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Chicago White Sox: Is Paul Konerko a Hall of Famer?

If His Career Ended Today, Would the World Series Champion Get a Bust in Cooperstown?

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | When Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko decides to retire, it will mark the end of an era on the South Side.

The question then becomes whether or not Konerko did enough during his career to warrant election into the Hall of Fame?

The answer is unfortunate. He did not.

That determination was not arrived at without much consideration. If we look at the arguments for -- and against -- Konerko's election into the HOF, it is quite clear that he does not have a substantial enough body of work to be immortalized with the best players in baseball history.

The case for inclusion -- Konerko's body of work is impressive

There was a time when I was certain that Konerko deserved a bust in Cooperstown. His numbers are that good. After all, Konerko is among the White Sox's career leaders in several offensive categories. He is second in home runs (427), runs batted in (1,361), and total bases (3,944). He is also third in doubles (398) and hits (2,249), fourth in runs scored (1,126), fifth in oWAR (34.8), and ninth in slugging (.495).

As important as the raw numbers are to his legacy, however, the way he played the game is as impressive. Like future Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, Konerko has never been linked to performance-enhancing drugs. That says quite a bit about his character, especially in an era when so many of the high-profile names eligible for the Hall -- Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa, for instance -- have been linked to PED usage.

Of course, for every Bonds, there is a Derek Jeter or a Cal Ripken Jr. to balance the ledger, but the larger point remains. Konerko put up fantastic numbers for the majority of what has been to this point a 17-year career without anyone suggesting he did it the wrong way.

We must also consider how PEDs have forever changed the manner in which the Baseball Writers' Association of America votes. MLB.com's Hal Brody wrote after the BBWAA failed to elect anyone this past year that the message they were sending was that "no player, regardless of credentials, if linked to performance-enhancing drugs belongs in Cooperstown." He's right. Konerko's character, therefore, takes on even greater significance.

The case against inclusion: There are better first basemen not in the Hall of Fame

There are at least three first basemen with better career numbers and JAWS rating (developed by SI.com's Jay Jaffe, JAWS is the average of a player's career WAR and their seven-year WAR peak) than the White Sox captain who are not enshrined in the Hall of Fame:

  • Jeff Bagwell - .297/.408/.540, 449 HRs, 1,529 RBIs, 2,314 H, 1,517 R, 79.5 WAR, 63.8 JAWS
  • Fred McGriff - .284/.377/.509, 493 HRs, 1,550 RBIs, 2,490 H, 1,349 R, 52.6 WAR, 44.3 JAWS
  • Carlos Delgado - .280/.383/.546, 473 HRs, 1,512 RBIs, 2,038 H, 1,241 R, 44.3 WAR, 39.4 JAWS

Bagwell could be elected rather soon. After garnering 41.7 percent of the vote in 2011, and 56.0 percent in 2012, Bags received 59.6 percent this year. His numbers may go down a bit next year since Thomas, Tom Glavine, and Greg Maddux will be eligible for the first time, but the former Houston Astros first baseman in definitely trending in the right direction.

The same cannot be said for McGriff. He received only 20.7 percent during the last voting cycle after getting 23.9 in 2012. Even with almost 500 home runs, McGriff's window to be elected by the BBWAA is closing quickly. Delgado, on the other hand, will not be eligible until 2015, so his status is unknown, but Bagwell has better numbers and has yet to be elected. Essentially, Delgado has a tough road ahead of him. The point here is that it has to be assumed that each of the above mentioned players would need to be voted in prior to Konerko.

So what about Paulie?

Tim Baffoe, who blogs for CBSLocal.com and WSCR-AM 670, summed up what Konerko's legacy will be quite appropriately. He wrote that the White Sox legend will "probably get his number retired," assume "a non-playing job in the organization," and possibly "be the team's manager someday." Above all else, Baffoe continued, it will be known that "he 'went out and did it right' and was pretty good at doing so."

Got that right, Tim.

While it may never be official, Konerko is a Hall of Famer in my book.

In addition to contributing to Yahoo, Matthew Smith is the Chicago White Sox Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow his misadventures on Twitter @MatthewSmithBR and on Google +.

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