In The Politics of Glory Bill James states rather offhandedly:
History suggests that there are probably now about thirty to forty players in the major leagues who will eventually be in the Hall of Fame, but it will be at least seventy years until we have a firm total...
That quote has always fascinated me, especially since I have never been able to come up with more than a dozen or so that I would consider Hall-bound. I try to keep the quote in mind whenever anyone peremptorily spouts that so-and-so is not a Hall of Famer (Let's call them HoFers). I have my own idea of what a HoFer should and should not be. (For example, I never thought of Don Sutton as one.) But history won't care much for what we think, and in the end-whenever that is-there will be some three dozen, more or less, future HoFers who are currently active.
Well, I don't know about you, but I don't have the patience to wait the requisite seventy or so years to find out. Let me see if I can figure it out right now. Keep in mind that the one established criterion for becoming a HoFer is ten years of service. I may feel that Alex Rodriguez is a lock right now for the Hall but if he suddenly retires to play minor-league basketball (it's happened before) and never completes 10 years of service, he can't even be considered.
I would divide the potential HoFers into 5 groups. First are those players who are locks right now because they have achieved something history (500 HRs, 4 Cy Youngs, etc.). Then there are those players who have always been generally perceived as HoFers and have met the service requirement, but do not have enough awards, set enough records, or achieved enough statistical milestones to demand inclusion. The problem for them is perceptions change and without the necessary signposts for the myopic Hall voters of the future, they may be left on the outside looking in. The third group consists of those players who have achieved enough to justify inclusion but the media have never, or at least not for some time, considered a HoFer (I created this group with one player in mind). The fourth group or those iffy players that have had a good deal of success and meet the service requirement but have not be considered by most as HoF-type players. They generally have some time left in their careers to pad their records and make themselves more desirable to future voters. The fifth group are those younger players who have not met the service requirement but have shown enough potential to one day be considered for the Hall. Remember that of those 30-40 future HoFers that Bill James spoke of, some may be rookies, some may be in the fifth year but have yet to establish themselves as a HoH-type player. Therefore, this is the most subjective, the most uncertain, and also the most fun category.
I came up with a list for each group. The total number of players is 60, which is higher than or 30-40 goal, but remember that the odds go down from one group to the next. Here is my list (they're in no particular order under the columns):
(Note that I listed Sosa under the Locks in anticipation of his imminent 500th home run.) I am not advocating any for inclusion and freely admit that a good number of these players will not make it to the Hall. Also, the Iffy column is somewhat and the Future column is completely subjective. I probably have overlooked a few deserving candidates. Keep in mind that I am not advocating anyone as a HoFer-I'm just trying to determine the Las Vegas odds. (Well, except for Raines who I feel was arguably the best player in the NL in the mid-'80s but will be completely overlooked). I would probably include about 16 of them if I ran the Hall of Fame. I also would include Bobby Cox and Joe Torre as managers.
Finally, you may find listing 60 players laughable, but remember that each year between 1925 and '33, inclusive, there were at least 50 active players who are now in the Hall (the most was 1928 with 55). And that was when there were almost half as many clubs and the DH and relief pitcher roles were not an issue. It's not inconceivable that all of these players could make it to the Hall depending on the leanings of the Veteran's Committee in the next twenty years to eighty years.