By C. Trent Rosecrans
Albert Pujols will most likely wear a St. Louis Cardinals hat when he's ultimately inducted into the Hall of Fame, but there still may be a question. We just don't know at this point. There are those players who go into the Hall without a doubt of which hat they'll wear, because it's the only one they ever wore.
While the Hall of Fame is an elite club, there's a more elite club -- one of Hall of Famers who played their entire career with one organization. Currently there are 47 such players in Cooperstown, with the possibility of one more joining their ranks if Barry Larkin is voted in when the next class is announced in January.
It seemed like Pujols would be one of those guys -- there was even talk of a statue being built at Busch Stadium while he was still active. That statue will have to wait -- and it could be a long time before he's honored like that in St. Louis.
So, if Pujols isn't going to join that club, who may? Here's four who may be able to claim they spent all of their entire major league career with one team.
Both Derek Jeter and Mariano River are first-ballot Hall of Fame players, both are nearing the end of their careers and both received new contracts with the Yankees last season. Jeter, 37, has two more years on his contract, plus a player option for 2014. He may play after he turns 40, but there's an almost zero percent chance the Yankees let him do it in another uniform. The same can be said for Rivera, 42. The all-time saves leader is under contract for 2012 and is unliekly to play anywhere else.
The third guy is Chipper Jones, who will turn 40 on April 24 and is under contract through 2012 with a club option for 2013 that becomes guaranteed if he plays 123 games this season. Jones has been on the verge of retiring the last two years. Like Jeter and Rivera, it seems unthinkable he'd ever wear another uniform as a player.
And that leads us to the fourth player, who will not only have an asterisk on this list if he does go into the Hall with his current team, but also the one of this group most likely to play for a different team (but even that chance seems slight -- but not as slight as the other three), and that's Ichiro Suzuki. The asterisk is that of course he played the first half of his career for the Orix Blue Wave in Japan before coming to the Mariners in 2000. Some will debate whether he'd be in the Hall if he retired today, but I find it hard to believe he could be left out. Suzuki is in the final year of his five-year extension he signed in 2007 and with the Mariners going through a rebuilding phase, he may not fit into their plans. Another team could be interested, or he could return to Japan. However, it's been suggested he really wants to get to 3,000 hits in the United States. He's at 2,428 right now and would need at least three more years to get there -- that could be two with a different team.
There are some other players that aren't sure-fire Hall of Famers that could still get there and do it with one team, but there's still a lot to be proven. The closest to the end of his career is the Rangers' Michael Young, who would need to get to 3,000 hits before he had a shot at the Hall. Young, 35, has 2,061 hits, so even that seems unlikely. Then there are the young, talented players who have a lot more to prove before getting there. However, Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Braun, Evan Longoria and Matt Kemp all have one thing in common -- long-term contracts with their current team.
Here's the list of Hall of Famers who played for just one team, sorted by team:
Yankees: Earle Combs, Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, Whitey Ford, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Phil Rizzuto.
Dodgers: Roy Campanella, Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson.
Giants: Carl Hubbell, Travis Jackson, Mel Ott, Bill Terry, Ross Youngs.
Pirates: Roberto Clemente, Bill Mazeroski, Willie Stargell, Pie Traynor.
Red Sox: Bobby Doerr, Jim Rice, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski.
Indians: Bob Feller, Addie Joss, Bob Lemon.
Orioles: Jim Palmer, Cal Ripken, Brooks Robinson.
White Sox: Luke Appling, Red Faber, Ted Lyons.
Cardinals: Bob Gibson, Stan Musial.
Reds: Johnny Bench, Bid McPhee.
Tigers: Charlie Gehringer, Al Kaline.
Brewers: Robin Yount.
Cubs: Ernie Banks.
Phillies: Mike Schmidt.
Royals: George Brett.
Senators: Walter Johnson.
Twins: Kirby Puckett.For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.