"As soon as humanly possible, son. In the summer of 2020."
The question-and-answer session continued as we watched Jeter and his Yankees face the Blue Jays.
"Will Melky Cabrera be in the Hall of Fame?"
"No, buddy. Cooperstown is for the greatest ballplayers in the history of the game. There's only a few guys playing right now who will make it."
That back-and-forth exchange, along with the passing of former great Tony Gwynn, got me thinking about a few players who are certainly worthy of "Hall talk" but may fall a wee bit short. That was my initial thought. After poking around with their career numbers, I'm willing and able to see both sides of a Hall of Fame argument for a trio of guys who have entertained us for years, athletes who we've welcomed into our living rooms for the better part of two decades. With the help of my colleagues in MLB Network's Research Department, I present you with the following data and opinion.
In September 2000, Rollins walked into the Phillies' clubhouse at the Vet for the very first time. That was the same month I started covering Phils baseball on a daily basis, a stint that lasted five-plus years. The reason I mention this is because that was a very long time ago, and yet Rollins is still a face of the franchise, an everyday player at a demanding position and, most recently, the Phillies' all-time hits leader. Tough to find a more decorated player. J-Roll is a World Series champion, the 2007 National League MVP Award winner, a multiple NL Gold Glove Award winner (I defy you to find a more reliable defensive shortstop in the last 20 years), a Silver Slugger Award winner and a three-time NL All-Star.
Rollins is also the answer to this trivia question: Who is the only shortstop in the history of the game to record 200 or more home runs and steal 400 or more bases? That speaks to his unique talents, but also to how the shortstop position has evolved over the years. Think about it. Barry Larkin didn't do that. Cal Ripken didn't do that. And Jeter will come up short of accomplishing that impressive feat.
Here's another nugget to chew on: Rollins needs fewer than two dozen extra-base hits to become just the fourth full-time shortstop to record 800 extra-base hits. The others: Ripken, Jeter and Joe Cronin.
Rollins as a Hall of Famer could make for a solid cocktail party conversation.
If there was a poster featuring under-the-radar and unassuming offensive stars from the 2000s, Abreu's face would be highlighted. Just a few days ago, the 40-year-old Abreu enjoyed a four-hit game for the Mets. His career total stands at 2,461. While Abreu won't come close to reaching the magic number of 3,000 hits, he has spent nearly two decades as an elite on-base-percentage hitter. Over an 18-year career, Abreu has an on-base percentage of .396. Remarkable. Combine his knack for reaching base with his ablity to drive in runs (1,361 career RBIs), and you have a unique combination rarely seen in our lifetime.
There are 61 players in the Hall of Fame or currently on the Hall ballot with a career OBP greater than .380 with an RBI total in Abreu's range. To put it in further perspective, consider some of those players: Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Duke Snider, Tony Gwynn and Rickey Henderson.
While the world celebrates Jeter's final season with fanfare, Konerko takes his farewell tour the exact same way he played for 16 seasons on the South Side of Chicago -- quietly, professionally and by example. Let's start with his place in White Sox history. Konerko trails only first-ballot Hall of Famer Frank Thomas is three major categories: home runs, RBIs and extra-base hits. Konerko has totaled 438 homers, 1,405 RBIs and 853 XBH.
When examining the career of a first baseman/designated hitter, one useful tool is OPS+, a stat that adjusts a player's accomplishment to the ballpark. Any ranking above 100 means the player is above league average. Any number below 100 means the player is below league average.
Of guys to play at least 50 percent of their careers at first base or designated hitter, only two Hall of Famers have a lower career OPS+ than Konerko. Who are they ? The answer is obvious. "High Pockets" Kelly, who played from 1915-32, and Hugh Jennings, who played from 1891-1918.
There are still a few players remaining on the Hall ballot who fit the above criteria with an OPS+ of more than 100. They include Mark McGwire (163), Jeff Bagwell (149), Edgar Martinez (147) and Fred McGriff (134).
We know where Jeter will be on induction weekend 2020. But when and if these other stars eventually arrive in Cooperstown is something we won't know for a very long time. In the meantime, enjoy them while you can.