Paul Konerko falls off Hall of Fame ballot

Matthew Rago, Editor-in-Chief

Like former Chicago baseball stars Ron Santo and Harold Baines before him, oft-overlooked former White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko collected only 2.5% of Hall of Fame votes this year, disqualifying him from future eligibility.

Also like Santo and Baines, Konerko will rely on the Veterans Committee – which eventually immortalized both Santos and Baines–for Hall of Fame induction. Konerko’s snub once again raises questions regarding possible anti-Chicago bias on the part of the Hall of Fame voters.

In order to remain on the ballot, eligible players must receive a minimum of 5% of votes cast by active and honorary members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA). Konerko, a six-time All-Star who spent his entire career with the Chicago White Sox, fell 2.5% shy of that threshold, despite leading the 2005 Chicago White Sox to their first World Series in 89 years.

Konerko’s exclusion is especially peculiar when comparing his career statistics against others who have earned induction into Cooperstown. Over the course of his 16-year career, Konerko collected 37 more hits than recent inductee Jeff Bagwell. Konerko’s 439 home runs ranks 44th in MLB history, a full 60 home runs more than Hall of Fame slugger Orlando Cepeda. Konerko outhit Giants’ Hall of Famer Willie McCovey, batting nine points higher for his career and collecting 140 more hits despite playing in five fewer seasons.

In other words, lesser and comparable players have been enshrined in Cooperstown while Konerko only received one opportunity from voters eager to overlook him. At the very least, Konerko earned honest consideration. Instead, he was relegated to the garbage bin of failed election bids.

For comparison’s sake, former Chicago Cubs right fielder Sammy Sosa, who tested positive for a banned substance in 2003, received 13.9% of votes, a slight uptick from the 8.5% he received last year.

Despite being allotted ten votes each, members of the BBWAA are notoriously fickle with their selections, sometimes opting against using all of their votes.

The BBWAA subscribes to a list of unofficial rules that tend to frustrate a relatively straightforward process. For example, Yankees legend Derek Jeter received 99.7% of eligible votes, meaning one writer opted against voting for a surefire Hall of Famer for the sake of depriving Jeter of unanimity. Jeter’s former teammate, closer Mariano Rivera, is the only player ever to be inducted unanimously as a first ballot Hall of Famer.

Nevertheless, Chicagoans will forever remember Konerko as a humble champion who elevated the White Sox franchise out of mediocrity. Sox fans will also celebrate Konerko as a quiet talent who proved his merit time and time again with consistent, clutch hitting.

Konerko hit 30 or more home runs seven times in his career. He surpassed the 90 RBI threshold nine times. Despite profiling as a power hitter, Konerko’s batting average routinely hovered around .300, hitting .290 or better seven times. The former White Sox first baseman also earned two top-six American League MVP finishes.

During the White Sox 2005 World Series run, Konerko was the heart and soul of a potent White Sox lineup, picking up ALCS MVP honors on the way to his first and only World Series championship. He’s embedded in White Sox heritage, sitting second behind only Frank Thomas in both RBIs and home runs. Since his retirement in 2014, the White Sox have immortalized Konerko, retiring his jersey number and erecting a statue in his honor.

By nearly every quantifiable metric, Konerko deserves induction into the Hall of Fame. Regardless of the voters’ perception of him, Konerko will forever be remembered as a Chicago White Sox legend.