Mark Buehrle and Paul Konerko deserve to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame
With the current MLB season in limbo as the lockout continues, the only interesting baseball news so far has been the Hall of Fame voting. On January 25th, the results of the voting will be announced. Mark Buehrle, A.J. Pierzynski, and several other former Chicago White Sox players are on this year’s ballot but the only player with a shot of getting elected this year is long-time Boston Red Sox DH, David Ortiz.
With David Ortiz getting elected either this year or the next, that gives the 2004 Red Sox 2 Hall of Famers in Pedro Martinez and Ortiz. Partially because of this, I think the champion 2005 White Sox deserves 2 Hall of Famers as well, Mark Buehrle and Paul Konerko.
Of course, Frank Thomas is already in the Hall but he wasn’t a member of the team’s postseason roster that went a historic 11-1 in the postseason. Given the White Sox dominance in the playoffs that year, they deserve some representation in Cooperstown. Harold Baines (who was the team’s bench coach at the time) doesn’t count.
It’s beyond time for that historic White Sox team to get the respect they deserve. This is why the Hall should induct the 2 most famous players on the team, Buehrle and Konerko. Even the 1962 Mets have 2 Hall of Famers, certainly, a World Series team should have at least one?
While I believe Konerko and Buehrle are both deserving, Mark Buehrle should be a higher priority because he’s still currently on the ballot. Players need to be retired for 15 years to be considered by the veteran’s committee so Konerko won’t be eligible for that until 2029 at the earliest.
Mark Buehrle got 11% of the vote last year. He’s likely to see a mild dip in his voting this year on a crowded ballot but if he survives this year by getting 5% or more, he’s got a chance to make a big jump in 2023 as arguably the best pitcher on the ballot.
The Chicago White Sox have some legends that deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.
The Case for Mark Buehrle
With 214 wins and a career 3.81 ERA, at first glance Mark Buehrle appears to be a “Hall of Very Good” and not Hall of Fame as his detractors would say. Now I’d argue “very good” and “Hall of Fame” are not mutually exclusive.
Being very good at baseball can make you famous and the Hall of Fame is about fame more than anything else. With 339 current members, the days of it being only the greatest to ever play the game (100 or more WAR) are long over.
That said, a closer look at Buehrle’s stats does show he is more deserving. His 59.1 WAR (60 WAR from pitching) is that of a borderline Hall of Famer. His Wins and ERA need to be placed in the context of the ERA that he pitched, as Buehrle pitched in an American League hitter’s park during the steroid era.
So while his 3.81 ERA would be only better than Hall of Famer Jack Morris (3.90), his 117 ERA+ would be better than several inductees, such as Nolan Ryan (112).
It is weird to me that Mark Buehrle has a near-Hall of Fame WAR, whereas Paul Konerko’s WAR (28.1) would suggest he was only a league-average player. Both had similarly great careers and played an equal length of time. That said, if WAR helps one of them get into the hall of fame then I’m fine with that.
Buehrle’s 214 wins are also impressive at a time when the 200 win pitcher is becoming rarer. While Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, and Adam Wainwright could reach that mark next year, we might not see a 200 win pitcher again for a very long time, at least not until Gerrit Cole reaches the end of his career. I don’t think that every pitcher with 200 wins should be in the Hall of Fame but the majority of them definitely should be.
Currently, there are five 200-win pitchers on the ballot with Buehrle being one of them. Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens will come off after this year so Buehrle’s competition will be less stiff. That said, if the writers can’t elect pitchers as good as Clemens and Schilling into the hall of fame, that makes me pretty skeptical they would elect Mark Buehrle (who was much worse than both of them).
Of course, Clemens and Schilling aren’t being avoided due to a stigma against modern starting pitchers but rather voters invoking the “character clause” although with Schilling it’s probably a combination of both due to him having “only” 216 wins.
So if the voters can detract points due to character to keep Clemens and Schilling out of the Hall of Fame, then they should be adding character points for a guy like Mark Buehrle. Buehrle is known to be a pretty likable guy and of good character. Plus, his Hall of Fame speech would likely be effective in a short amount of time, just like the way he pitched.
The Case for Paul Konerko
Paul Konerko spent 16 seasons with the Chicago White Sox and slashed .279/.356/.486 for his career, hit 439 career home runs, and made 6 all-star teams which are all very impressive numbers.
Konerko’s slash line compares favorably to first baseman Gil Hodges, who hit .273/.359/.487 for his career and was just elected via the veteran’s committee. Konerko’s 439 Home Runs are more than Hodges, Tony Perez, and future Hall of Fame first baseman Todd Helton.
Konerko’s numbers weren’t good enough to get him elected on the writer’s ballot, as he fell off after getting only 2.5 percent. Personally, I think the 5% needed to stay on the ballot is probably too high as it used to only be 2%. Konerko’s only hope of getting in now is the veteran’s committee, which could elect him when you compare him to other inductees like Gil Hodges.
Konerko’s 439 home runs and 6 all-star appearances are a very good combination for a player not linked to steroids. If you look at all the players who accomplished those totals, they’re either still active or all in the Hall of Fame except for the steroid users. Even the great Fred McGriff, who was better than Konerko, only made 5 all-star teams.
If Konerko had done steroids, I think he could have easily surpassed 500 home runs so if voters are picking players that just barely got over 500 home runs despite steroid use, they probably should also vote for Paul Konerko. He was also good enough defensively to play first base on a regular basis, unlike the Boston Red Sox long-time DH.
However, the best case for Konerko can be summed up by the Hall of Fame’s Website:
"“Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”"
That pretty much sums up Paul Konerko. His record? Check. Playing ability? Check. Integrity, sportsmanship, and character? Check. Contributions to the teams on which he played? Check. Konerko was the best player on the White Sox for several years, including when they won the World Series. It eems like he contributed a lot to his team.
Based on the guidelines the Hall of Fame gives for voting, Konerko should be in. The Hall doesn’t say anything about WAR, JAWS, or even baseline statistics like 500 home runs. Based on the guidelines officially given, he belongs.
The Case against A.J. Pierzynski
Long-time White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski is on the ballot as well. While he was very good, he’s less deserving than Buehrle and Konerko and won’t get anywhere close to 5% on the ballot. He’s only received one vote so far.
That said, he’s already in the Chicago Sports Hall of Fame and the National Polish Sports Hall of Fame. Those are probably the only ones that he needs to be in. He was a great catcher for the White Sox but I don’t believe any good White Sox player should just make it. Offensively, he was as good as Yadier Molina, but the defensive metrics are the reason why Molina will likely make it and Pierzynski will not.