Paul Konerko makes first Hall of Fame ballot, but second will be tough
One year after the Today’s Game Era Committee sneaked Harold Baines into the Cooperstown through a fire exit, his induction has altered the way Hall of Fame candidacies are discussed.
Baines had none of the markings of a typical Hall of Famer. He fell short of milestones and didn’t make up for it with defensive value. The Baseball Writers Association of America kept him on the ballot for a few years, but his support topped out at 6.1 percent. He accomplished enough to merit consideration, but it was also hard to call him one of the 20 most deserving players not in the Hall. None of this felt like any particular disrespect, and even Baines assumed he’d settled into the Hall of Very Good.
Yet there he is in the Hall of Fame, plaque and everything. It took a favorable composition of the committee to get him through, with Jerry Reinsdorf and Tony La Russa fighting for his honor, but his induction nevertheless opens the range of possibilities for present and future candidates.
Over at FanGraphs, Jay Jaffe’s Modern Baseball Era Committee candidate reviews have to cede that the favorable pool that courted Baines into the Hall might somehow exist for others down the line.
Aside from the precedent set by Harold Baines‘ election last year — a small committee can throw us a wild card now and then — there’s little reason to believe his fate will be different this time.
While I hope this year’s panel of voters isn’t going to hold Baines up as the yardstick by which other candidates are measured — all nine of those on this ballot have a higher JAWS, for one thing — I’ll concede that while I would not use one of my four ballot spaces on Murphy, I could more easily swallow the election of a two-time MVP who for a few years had a claim as one of the game’s best and most respected players.
These caveats explain the disappointment in Baines’ induction, for those who felt it. It just complicates the way people discuss such cases, and it’ll take a few cycles of various Veterans Committee ballots to determine whether Baines is an exception or the start of a trend.
Lou Whitaker could make it two reversals of fortune in a row. He didn’t even get to a second ballot during his eligibility with the writers, even though he was a highly accomplished second baseman on par with Alan Trammell, his Detroit double-play partner for forever. Trammell endured through 10 bruising years on the ballot, with his support topping out at 40.9 percent in his final year in 2016. He was inducted into the Hall via the Veterans Committee two years later.
Whitaker should’ve ran with him step-for-step, as his career fit neatly among the standard for Hall of Fame second basemen, both statistically and with the eye test (five All-Star Games, four Silver Sluggers, a World Series ring). He didn’t even clear 5 percent his first time through despite all those accomplishments. That said, the inductions of Trammell and Baines clear a potential path for Whitaker, because he shouldn’t need the committee to break in his favor so severely. It won’t be the easiest of courses, but he’ll have received what he deserves.
I mention all this because Paul Konerko is on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time this year, among a bunch of other first-timers who occupy a similar tier.
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Konerko is a titan in White Sox history, amassing 439 homers, 2,340 hits and 1,412 RBIs over his 18-year career. He made the All-Star Game six times and picked up MVP votes in five different seasons. Most vital to the local cause, he was the leader of the only White Sox World Series team anybody alive can remember, picking up the ALCS MVP and playing well in all three series. The White Sox retired his No. 14 and erected a statue of him in his honor.
And yet he likely won’t make a second ballot. In fact, according to Wins Above Replacement and Jaffe’s JAWS metric, Konerko might not get 5 percent if voters had to pick 10 first-time candidates, because Konerko ranks outside the top 10 in both.
|Brad Penny (bam-ba-lam)||19.0||20.2|
I don’t think WAR alone is a productive way to discuss Konerko, because his notorious lack of foot speed gave even his best work a drop ceiling. It’s strange to see him in the same neighborhood as Pena (a career .232 hitter), and Figgins (who had three good seasons). Pena and Figgins were superior players when everything was clicking thanks to speed and/or defense, but those moments were fleeting. Konerko, who was built to chug along in every sense, had the superior career without question.
