Paulie for Hall?
REACHING 500 HOMERS LIKELY A PREREQUISITE FOR KONERKO TRIP TO HALL
It seems like Paul Konerko has been a potential Hall of Fame candidate for a while now. It also seems like most people assume the argument will eventually fade away and Konerko will be remembered as just another really good player.
Baseball is full of really good players who never were or ever will be inducted into Cooperstown. There are also plenty who made it in, and Konerko deserves to be among them.
Conventional wisdom has it that if he can reach 500 home runs (he's currently at 409), he'll be in. But conventional wisdom is a dangerous thing. Will voters look at somewhat traditional stats like home runs; the fact that Konerko has excelled during the so-called steroids era while never coming under suspicion; or that he has been more than loyal with 14 years on the same team, is a team captain, which is a dying breed, and has been one of the best players in the game in his mid-30s.
Or will they look at things like Konerko's WAR (26.0), as vague a stat as the fact that it puts him in the company of current players Grady Sizemore, Brian Roberts, Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki, and all-time with Rip Sewell, Cesar Tovar, Don Wilson and Kerry Wood, none of whom is in or headed to the Hall of Fame?
According to Bill James' Hall of Fame monitor, which tries to assess how likely (not how deserving) a player is to make the Hall (a score of 100 means it's a good possibility), Konerko is currently at 83. In Hall of Fame standards, which measure a player's overall career (a score of 50 is thought to be necessary to make it), Konerko is at 34.
The last two paragraphs obviously don't bode well for him. He also has never led the American League in any offensive category, naysayers will argue. But he has finished sixth in on-base percentage the last two seasons; fourth in slugging percentage in '04; sixth in total bases in '10; sixth in RBIs in '04, '10 and '11; and second in homers in '04 and '10 and fifth in '05 and '07. Konerko was also the MVP in the '05 ALCS.
According to Baseball Reference, the most comparable players to Konerko overall are Fred McGriff, Derrek Lee, Carlos Lee, Orlando Cepeda, David Ortiz and Reggie Jackson, two of whom (Cepeda and Jackson) are Hall of Famers.
Unfortunately, though Konerko has seven seasons of 30-plus home runs, it will most likely be the magic number of 500 that will be the benchmark he will probably have to hit to even be considered. But that doesn't mean he's not deserving.
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.
NUMBERS WON'T ADD UP FOR A KONERKO HALL BID
First off, understand I'm not saying that Paulie K. shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. I'm just saying he won't.
Baseball is and always will be a sport driven (too much) by numbers, but when it comes to inducting players into their sacred Hall of Fame, it often takes more than strong stats to get certain players in. Because most of the time that extra thing the writers who hold these players' careers in their hands are looking for, outside of the statistics, is reverence. And with that they always ask: How much impact did this player have on the sport? The numbers and that question will be, to me, what will keep Konerko from enshrinement.
He has never won an MVP. In the five seasons when he did receive votes, he never came in higher than fifth. He has never won a home run title or a battling title (although he is currently leading the AL this season), never finished higher than sixth in RBIs in any season, never higher than fourth in slugging percentage, never higher than sixth in on-base percentage and never won a Gold Glove.
And in 16 seasons he's appeared in only five All-Star Games. Those are just the peripheral stats. Less impressive is the fact that outside of Chicago, Konerko is not a player people talk or think about as one of the game's greats.
Even in seasons like this where he is ripping the cover off the ball and carrying a contending team, he doesn't resonate with fans and baseball writers as the guy. And in order to get into baseball's Hall of Fame, at some point in your career for more than one season, you have to be recognized around the game as the guy. Paulie's never been that. Not once. Not even when the White Sox won the World Series in 2005. The pitching staff and Ozzie Guillen eclipsed him.
He's never been that Josh Hamilton (who probably will get into the Hall of Fame even if he never reaches Konerko's numbers) or say, Ryan Braun. And in baseball, when your stats are borderline for Hall of Fame induction, you need that other piece to take you over the top.
Unfortunately, as much as it hurts me to say, from an honest, national, outside-looking-in perspective, Paulie just doesn't have it.
Scoop Jackson is a columnist for ESPN.com.