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Perrotto: Does Aroldis Chapman Have Hall of Fame Case?

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Aroldis Chapman, Pittsburgh Pirates, Johan Oviedo

Aroldis Chapman’s glove is now in Cooperstown and so are a pair of his spikes.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum typically asks for artifacts when players break records or reach significant milestones.

Chapman did that over the weekend when the Pirates lost two of three games to the Braves in Atlanta. Chapman surpassed Billy Wagner for the most strikeouts by a left-handed reliever in major-league history.

“It feels really good just to be able to be on that list and pass a guy like Billy Wagner, a really respected lefty,” Chapman said through coach and interpreter Stephen Morales. “It feels great just to have my glove, and spikes in the Hall of Fame for the rest of my life. It’s an honor.”

The ultimate honor for Chapman would be getting a Hall of Fame plaque. He has at least put himself into consideration with 324 career saves, which rank 20th on the MLB all-time list.

The 36-year-old Chapman won’t allow himself to look that far into the future.

“We’ll see,” he said. “It’s out of my control. All I can control is just go out there, put up good numbers and do my job and be as good as I can be. But when I retire, after that, hopefully that happens. We’ll think about it when that time comes.”

Pirates manager Derek Shelton thinks Chapman will eventually be immortalized in Cooperstown. Of course, Shelton is a little biased, but he didn’t hesitate when asked about Chapman’s Hall chances.

“I think that to be that historical with the things he’s done and as much as he’s won, yeah, I think he’ll be a hall of famer,” Shelton said.

Chapman’s candidacy is still a work in progress. He is having a solid season after signing as a free agent over the winter with three saves, a 3.90 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 30 innings.

Chapman still enjoys playing and has no plans on retiring anytime soon, though he is now in his 15th season after making his MLB debut in 2010 with the Cincinnati Reds.

“If I’m healthy and in a good spot, I’ll continue to pitch,” Chapman said. “If some of the teams want me or a team wants me that year, I’ll do my job and come back and pitch. It’s all about health.”

Chapman still throws as hard as he did when he was a rookie. His fastball has averaged 97.9 mph this season to rank in the top 97th percentile of MLB pitchers.

“I can’t say I feel or that I am the same as when I was a rookie, because at that point, all I did was throw fastballs by people,” Chapman said. “I think now, I’m a better pitcher. I’m a more complete pitcher because I can throw other pitches in the strike zone and pitch better. It has been a joyful career.”

It’s a career that includes seven All-Star Games and World Series titles with the Chicago Cubs in 2016 and with the Texas Rangers last year.

I once asked Trevor Hoffman what he felt constituted a Hall of Fame closer. Hoffman’s 601 saves rank second in MLB history and he was elected to the hall in 2018.

Hoffman felt 30-save seasons were a good benchmark. Chapman has had eight of those, though none since 2021 with the New York Yankees.

However, just five of the 19 pitchers ahead of Chapman on the all-time saves list are in the Hall – Mariano Rivera (652 saves), Hoffman, Lee Smith (478), Dennis Eckersley (390) and Rollie Fingers (341). Craig Kimbrel (437) and Kenley Jansen (436) are active.

So, Chapman might be short of being Hall-worthy at this point. Yet if The Cuban Missile keeps blowing triple-digit fastballs by hitters, he will give himself a chance.

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