That’s only half the battle. Even once you establish that he’s in a separate class from the partial career types, Konerko’s case will probably have Konerko’s acceleration issues.
Phil Rogers — fresh off accusing James Fegan of being a homer with his MVP vote — likened Konerko to Edgar Martinez, and so did Scot Gregor. There’s so much separating Martinez from Konerko that it’s not yet worth discussing. Edgar is a sort of final boss for defensively challenged bats, and before you can get to him, you have to show how Konerko is meaningfully different from Carlos Delgado, whose 473 homers, 138 OPS+ and 44.4 WAR eclipse Konerko’s totals (439, 118, 27.7).
Delgado didn’t make it to a second year, falling off the ballot after receiving just 3.8 percent of the vote. There was no sense of a grave injustice.
Konerko’s candidacy will likely meet a similar end, especially when considering the still-crowded ballot. Even if you pay no heed to those connected to steroid use, you still have a field that includes Curt Schilling, Larry Walker, Jeff Kent, Scott Rolen, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Omar Vizquel, Jeter and Abreu among guys with deeper cases. That leaves one spot, but the writers who won’t consider steroid cases are typically the ones who don’t come close to voting for 10.
It’s hard to see better than one-and-done for Konerko, which is no insult given the talent he’s competing with. In fact, I’ll go further and argue that a swift rejection by the BBWAA might be optimal for whatever chance Konerko actually has at Cooperstown. It’s a lot easier to contend that a player who lasted only one ballot didn’t have his case properly considered. Whitaker is seen as slipping through the cracks due to outdated norms (the self-fulfilling prophecy of a “first-ballot HOFer”), while future compelling VC candidates like Kenny Lofton and Jim Edmonds saw their credible resumés overwhelmed by an unprecedented logjam of greats. Delgado should get more airtime this way as well.
Konerko can’t count on more luck via committee, but Baines shows that it’s possible, especially if Reinsdorf is still able to wrangle a room 11 years from now. More likely is that Konerko will have to settle for local legend status on the South Side, which isn’t a bad consolation prize. I could argue for better, but I’m going to save whatever homer capital I have for Mark Buehrle in 2021.
While I am not advocating for Paulie in the Hall, there is room for debate about the heroes of under-represented teams. I could see being a ‘leader’ on the mid-teen Royals pushing Lorenzo Cain over the finish line, eventually, or Tim Salmon’s 2002 Angels World Series being a factor in his VC conversation.
It’s time for Jerry to be finally useful and fix the Veteran’s committee again. Sox secretly run the league ya know.
“sneaked in through a fire exit” is a generous metaphor. More like a Dufresne-esque crawl through a river of shit to enter through the sewer system.
That would imply effort on his part. There wasn’t any.
Paulie’s place is in our hearts, not the hall.
However, I will die on the hill that Mark Buehrle should be a Hall of Famer. I’m already gearing up for that battle next year.
As much as I love Buehrle, I think he’s a Hall Of Very Gooder for life.
Well if we look at it that way, it’s the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Excellent baseball players. :thinking emoji:
Might as well start the hashtag now, #BuehrleforHOF
I didn’t realize how good Bobby Abreu was. Playing on some awful Phillies teams in the 90s will do that I guess.
It’s interesting people see Buehrle as more of a hall of famer than Konerko. I don’t think either one is worthy but I think Konerko was more deserving of having his number retired than Buehrle.
Excuse me sir but it is Brad Penny Bam-BA-Lam. Get this “Bam-a-Lam” nonsense out of here posthaste!
I thought I linked to it before publishing, but it must not have saved.
Buehrle belongs in the Hall of Fame. There’s been plenty of guys going in with less career WAR with him, and Buehrle is exactly the kind of unique player that the Hall is supposed to give extra weight to.
Agreed. Plus, people forget he had an OPS+ of 201 in 2009.
Statistically, he’s definitely a bubble case. The strongest thing going for him is the streak of 200+ IP seasons, the gold gloves, all star appearances, and his general consistency. Only garnered CY votes once (!).
