With the sports of baseball, football, and basketball all holding their Hall of Fame inductions in the last month, it's officially Hall of Fame season. Since you've found yourself here on SB Nation Arizona, you should know that we're going to take subjects and apply an Arizona feel to them.
So if you haven't already, go ahead and combine the above two sentences and attempt to predict what's coming. I'll give you a minute. Got it?
That's right: it's an evaluation of current Arizona sports figures and their chances to make their respective Hall of Fame. Unlike Seth Pollack, I actually am one for sentiment.
Though it may seem like I pull everything directly out of my ass, it's not the case; so here are the criteria with which I constructed my list:
- Must be a current player on an Arizona professional sports franchise.
- Though I'm willing to stretch the imagination, I'm going to keep from evaluating the ridiculous. Sorry, Barry Enright, Robin Lopez, and most Coyotes. All-Star appearances can serve as a rough barometer.
- I can do absolutely anything I want. Thus expect one "special exemption" - I think you know who it is.
We'll Talk in 2017
Justin Upton - RF, Arizona Diamondbacks
Obviously this is jumping the gun quite a bit, but J-Up kind of forced his way into the conversation by making the 2009 NL All-Star team at the age of 21.
The fact that Upton, who was the first overall pick in the 2005 MLB entry draft, has all the physical skills required of a great baseball player basically goes without saying. He's what all the kids call a "five tool player." The right fielder turns 23 on August 25th and already has nearly 60 home runs and 200 RBIs.
According to the wildly entertaining Similarity Scores on Baseball-Reference.com, some of Upton's comparisons through the age of 21 are Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, Sam Crawford, and Willie Mays. Decent company, sure, but those guys capitalized on their sizable potential and as we all know, everything doesn't always go to plan. The top comparison for Upton? Ruben Sierra.
Choose your own adventure, Justin.
Mark Reynolds - 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks
I know what you're saying ... This guy strikes out with the frequency of a college freshman at a senior keg party. And you'd be right. But he also hits home runs, lots and lots of fun home runs.
Reynolds came up from Double-A Mobile in the middle of 2007 and all he's done since is hit 115 home runs. Yes, he's led the majors in strikeouts each of the last two seasons and he's headed for his third consecutive "title," but he seems to have a pretty clear marching order if he wants to get his bust in Cooperstown. Hit 500 home runs.
He's averaged 35 a year so far, so give him about 10 more years around there and he should get it. That's all! No eligible player with 500 home runs that hasn't been tainted by a public steroids scandal has failed to make it in.
Yeah, it's pretty unlikely, but like chicks, Scott Howard digs the long ball.
Darnell Dockett - DT, Arizona Cardinals
The always entertaining defensive lineman can actually play a little football in addition to his prolific Twitter talents.
Dockett is already entering his seventh season in the league and has really begun to blossom in the previous three years. Since 2007, Dockett has 20 sacks, which is impressive from the defensive tackle position and a couple more than the 100 million dollar man, Albert Haynesworth. He's also made two of the previous three Pro Bowls.
If he keeps up his pace from the last three seasons and his ascendancy to one of the top defensive lineman in the game, he might be able to put together a strong argument.
Brandon Webb - SP, Arizona Diamondbacks
I'll bet you completely forgot this guy was an Arizona sports figure at all. Last seen pitching for the D-backs on Opening Day of 2009, Webb has been sidelined with shoulder problems ever since and hasn't really appeared close to returning.
However, when Webb was goodb he was every bit the ultra-star ace. Drafted by the D-backs in 2000, Webb made his big league debut in 2003 and was pretty darn good almost immediately. In his six full seasons, Webb has never had an ERA above 3.59.
For a three year period (2006-2008), Webb was one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball. He led the NL in wins in both '06 and '08 while claiming the 2006 Cy Young and finishing second the other two years.
The question for Webb is whether he can ever make it back to his former level of production. He is just 31 years old, so it's certainly far too early to write him off, but until he gets it back together, a Cy Young award and 87 wins isn't enough.
Unfortunately, if he does recapture the magic, it probably won't be in Arizona.
Not Looking Good
Shane Doan - RW, Phoenix Coyotes
Doan is basically Mr. Coyote, having been with the organization since the very beginning. The 33 year-old winger is a fine ambassador for the franchise and was even an All-Star in both 2004 and 2009.
Yet while his stats are above average - five seasons of 60 points or more - they don't blow you off the page. So, unfortunately, it doesn't look good for the captain, but he's an absolute lock for the Coyotes Hall of Fame and probably deserves to have his number retired by the organization some day.
Ed Jovanovski - D, Phoenix Coyotes
Another name that makes it pretty obvious that I'm reaching for Coyotes players to put on this list. However, Jovanovski - the first overall pick in the 1994 NHL Draft - has been a five-time NHL All-Star and an excellent defenseman in the league for most of the previous decade.
He's been very good, but not great for most of his career, but that doesn't plug you into the Hall. Let's just hope we get a few more years of big hits from him out in Glendale.
Grant Hill - SF, Phoenix Suns
If there were a Hall of Fame for really nice dudes who had their prime taken from them due to injury, Hill would be in the inaugural class.
The Duke product split the NBA Rookie of the Year with Jason Kidd in the 1994-95 season and was an All-Star in each of his first six seasons (there was no All-Star game in 1999 due to lockout). Hill was also First Team All-NBA in 1997 and seemed well on his way to a spectacular career. His ankles didn't share that sentiment.
