Over the course of his reign as White Sox Manager, Ozzie Guillen has made headlines by saying outrageous things to the media. This week may have been no different, as Guillen told the media Paul Konerko was a future Hall of Fame candidate. Since joining the White Sox in 1999, Konerko has been a force in the middle of the lineup on the South Side. Even though Konerko has churned out some strong seasons over that period, it seems laughable (if not insane) that he would one day be considered for the Hall of Fame. With that said, do Guillen’s comments actually hold weight or is this another example of Ozzie making headlines with his mouth?
Before we take a look a Guillen’s comments, let’s take a look at how Konerko stacks up with his colleagues over his career. Since 1999, the first year Konerko received significant playing time, Konerko rates eleventh among first basemen in WAR, a number that seems somewhat surprising since Konerko is rarely mentioned with some of the players ranked ahead of him, but it hardly screams Hall of Famer. Over his career, Konerko has been worth only 26.7 WAR. Again, a far cry from Hall of Fame level. Just a quick glance at his stats reveals a good, but not exceptional, player. If that’s the case, why is Ozzie so convinced Konerko will make it into the Hall?
One of Guillen’s main arguments is that players aren’t going to reach the round numbers that Hall of Fame voters seem to require for induction. According to Guillen, “you’re not going to see the 3,000 hits, the 500 home runs and 300 wins.” Guillen is only 33% right here. Because the philosophy of pitching has changed so much over the past 50 years, we probably won’t see many 300 game winners (5 man rotations, pitch counts, etc.). Hitting, however, has remained unchanged over that period- meaning we should see similar milestones reached by the game’s most talented players. The notion that there’s less talent today seems like something a former player might say to imply that things were better in the old days. It’s a lazy argument.
Guillen’s second point is that Konerko has accumulated his stats without the use of steroids or PEDs. That’s great and all, but the stats Konerko has accumulated in his career just aren’t close to Hall-worthy. Konerko, already 35, has managed to club only 381 home runs over his career. An impressive total, but nowhere near the 500 benchmark created by the voters. In order for Konerko to reach 500 home runs (or even come close), he would need 3-4 more spectacular seasons. Even though Konerko is currently posting some of the best numbers of his career, it’s insane to think he will be anywhere near this good next season- let alone in 3-4 years.
What we have here appears to be the case of a manager sticking up for one of his players. Konerko has been an above average option at the most demanding offensive position for over a decade, and that’s certainly something that should be recognized. Few players are able to achieve that level of success for so long. Unless he produces like Barry Bonds over the next 3-4 seasons, Konerko has absolutely no shot at the Hall of Fame. His loyalty to the White Sox and demeanor might win him a vote or two (hell, someone thought John Kruk was worthy of the Hall), but that’s about it. While Guillen was likely just trying to be supportive of one of his best players, these comments just reinforce the belief that Guillen will say anything for attention.