But the narrative? 38th round pick. Fastball that sat in the 80s. No hitter. Perfect game. Complete game in the playoffs. Saved a World Series game after a couple of beers.
Plus it seems like writers and people around baseball generally love him, which helps a lot.
I love Buehrle. I was at his perfect game – have the ticket framed right next to me as I type this. He had a great attitude, threw boatloads of quality innings, and had plenty of huge, memorable moments.
That said, if I remove my personal love of the guy from the equation, I really have a hard time saying he’s a HoFer. Career FIP of 4.11, xFIP 4.21, career K/9 of 5(!!!), and really never had that stretch of “This guy is one of the top X in the league,” for any real stretch. Depending on which WAR you prefer, he never rattled off a string of dominant years that you saw from other guys of his era, like Felix Hernandez, Cliff Lee, Scherzer, Verlander, etc. (And not all of those guys are HoFers either) Even in his best year, he was never The Guy – the one you sent out there in game 1 of the playoff series hoping if it came down to elimination he’d be the one the other team would have to beat.
What he was, was consitently very good for a pretty long time. He kind of strikes me as a not-quite-as-good Andy Pettite, who I think does deserve to be in the Hall, but only just. Pettite’s where I draw my line, and Buehrle’s doesn’t quite make it.
FIP strikes me as irrelevant when evaluating a career, because you can’t regress after retirement. (Well, maybe YOU can, but he can’t.)
My argument for Buehrle is that you could easily fill a plaque with his accomplishments.
Buehrle was usually able to beat his FIP because he was good at controlling the running game, fielding his position, and managing opponent contact.
Similarly, K/9 (similar to Jim’s case about FIP) is only an important stat to the extent that it’s a predictor of future success. I actually think Buehrle’s K/9 is an argument FOR him — he was able to succeed in such a unique way that he’s more worthy of celebrating than someone with middling K/9 numbers and otherwise comparable accomplishments.
Yeah, FIP still has relevance post-career because it’s still trying to isolate what a pitcher’s contribution was to the outcome. It’s just particularly imperfect for Buehrle because he had those demonstrably valuable skills that FIP arbitrarily doesn’t capture.
K/9 is just a bad stat full stop because of the denominator. If you’re not going to go with K%, just go with raw full season or career K totals.
Buehrle could have dicked around a few more years and cleared 250 wins, but preferred to retire and hang out with his family. Pettitte hung on for those extra years and also juiced, so he got to 250. Buehrle was a unicorn, if you’re going to put a guy who wasn’t the classic super dominant starter into the Hall, it ought to be a guy like him. No one else was succeeding like him when he did, in an era of largely massive offense no less.
I don’t think Hall voters will see it that way, but I can absolutely see the case.
Never mind that Pettitte never had to play for a losing team, or even close to it. Even in his most mediocre seasons the Yankees offense always gave him a .500 record or better. In his career they only failed to reach 90 wins three times, and never had fewer than 85 wins in a full season. Put Buehrle on those teams and he clears 250 wins almost assuredly.
Pettitte strikes me as a decent comparison. There is a case to be made (of course) that Pettitte was the better pitcher, but I think Buehrle has the better HOF case. Over their careers, Pettitte put up 60.6 WAR to Buehrle’s 60.1 while Pettitte played two more seasons. Their 162 game averages looks like this:
-Buehrle: 221 IP, 3.81 ERA, 1.28 WHIP
-Pettitte: 214 IP, 3.85 ERA, 1.35 WHIP
Buehrle HOF case, though, is really dependent on the accolades. Perfect game (0 for Pettitte), No-Hitter (0 for Pettitte), and four gold gloves (0 for Pettitte). Buehrle also has more All-Star games (5 to 3). Those are the kinds of things which make you famous, after all.
