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Nine for now

Nine For Now

The sudden yet welcome retirement of Ken Griffey Jr. after 22 years in the big leagues on Wednesday ended one of the most successful yet agonizing careers any slugger ever experienced. He bows out with 630 home runs (fifth all-time) as part of 1,192 extra base hits, 1,836 runs batted in and 10 Gold Gloves. Never suspected of indulging in the pharmaceutical arts, Griffey is a lock to be enshrined in Cooperstown sometime in the middle of this decade, but this year his fantasy value ranked dead last among those who, in my estimation, have already punched their tickets to the Hall of Fame. Here are nine more and where they rank in current fantasy relevance, with the understanding that some viable candidates (Vladimir Guerrero, Todd Helton, Andy Pettitte, Pudge Rodriguez) are on the fence for the Hall. For more insights, follow SI's fantasy expert David Sabino on Twitter at SI_DavidSabino.

1Albert Pujols, Cardinals
Albert Pujols, Cardinals
After seeing his average dip below .300 on Saturday due to an 8-for-39 slump, the two-time reigning NL MVP (three overall) has gone on a tear, going 8-for-14 with a three home run game and 5 RBIs, boosting his batting average back up to a more Phat Albert-like .318. Heading into the games of June 3, he ranks third in the NL in hits (62), third in home runs (12) and fourth in RBIs (39).
 
2Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
PED admissions aside, if teams continue to walk Mark Teixeira to load the bases in front of him, A-Rod's stats will be so astronomical that there won't be any question that he'll belong in the Hall. As it stands now, he's 5-for-5 with three grand slams and 18 RBIs when managers give Big Tex a free pass to soak the bags to get to Rodriguez.
 
3Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners
Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners
Fresh off a controversial game-winning RBI infield hit, the greatest contact hitter of this era has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise punchless Seattle offense. Though Ichiro is tied for 10th in the majors with 13 steals, fantasy owners depending on him for speed have not been pleased that he also places second in the AL by being caught six times.
 
4Derek Jeter, Yankees
Derek Jeter, Yankees
Although he's collected just 18 extra base hits this season, the Yankees captain leads all leadoff hitters n the majors with 31 RBIs. His owners would love to see a spike in his stolen base production that stands at half (five) of his total from last season on this date (10).
 
5Mariano Rivera, Yankees
Mariano Rivera, Yankees
The most successful closer in history has allowed only three earned runs and blown just one save so far this season, yet he struggled in mid-May by giving up runs in three straight games for the first time since '07. And fantasy owners aren't accustomed to seeing him so far down the saves list, tied with the likes of Matt Lindstrom and Leo Nuñez, adding to his deceptively disappointing season.
 
6Manny Ramirez, Dodgers
Manny Ramirez, Dodgers
Dodgers fans and fantasy owners alike are waiting for Manny to be Manny, because thus far, his numbers have been eerily similar (and often inferior) to those of Martin Prado, Jeremy Hermida, David DeJesus and David Freese.
 
7Chipper Jones, Braves
Chipper Jones, Braves
The NL's all-time switch-hitting home run leader has said that he's not considering retirement, but his numbers (.240, 3 HR, 21 RBIs, .372 slugging percentage) beg to differ.
 
8Trevor Hoffman, Brewers
Trevor Hoffman, Brewers
Major League Baseball's all-time saves leader has blown half of his opportunities thus far this year (five of 10), and has been removed, at least for the meantime, in favor of rookie John Axford, who has begun piling up saves of his own. Hoffman's 11.65 ERA and above-2.00 WHIP makes him unplayable, and untradeable, yet his potential to return to the closer's role makes him impossible to waive as well.
 
9Omar Vizquel, White Sox
Omar Vizquel, White Sox
Now that Junior has retired, it's quite possible that Vizquel, the once-great Mariners, Indians and Giants shortstop who made his major league debut in 1989 on the same day and in the same lineup as Griffey, has become the least significant fantasy player to have spent the entire season on an American League roster.
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