The Commish Online                                                                                
Cleaning Up the Inbox
September 3, 2004

While sorting through the e-mails I have received this baseball season, I stumbled upon one which I never answered.  It was posed just before spring training:
Hey Commish,

As a White Sox fan, I have been very interested to see how the Baseball HOF treats Pete Rose, because it could pave the way for Shoeless Joe. 

That got me thinking....what other former White Sox players deserve a look by the HOF and which of them do you think deserve to be in?

Minnie Minoso??? 7-time all-star
Billy Pierce???
Jack McDowell???  (93 Cy Young...but way too short of a career)
Harold Baines??? (I think I know where you stand on this one)

As far as current Frank still on track?  Don't even mention Sosa.

Looking forward to Pitchers and Catchers reporting.
The Pete Rose issue seems to be a dead one, at least for the time being.  The players mentioned above certainly deserve a look, and there really aren't any former White Sox players better than that not in the Hall of Fame.  Albert Belle will be a difficult decision when his time comes, but he is certainly not considered a Chicago guy, with only two years of service with the White Sox.  Belle can be examined when a Cleveland reader sends me an e-mail.

My criteria for Hall of Fame worthiness is either a dominant career against peers (Koufax) or a career of excellence with longevity (Ripken).  You can't just be very good for a handful of years.  In some cases, such as Roger Clemens, you can have the dominance and the longevity, making players like him a no brainer for election. 

Here are my views on the White Sox players:

Jack McDowell
Verdict: No
Reason: Black Jack was a dominant pitcher for about 3 years.  Other than that, he was merely very good.  Some of his numbers are impressive (led the league in complete games twice, 3-time All Star, Cy Young winner), but he simply didn't do the impressive stuff long enough.  127 career wins and a 3.85 ERA is something to be proud of, but not worthy of the Hall.

Billy Pierce
Verdict: Yes
Reason: I am probably not qualified to make this decision since I didn't see Pierce play, but I have to give him the slight nod based on his numbers.  Pierce is about as close to "on the fence" as you can get, putting up consistent stats from '49 to '62, always better than the league average.  The question is whether these consistent stats are excellent or just very good. 

Pierce would have been a Cy Young winner if they started the voting a few years earlier, and his 7 All Star appearances prove his dominance.  A pitcher who can log a lot of innings (6 times in the top 7 for the season) and mow down the competition (top 10 in Ks 9 times) while keeping runners off base (top 10 in WHIP 8 times) year in and year out is an excellent pitcher in my book, so Pierce gets my vote by the slimmest of margins.

Minnie Minoso
Verdict: Yes
Reason: Publicity stunts aside, Minoso had the same type of career as Pierce, but on the offensive side.  His stats are riddled with top 10 finishes in many categories throughout the 50's (BA, OBP, SLG, R, TB, etc.), and Minnie was a 3-time Gold Glove winner and a 7-time All Star.  Never afraid of getting hit by a pitch (led his league TEN times), the stats alone reveal that Minoso was willing to do what it took to win.  Like Pierce, his career was very good to excellent.  Not having seen Minoso play, I can't give a true answer to the measure of his excellence, but if Pierce goes, so does the Cuban Comet.

Harold Baines
Verdict: No
Reason: Even with the bias of Baines being my favorite player, the lack of a fielding position for much of his career leaves him just short.  The career numbers are impressive, but Baines is a case of being very good for a very long time, but never dominant over a long enough period and not excellent enough over a career.  The Gold Gloves, speed, and all around talent are what put Minoso over the top, and it's the lack of these things that keep Baines out of the Hall of Fame consideration.

Frank Thomas
Verdict:  Yes
Reason: This one is a no brainer.  While Thomas also is not a big fielder, he has played first base more often than not, and his offensive statistics more than make up for any fielding deficiencies.  Thomas is a 2-time MVP and has finished in the top 10 in voting 8 times.  He led the league in OBP 4 times and in OPS 4 times (including 9 top 10 finishes) which means he can get on base but crush the ball as well.  There were few hitters more intimidating than Thomas in his prime, and his prime lasted a long time.  With a few years to go, the Big Hurt should have no problem surpassing 1,500 RBI and 500 HR while keeping his career batting average well above .300.  Add in the fact that he walks more than he strikes out, and you've got one of the best hitters in the past 20 years; in other words, a true Hall of Famer.

Pierce and Minoso were tough calls, and I'm sure that the generation that grew up around those players might disagree with me.  Baines and McDowell were easy calls, and Thomas should have no problem getting his plaque in Cooperstown.  Thanks for the e-mails, and I'll try to answer them a little faster next time.