It’s true that he was never elite (a la Lee, Scherzer, or Verlander), but he was elite at being consistently good. In 15 seasons, he was over a 4.00 ERA only four times (Pettitte, for the curious, went over that nine times) and over a 5.00 ERA *zero* times all while pitching at least 198.2 IP for 15 straight seasons. I don’t currently have the motivation to look up who else would be on that list while being contemporaries with Buehrle, but I’m guessing that list is extremely small.
Buehrle is the perfect example for why the focus on peak is bullshit. I get looking at peak as an inclusive argument, but when you use it as exclusive it’s ridiculous.
Buehrle was remarkable because of how consistently great he was for a crazy-long period of time. I don’t see why that’s any less impressive than being elite for a shorter time frame.
Pettitte is one of the greatest post season pitchers of all time and was in it every year. The only reason he isn’t in is the performance enhancing drugs.
2001 MB had 6.0 bWAR, good for 5th in MLB, no CY votes. 2007, he had 6.1 bWAR, good for 9th in MLB, no CY votes. He also had 2 seasons over 5 WAR and another 4 seasons over 4 WAR.
konerko is so horribly overrated by sox fans. in his very best seasons, he was nowhere near a top tier 1B. even if you were to charitably ignore defense and baserunning, and look at only his best seasons offensively, the numbers are merely good. his best five seasons with the bat, ranked by 1Bs that qualified, he was 4th, 5th, 7th, 7th, and 10th offensively. yawn.
but thanks for 2005. will always appreciate that.
But it’s 2005 that causes Sox fans to overrate him. Do you think if the Sox don’t win the WS that year, his number is retired? I don’t. I think he’d still be loved, but not in the same “overrated” way.
Can’t call him overrated, then “but” thank him for the one thing that makes him overrated. You can “and” thank him. Just need a different conjunction.
Actually, your first post gets the ‘oh’. 4th, 5th, 7th and 7th best offensive first baseman isn’t nothing.
For a franchise who didn’t have so many stars from 2000 through today, Konerko and Buehrle are the players you have to consider. Nobody’s saying Konerko’s hall-worthy.
It makes me think of a great talk-radio rejoinder – “Who’s overrating him??” He has 27 fucking WAR. He was solid in a post-season run that resulted in a World Series. Nobody’s ‘rating’ him beyond that. Please explain.
It’s nothing when you’re talking about a Hall of Fame case, I guess.
So is “top tier” limited to 2 or 3 players then? Because i would imagine that 4th or 5th out of 30+ qualified players would make most people’s “top tier”.
yes, the internet is for semantics. good reminder.
i guess it depends if you want a ton of people in the HOF or not. if your best offensive seaon you were 4th place in wRC+ out of 24 1Bs (and we ignore defense and baserunning) and you think that’s HOF-worthy, then fuck it- give him a plaque. i choose not to ignore defense and baserunning and because of that, he’s nowhere near my “top tier” in any of those seasons. that’s because he was 9/21, 9/26, 7/24, 9/24, and 11/25 in fWAR among qualified 1Bs in his best offensive seasons.
to me, paul konerko is an average 1B with a few good seasons, a long career and a memorable postseason. the white sox have such a shitty history that guys like this get statues. sucks for us.
I’m not sure what you’re arguing against, here. I don’t see anyone claiming Paulie should be in the HoF. He’s merely one of the best 1B the Sox have ever had, and played a huge role in their one WS win that anyone alive can remember, and we celebrate him as such. Beloved doesn’t necessarily mean overrated.
“guys like this get statues.”
You seem to be suggesting that the best way to determine who gets statues (or gets their number retired or whatever) is to sort by wRC+ or fWAR and give them only to players above x threshold. That is just so far removed from the reality of what most fans (rightly!) enjoy or care about its ridiculous.
Paulie was a helluva hitter, was fun to watch, a fan-favorite, a key part of the World Series, took *less money* to play for the Sox his whole career, and gave Sox fans one of the top 3 to 5 moments in White Sox history. The few times I get to the South Side (I’m an out-of-towner), I greatly enjoy seeing the statue and you can be sure I don’t scoff and think “that clown’s best season is 4th in wRC+ among qualified first-basemen.”
