Quick, name the best Chicago White Sox player of all time.
The most obvious answer for a majority of Sox fans, myself included, would be 2-time MVP and 5-time All-Star Frank Thomas, who finished his career on the South Side with some gaudy numbers.
According to Baseball Reference, “The Big Hurt” ended his career with the White Sox as the all-time leader in WAR (69.9), OBPS (.995), runs (1327), total bases (3949), home runs (448), RBIs (1465), doubles (447) walks (1466) and total runs created (1770).
Going back a little further, the White Sox were graced with Hall of Fame players like Eddie Collins, Luke Appling, Luis Aparicio and Nellie Fox. Don’t forget about “Shoeless” Joe Jackson who, along with Pete Rose, should be in the HOF.
What about Paul Konerko?
Sure, the raw numbers that he has put up this season have put Paulie on the national stage, but what about the breadth of his statistical accomplishments.
Paul, a free agent in 2014, is almost assuredly going to pass Thomas in home runs (48 back), doubles (65 back), RBIs (200 back) and hits (97 back).
He currently sits in the top 10 in White Sox history in 29 out of 42 offensive categories that Baseball Reference measures. While this includes the unfortunate distinction of being an all-time leader in strikeouts, grounding into double plays and total outs made, only Frank is in more.
Who is the best player in White Sox history?
So where does that leave Paul?
Former New York Yankee pitcher Jim Bouton once said that “statistics are about as interesting a first base coach.” To a degree he is right, not about first base coaches, but statistics, because in and of themselves, they do not tell the whole story.
Hitting in the clutch, being counted on by teammates for leadership, setting a good example, and maintaining excellence and humility on and off the field are also things we must look at in order to effectively judge a player's worth to a franchise.
The Chicago Tribune refers to Konerko as Captain Crunch. Hitting in the clutch…check.
Konerko has been the White Sox team captain since 2006. Leadership…check.
Former White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker summed up Konerko’s commitment to excellence and humble nature during an interview with MLB reporter Scott Merkin when he called Paul the “most unselfish player he has ever been around.” Humility on and off the field…check.
Let’s not forget five All-Star nods, three pennants, one World Series title and that unforgettable grand slam in Game 2 of the World Series.
The fact that Konerko has been able to accomplish so much, while never being the league’s most dominate player at his position is remarkable.
A neighbor of mine, we will call him Chris, referred to him as a “compiler.” Chris went so far as to compare him to Rafael Palmeiro (we did not get into the fact that Palmeiro is accused of juicing) in the way in which Paul is securing his legacy.
That statement begged a question.
Is there anything wrong with racking up the stats while never dominating the position? More importantly, without ever being the best of the best, can a compiler be considered the all-time great for a franchise?
The answers are no and yes, respectively.
Paul Konerko will probably not get into the HOF for two reasons. First of all, HOF voters are increasingly selective in the post-steroid era and Konerko has never led the league in anything for a full season.
However, his HOF standing is not the question here .
Konerko is quietly putting together the best set of stats in team history, and is a natural leader for a franchise that has to battle the evil forces on the North Side for relevance.
Frank Thomas will always be my favorite player in Sox history.
All things taken into consideration, however, I cannot say that he is the best player in franchise history.
From a professional and personal perspective, It’s looking more and more like that honor is going to fall to Paul Konerko.