Paul Konerko has had quite a run on the South Side
Konerko is, without question, the face of the White Sox in every way and has been since the soon-to-be-enshrined Frank Thomas left town.
It goes without saying that if Konerko, a 2005 World Series champion and six-time All-Star selection for the White Sox, did get elected, it would not be on the first ballot.
In fact, his best chance is probably going to be the Veterans Committee, which will take a while.
Making the case for Konerko's HOF worthiness is not all that difficult as there are nine very distinct reasons why Konerko deserves the honor.
Paulie has some gas left in the tank.
Yes, he had surgery to clean up bone fragments in his wrist after the season ended, but there has been no indication that it is going to prevent him from playing next year.
As a matter of fact, Mark Gonzalez from the Chicago Tribune indicated following the surgery that Konerko is expected to be ready for spring training next year.
As we will see later on, Konerko has already achieved as much as many of the men already enshrined in Cooperstown, so anything else would be icing on the cake.
Three modest seasons would put Konerko in line for 500 home runs and over 1500 RBI, which is rarefied air, indeed.
No one can predict what the future holds for a player, but Konerko is most certainly not done adding to his already impressive resume.
Konerko's first-pitch home run off Chad Qualls in Game 2 of the World Series is the stuff of legends.
Konerko had quite a run in 2005.
During the American League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Angles, Konerko hit .286, knocked two first-inning home runs and drove in seven runs en route to the series MVP. It was as timely a performance as there ever was.
In the World Series against the Houston Astros, Konerko only hit .250, but delivered a monster grand slam off Chad Qualls in the seventh inning of Game 2.
HOF players produce when it matters and failing in the postseason is simply not what the great ones do.
Alex Rodriguez, for example, will carry postseason failure with him for the rest of his career and while Konerko was hitless in 2000 against the Seattle Mariners, he cemented his legacy as a clutch performer in 2005.
Roger Clemens, even in acquittal, has become a poster boy for PED use.
The Steroid Era is redefining the criteria for inclusion.
2013 marks the zenith of accused performance-enhancing drug users on the HOF ballot. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa headline the group of eligible players and that is sure to stir up the memories of a tainted era and baseballs continuing struggle with PEDs.
If a player’s name was included in the Mitchell Report, everything he accomplished as a player is already being called into question and getting into the HOF becomes that much more difficult. Since Konerko has never been publicly linked to PEDs, his statistics will be viewed accordingly.
Rumors and speculation have brought into context what constitutes great career numbers and Konerko fits the bill.
It would be short-sighted to believe that Konerko’s extended slash line (.283/422/1336/.359/.499) is insufficient for inclusion given the questionable nature of baseball's recent offensive explosion.
A man like Konerko cannot be kept down.
The measures of greatness have expanded recently because of the Steroid Era. No longer are numbers, which Konerko has, the only measure of worthiness.
C. Trent Rosencrans from CBS Sports noted that future HOF merit conversations in the future will not necessarily revolve “around numbers, but less concrete things—like beliefs, morals, laws and character.”
Check, check and check.
There is something about the way Konerko carries himself that demands attention. It is as if he commands a room by being the least assuming one in it. With a quiet determination, Konerko has become the leader in a clubhouse that has always been full of strong personalities.
It is leadership and character that are becoming more and more important to the voters.
Remember, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) is an evolving organization. As such, many of them must be sensitive to how the public views the game and wish to put the dysfunctions of the Steroid Era behind them.
Another reason Konerko could get into Cooperstown revolves around how the HOF voting process works.
Very few players are elected in their first year by the BBWAA and there has never been a unanimous selection. Typically, the percentage of votes a player receives goes up in relation to the number of years he is on the ballot until he receives the 75 percent needed for HOF induction.
In essence, the BBWAA makes a player sweat it out and Billy Williams is a perfect example.
In 1982, his first year of eligibility, Williams received just 23.4 percent of the vote. Five years later, Williams netted 85.7 percent and was elected to the HOF. Williams simply had to wait his turn just like Konerko may.
While this may not be the most exciting reason Konerko might make it into the HOF, it is very real and must be taken into consideration.
Konerko sits next to Hall of Famer Luke Appling in many offensive categories.
Konerko has had an incredible offensive career.
Even if he never picks up a bat again for the White Sox, Konerko’s numbers rank among the best in franchise history. A look at his numbers is an exercise in excellence.
He ranks second in White Sox history in home runs (415), RBI (1307) and total bases (3778). He is also third in doubles (382) and runs created (1349), while ranking fourth in hits (2135).
Names like Eddie Collins, Luke Appling, Nellie Fox and Frank Thomas surround him on the all-time list for the White Sox. Each of them is either in the HOF already, or will be shortly.
Konerko is in rare company among White Sox greats and is therefore among the greats in baseball history.
Konerko does much more than just hit home runs.
Konerko is the textbook definition of a steady performer.
He has had two down seasons (2003 and 2008), but otherwise has been a consistent offensive force.
In fact, Konerko’s 162-game average of 31 home runs, 29 doubles and 101 RBI is a testament to an extended run of exceptional production and is yet another example of Konerko's HOF credentials.
Granted, Konerko never had that one defining year when he hit 45 home runs, drove in 125 runs, finished with a .325 batting average and won the AL MVP, but he didn’t have to.
What Konerko does is remain one of the top first baseman in the American League year after year and consistency matters to both the BBWAA and the Veterans Committee.
At the end of his career, Konerko should top Bagwell in many offensive categories.
The closest comparison (as far as I can tell) of a Hall-eligible first baseman to Konerko is Jeff Bagwell.
Bagwell played 15 seasons with the Houston Astros, earning an MVP and five All-Star nods while collecting 449 home runs and 1529 RBI.
On average, that is only three more home runs and 14 more RBI per season than what Konerko is putting up. There is a large gap in batting average (.297 to .283) and slugging (.948 to .858), but overall the numbers stack up, especially when the lineups are taken into consideration.
Something else to take into consideration is that, although he had a poor finish to the 2012 season, Konerko has put his best stretch of baseball together the last three years while Bagwell went the other way his final three.
If the numbers are comparable, then so should their HOF chances.
In 2011, Bagwell received 41.7 percent of the vote from the BBWAA, while in 2012 he netted 56.0. Just as the voting process normally plays out, Bagwell is getting more votes as the number of years he is on the ballot increases.
Expect Bagwell to make it to the HOF in the next few years and then for Konerko to go through the same waiting process when he is eligible.
Konerko's career numbers are already better than many of HOF first baseman Tony Perez's.
- He has more home runs (422) than 14 of them, including Tony Perez, Orlando Cepeda, Hank Greenberg and Johnny Mize.
- He has more RBI (1336) than seven enshrined first basemen, including George Sisler, Roger Connors, George Kelly and Greenberg.
- His career OPS (.858) tops seven, including Cap Anson, “Steady” Eddie Murray and Perez.
- With the exception of Lou Gehrig, Konerko is better in at least one offensive measurable than each of the current HOF first basemen over his 16-year career.
Bottom line, Konerko’s numbers are comparable to some of the first basemen currently in the HOF and that is the biggest reason Konerko is HOF material.