We’re talking about the franchise that’s won one World Series since the players started wearing numbers yet has somehow retired more numbers than any team but the Yankees.
I think all 10 of the nominees on the veterans committee’s ballots this year deserve strong consideration. Whitaker, Tommy John and all the rest were great players, or in the case of Marvin Miller, had a big impact on the game.
I’ve never understood how a guy like Whitaker (with a career 75.1 WAR) has been basically shunned by voters, while a guy like Kirby Puckett (51.1) cruises into the Hall of Fame. Look, I agree that Puckett should be in, but why are some guys glorified so much while others who also have strong credentials are forced to struggle to get in?
Also, regarding the Baines pick: No one from New York complains about Phil Rizzuto being in the Hall of Fame. Rizzuto once hit .195 in a season in which he played 127 games. Yes, .195, when he was an established veteran. George Steinbrenner pushed hard for Rizzuto to get in. Now, I don’t have a problem with Rizzuto getting in. But I do have a problem with these New York writers blasting Baines for getting in with the help of Jerry Reinsdorf, who was just one of 12 people on a committee.
Baines, unlike Ron Santo, never politicked for a spot in the Hall of Fame, and he was never one to pad his own stats. I recall many times Baines coming up in key situations where just a sacrifice fly or RBI grounder would be needed, and Baines providing that, instead of swinging from the heels and not doing the job. The others on the committee know how good Baines was, and he has nothing to apologize for. Baines is far from the worst Hall of Famer ever. Fred Lindstrom, Rube Marquard, Ross Youngs and High Pockets Kelly (four more questionable New York picks) were far worse. So were Lloyd Waner and several others.
I don’t expect Konerko to be voted in by the writers, but if he ends up making it through a veterans committee, it would not be the worst thing ever regarding the Hall of Fame.
Love Paulie. Got the most out of limited ability and fun to have on the Sox, but not really close.
Bobby Abreu was pretty good.
Giambi should get the Bonds/Clemens treatment – what a scumbag.
Phil Rogers is a complete moron.
Beckett should be in for the 2003 LCS performance vs. Cubs.
The data in this article speaks volumes to the utter ridiculousness of the war measurement. Does anyone who was a fan in the 1990’s and early 2000’s believe that Cliff Lee, Rafael Furcal,Eric Chavez, Brian Roberts, or Alfonso Soriano had a better career than PK. Want another example: Jose Abreu led the AL in RBI and had a 2.4 war
Furcal and Lee are too apples-to-oranges for any comparison to be satisfying, but I’d say Chavez had a better career than Konerko, relative to the position (third basemen often take a beating and decline earlier).
Yeah, they were all better players. Chavez, Furcal, Lee, and Roberts all had their careers limited by injury to 1 degree or another. Konerko doesn’t really have that excuse to the same extent beyond being pushed out from behind the plate.
Soriano shows the value of being able to run the bases and play just enough defense not to get relegated to 1B.
It’s wild to me, looking at his career, that Chavez played as long as he did. Dude appeared in 17 seasons, which is pretty remarkable given the proclivity for injuries.
soriano was better.
If I had a ballot, I’d vote for Paul Konerko in 2020, just for being a decent human being, secure in the knowledge that he won’t actually get elected. I’d also vote against Derek Jeter, simply to deny him a unanimous election, as my protest against the gold gloves he didn’t deserve.
I’d write in “Phil Rogers with a boot up his ass” every time, just so he could call me a homer, and explain if he, without the boot, was kosher.
I was happy to have Konerko on the team till the first time he was extended.
Since then he’s been an anchor in the water. Holding us back. Slowing us down. And sooo fucking depressing, with his Eeyore routine.
If only you would have told him you loved him back.
Slightly better than Chone Figgins, that’s Paulie.