Hill carried an ankle injury into the 2000 playoffs and attempted to play until removing himself during the middle of a series loss to Miami. He took off for Orlando in the offseason and, still hampered by his injuries, played just 135 games in the next four seasons.
Though the wing man has re-invented himself as a vital complementary player in Phoenix, Hill has been unable to recapture the gaudy stats from the early part of his career. If he had some MVPs or championships (or even first round wins) in those elite years, it might be a different story.
Adrian Wilson - SS, Arizona Cardinals
He's a bone crushing hitter that signed a four year extension with the Cardinals to keep him in Arizona through 2014. A third round pick of the Cardinals in 2001, Wilson has made three Pro Bowls in the past four seasons and was a First Team All-Pro last season.
One of the best statistical feathers in the cap of Wilson is that he's just one of 10 players in NFL history to accumulate 20 interceptions and 20 sacks for his career. Among the other nine? Ray Lewis, Rodney Harrison, Ronde Barber, Wilbur Marshall, and Brian Dawkins.
Problem is, looking at the 10 safeties in the Hall of Fame, Wilson just doesn't seem to stack up. He does have plenty of career left, but Wilson just doesn't have the perennial Pro Bowl/All-Pro resume that it's probably going to take.
Please just don't tell Wilson where I put him on the list - I rather like to be unconcussed.
Larry Fitzgerald - WR, Arizona Cardinals
When he's not getting hung out to dry by Matt Leinart, Fitz is an elite NFL receiver who is going to continue to produce big numbers for the Cardinals.
The number three overall pick out of Pittsburgh in 2004 already has 523 catches (94th all-time), 7067 yards (106th all-time), and 59 touchdowns (137th all-time). Just for comparison's sake, through their first six seasons, Jerry Rice had 446 catches, Randy Moss had 525, and Marvin Harrison had 522.
Fitzgerald is already a four-time Pro Bowler and was an All-Pro in 2008. If you're worried about Fitzgerald production being affected with Leinart replacing Kurt Warner, look at the 2005 season where the glue-handed wideout caught 104 passes from a combination of an ineffective Warner, Josh McCown, and John Navarre. I think he could probably reel in 80 balls if his quarterbacks were me, Justin Burning, and a nine-year-old girl.
But all this regular season talk is before you even get into the incredible postseason success enjoyed by Fitzgerald. In six playoff games, Fitz has posted historic numbers.
In those playoff games, he has caught 42 passes for 705 yards and nine touchdowns, including the go-ahead touchdown in the closing minutes of Super Bowl XLIII and a staggering two touchdown performance in the 2008 NFC Championship Game. His 2008 playoff performance gave him basically ever single-season playoff record for a receiver.
Barring some sort of disaster, if he keeps up decent production, he'll be wearing a yellow coat some day.
Diana Taurasi - G, Phoenix Mercury
In the same vein as Fitzgerald, Taurasi showed up in Phoenix in 2004 and has produced in bunches ever since. Taurasi was the top pick in the WNBA draft after a unbelievable career at UConn and in the pros, she basically just picked up where she left off.
She has already led the WNBA in scoring three times, has been First Team All-WNBA four consecutive years, was the 2009 WNBA MVP, and has led the Mercury to two WNBA titles. Isn't that enough?
Well if that isn't enough for you, she's having another impressive season in 2010 and barring her sudden retirement she'll have many, many more.
Stone Cold (Steve Austin) Locks:
Steve Nash - PG, Phoenix Suns
I live by a hard and fast rule when it comes to the Hall of Fame: if you've got two MVPs, I will not debate candidacy.
But in case you've been living under a rock here is the Nash resume: seven All-Star appearances, those two previously mentioned MVPs, three-time First Team All-NBA selections, and four NBA assist crowns. Stop the presses, Steve Nash is really good.
The one gaping hole in his resume is a championship, but he's been in the Western Conference Finals on four separate occasions. If you want to try and keep one of the greatest playmakers in NBA history out of the Hall of Fame, I'd like to hear your explanation.
Kurt Warner - QB, Arizona Cardinals
And here is my special exemption. If you've followed me at all, you knew this was coming. He did retire after the Cardinals divisional round loss to the Saints in last year's playoffs but um ... he played for the team in 2010 and I'm pretty sure the Cards still have his rights? Yeah, that's the ticket.
The above two MVP rule for Nash also applies for Warner, the 1999 and 2001 NFL MVP. He did have a bit of a donut in the middle of his career when he struggled with injuries and curious coaching decisions (Marc Bulger was TERRIBLE in the 2003 playoffs!), but you cannot argue with the fact that he played in four Pro Bowls and threw over 200 touchdown passes and 32,000+ passing yards.
But it wasn't just the individual stats, Warner led both the sad sack Rams and Cardinals to Super Bowls - playing in three total. Yet Warner didn't just play in those games; the top three passing yardage games in Super Bowl history are all owned by Warner.
I say he's a lock and I won't debate it.
Since I'm shockingly not clairvoyant, things can change. For all we know, Miguel Montero is going to hit 50 bombs a year for the next 15 years while Goran Dragic wins multiple championships, Keith Yandle wins every James Norris Memorial Trophy until he retires, and Andre Roberts blossoms into Jerry Rice 2.0. I guess that's the beauty of sports.