Ozzie Guillen told reporters Sunday Paul Konerko needs to be in the Hall of Fame. But the King's numbers don't measure up to put him in the conversation for Cooperstown.
Konerko has had a great career with the White Sox—that's not in question. He's belted 381 home runs and should hit No. 400 sometime in the dying embers of 2011. He won the ALCS MVP the year the White Sox won the World Series. His grand slam off Chad Qualls in 2005 stands as one of the most memorable home runs in franchise history. When his contract expires in 2013, he'll have played 15 seasons with the White Sox. That's a great career, worthy of having No. 14 retired and even having a statue placed somewhere around U.S. Cellular Field.
But it won't be worthy of an induction into the Hall of Fame.
At 35, Konerko could have three or four more good offensive years in him. But remember, this is the same Konerko who hit 28 home runs with an .842 OPS in 2009. Despite his recent offensive renaissance, he's still on the precipice of decline in his mid-30's. He needs to hit 119 more home runs to reach the magic number of 500; that seems an unlikely benchmark for Konerko to attain.
Bill James' Hall of Fame monitor gives Konerko a score of 56, with 100 being the score at which a player begins to have a good chance of induction. Obviously, Konerko still has some time to improve that score, but ahead of Konerko on the list are names such as Adam Dunn (59), Ray Durham (64) and Kenny Lofton (91).
The monitor is designed as a predictor of who would make the Hall of Fame, not who deserves to make it. Or, in other words, Juan Pierre ranks as a 55, one point below Konerko.
But Konerko won't even enter Tim Raines Hall-of-Should-Be-In-Fame territory. Konerko has 24.1 WAR (by Baseball-Reference) in his career, putting him in the same range as such luminaries like Mike Bordick, Manny Sanguillen, Kent Tekulve, Corey Koskie and the awesomely-named High Pockets Kelly and General Crowder.
Fangraphs' WAR agrees with this assessment, putting Konerko's 26.7 WAR in the same range as Delino DeShields, Chris Hoiles, Jay Buhner and Mark Grudzielanek.
Konerko would need to accrue about 25 more WAR over the rest of his career to reach a range in which you start seeing some deserving Hall of Famers. If he plays five more seasons, he'd essentially have to repeat his performance of 2010 in each of them. That would mean Konerko would have to hit 36 home runs at age 40. Don't expect it.
The "clean" reputation Konerko has going for him helps a little, yeah. But Fred McGriff was generally regarded as "clean" and hit 493 home runs. Fred McGriff probably won't make the Hall of Fame (which is a shame, because he was a major league superstar). So why should Konerko, if he ends up hitting 30 or 40 fewer home runs than McGriff in his career?
This is hardly an attempt to disparage the career of Konerko. He's one of the better hitters ever to play in Chicago, and he'll be honored on the South Side as long as baseball and the White Sox are still a thing.
But the argument for Konerko's Hall of Fame chances is a word Hawk Harrelson has used so often on the 374 homers he's hit in Chicago: "STRETCH!"