Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas were elected into the National Baseball Hall-of-Fame earlier today with multi-position star Craig Biggio missing the cut by 0.2 percent, or two votes.
Former Bucco Barry Bonds saw his vote percentage decrease to 34.7 in his second year on the ballot, and players with brief stints in Pittsburgh, Sean Casey and Moises Alou, had even briefer stints on the ballot after receiving a total of zero and six votes respectively.
With Bonds nowhere near the threshold for Hall-of-Fame induction, who will be the next player with Pirate ties to reach Cooperstown?
Bert Blyleven was the last, after being elected in 2011. Dave Parker put up a strong case over his time on the ballot, but whether or not he will ever reach the halls of Cooperstown will be determined by the Expansion Era Veterans Committee, which won't be voting again until 2016. But hey, what better way to start than by analyzing the 1978 NL MVP.
Parker's closest bid came in 2000, yet baseball's first million-dollar player certainly has legitimate credentials for the hall. He finished in the top five of MVP voting five times, finishing in the top three four of those times. A seven-time All-Star, two-time batting champion and three-time Gold Glove and Silver Slugger finished with a career WAR of 40.0 and compares well to players like Billy Williams, Andre Dawson and Tony Perez, all three of which are already in the Hall-of-Fame. What holds Parker back is his stretch between 1981-1984 where he never topped an OPS of .776. Considering this spanned between his age 30 and age 33 seasons, it is highly doubtful Parker will ever see the halls of Cooperstown, even though he compares well to players already enshrined as well as the second chance potentially provided by the Expansion Era Veterans Committee.
The next candidate up for debate still plays within the NL Central. While he and Parker have similar numbers, he has nowhere near the amount of hardware the Cobra obtained. However, with the potential for two-three more productive seasons, this former Bucco could creep into the Hall-of-Fame discussion.
One of the least popular trades in Pirates history involved dumping Ramirez and Kenny Lofton for a bag of baseballs and a season of Bobby Hill. At the time of his trade, Ramirez looked to finally be evolving into the powerful third baseman the Pirates had been seeking for years. Once traded to the Cubs, Ramirez's career took a predictable arc, as he became the main run-producer in a potent mid-2000's Cubs lineup. He has remained strong in the latter part of his career with the Brewers, although his 2013 was riddled with injuries. While having similar numbers as Ernie Banks through both of their age 35 seasons, Ramirez was far too often a major defensive liability and had a very rough introduction to the major leagues after the Pirates rushed him through their minor league system. While he did put up a stellar career, Ramirez won't be the next player with Pirate ties inducted into Cooperstown.
Which leads into our final candidate, who not only continues to play within the NL Central, but plays for the Pirates. Coming off of his first MVP season as well as a remarkable five-year stretch of WAR, our final candidate will become the next Pirates player elected to the Hall-of-Fame so long as he is able to maintain his numbers.
McCutchen is the best player to don the black-and-gold since Bonds. Thankfully for McCutchen, he likely won;t have the cloud of PED's and the steroid era hanging over his head during the later stages of his career. McCutchen has been an all-around force at the dish and on the diamond. At the young age of 27, he compares well to Dawson and Williams, much like Parker, as well as Carlos Beltran, who will likely be enshrined in Cooperstown himself when his great career comes to a close. McCutchen has already won an MVP, finished in the top three of voting twice, won two Silver Sluggers and a Gold Glove all before his age 27 season, the age a baseball player's "prime" is considered to have started. McCutchen will have the opportunity to add a lot more hardware to his mantle in the coming years so long as he stays healthy, and the Pirates will see one of their own elected to Cooperstown.
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