led the American League in doubles, OPS, RBIs and slugging. Oh, and in case you forgot:

Will he pull it off? No
Some people just aren't going to vote for a DH, even Big Papi.
Ichiro Suzuki
As groundbreaking a player as baseball has had in several decades, Ichiro took the Major Leagues by storm when he debuted in 2001, leading the Mariners to one of the best records in baseball history. He ended up with more than 3,000 hits in the Majors even though he didn't show up until he was 27, and he will be an inspiration for Japanese players in the Majors for decades to come. Can you imagine a baseball world that didn't have Ichiro in it?
Will he pull it off? No
You can imagine one or two people saying, "We're not supposed to include Japanese stats!" as if that means anything. Also, Ichiro does have to officially retire at some point.
Adrian Beltre
The recently retired Beltre went from "yeah, maybe he might have a chance at the Hall someday" to "whoa, he's an inner-circle Hall guy" in the span of, like, four years, it seems. Beltre is one of the best third basemen of all time, but that'll probably work against him in the voting, considering how historically undervalued third basemen have been. Helping him? Everybody loves him, and had he decided to return, he probably would have made at least one more All-Star Game.
Will he pull it off? No
The third baseman thing is tough, and if 2.8 percent of the electorate didn't vote for Chipper Jones last year, there will be Beltre stragglers.
Jose Pujols
He's El Hombre, one of the best hitters you or I have ever seen: For the first 10 years of his career, he was basically Ted Williams. He also, by the way, still has a non-zero chance of holding the all-time home run record; he's 129 behind Barry Bonds, and he did hit 40 as recently as 2015. The problem, of course, is that he has fallen off a cliff the past few years, to the point that he might be a platoon player for the Angels this year, with three more years left on his contract. All told: Would he have had a better chance had he stayed in St. Louis his whole career? Still: This, in his prime, was as good as baseball could get. And his prime lasted a long time. Also, don't discount having no PED issues in an era when many, many of his peers did.
Will he pull it off? No
He's not really going to pass Bonds, and too many voters, by the time he retires, may just remember how he finished his career rather than how he started it.
Clayton Kershaw
He won an MVP, and he's almost certainly the best pitcher in baseball since Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux. He also has a long way to go in his career as well. He'll be racking up milestones for years to come if he stays healthy. He also could benefit, in some ways, of being one of the Last of the Great Starting Pitchers; if baseball keeps going where it seems to be going, there won't be many Kershaws left.
Will he pull it off? No
Even adjusting for his era, his compiling numbers just won't be high enough compared to pitchers who came before him.
Michael Trout
Well, considering he already has put together a Hall of Fame career and has only played eight seasons, it's fair to say Trout is off to a solid start. Fangraphs once tried to project his career out to where he would have a higher career WAR than Babe Ruth ... and nearly pulled it off. If he stays healthy and keeps being Mike Trout, he could go down as the best player any of us have ever seen. And he won't have the baggage of a Clemens or Bonds either.
Will he pull it off? Yes
It's wayyyy too early to even think about this. But if anyone can do it, Trout can.

Will Leitch is a columnist for