Dear Mark Buehrle,
In recent months, you’ve hinted that when your four-year contract expires at the end of the 2011 season, you may retire. I’m here to tell you right now: Don’t.
And, yes, I’m not going any further without admitting that, as a White Sox fan, I want you to keep playing for selfish reasons. But not for the ones you might think. Sure, you’re a steady, ace pitcher good for a sub-4.00 ERA, 15 wins, and 200 innings a year. You’re the type of pitcher any team would love to have, a big-game pitcher, a reliable bull dog who battles, pitches quick and just plain gets the job done, game after game, year after year.
But, no, I want you to keep playing because I want you to make the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.
Work with me here. At first glance, you don’t fit the prototype of a Hall of Fame pitcher. You're not a fireballing, nasty, perennial Cy-Young winning, 20-game-a-year winning, 200 strikeouts-a-year-throwing, lockdown number one hurler. But you are a Hall of Famer. I know it. I just want the rest of the baseball world to know it too.
Because besides the fact that you average 15 wins and 224 innings a season, have pitched a no-hitter, won a World Series, pitched in four All-Star games, starting one, you’re still underappreciated. You don’t want the hype, don’t ask for it and don’t get it. It’s not your personality. You take the ball every fifth day and go to work. No excuses. No whining. No diva behavior. And for those reasons, Mark, you are a Hall-of-Famer.
I know, you get homesick during the season. You have two young children and a wife. You’d love to spend all your time with them. Even though you make $14 million a year, playing baseball every day, being on the road, away from your family, I'll admit, is probably not easy. But if you give me—give baseball—13 more seasons, you will make the Hall of Fame. Then the rest of baseball will be able to appreciate you just as much as me and the rest of White Sox-nation (including our commander-in-chief) do. Until then—and though I know it probably doesn't matter much to you—you’ll continue to go unnoticed and be criminally underappreciated.
Here’s why I think 13 years will do the trick: Three-hundred wins (unless you’re name is Roger Clemens—allegedly) is a pitcher’s ticket to Cooperstown. No matter your ERA or strikeout total, 3-0-0 is a frickin’ guarantee, especially in this age of specialized set-up men and pitch counts and all the other obstacles to the feat.
Right now you have 131 wins in nine full seasons in the big leagues. As I said, that breaks down to an average of 15 wins per season. If you keep up that pace the rest of this season, you’ll have six more, finishing 2009 with a total of 137. Then you’ll need 163 more. I know it sounds daunting. For you, it’s really not. You’ve never really been injured, are durable as hell, don’t have a funky, stupid windup, don’t throw in the high 90s. All you have to do is keep playing. And on that topic, in 13 years, you’ll be 43. You’re kids will be 15 and 13, respectively. You’ll still have plenty of full-time, father-child, childhood-years bonding left. You'll also be an immortal.
Now, if you stayed on your current pace, it would take 11 years to get to 300. But if you figure in injuries and the skill-depreciation that comes with age, I say 13 years guarantees it. And who knows, you could probably win another World Series or two (Just, please, not with the Cardinals. Stay in Chicago. On the South Side.) You also could get a Cy Young, another no-hitter. And hey, knowing you, you probably could get to 300 in 11 years.
I know 13 years seems daunting. It’s really not. You’ve been in the league 10 years already. Ten years! It seems like just yesterday the Sox brought you up as a reliever in the division-winning season of 2000. Look what you’ve accomplished already in that short time. You’re a stud. A pro’s pro. A pitcher’s pitcher. But you're also an unheralded, underrated, underappreciated southpaw. And that’s why you’ve got to keep playing. For White Sox fans. For your teammates, coaches, front office people. They all think the world of you. You’re already a Hall-of-Famer in their book. And in a little over a decade, you could be in the baseball history books as well, in Cooperstown.
One of your many adoring White Sox-fan fans,