Making a Case for the HOF: Konerko, Beltre, Pierre (yep, that Pierre), Sabathia and Dunn

I know it’s strange to think about – but the reality is that some of your favorite players are going to be in the Hall of Fame. No, not Albert Pujols or Chipper Jones. Those are no-brainers.

What about the guys you don’t think about as being consistently great throughout their careers, who still might have half a decade or more left in them?

Did you know CC Sabathia, health pending, could reach 300 wins? Or that Adrian Beltre and Juan Pierre both have a shot at cracking 3,000 hits?

Those numbers typically lock a player into Cooperstown. But in a day and age when even Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa will find it difficult to cross that threshold, the following players’ cases become very debatable, regardless of the numbers:

The case for Paul Konerko:

Paulie has become one of the most beloved players in Chicago based on his big, consistent offensive numbers over 14 seasons with the White Sox. At age 36, you have to imagine Father Time is catching up with him and his production will eventually diminish. As it stands now, Konerko is a career .283 hitter with 417 homers.

Konerko doesn’t have any individual awards (yet) to add to his resume, but he does have the 2005 World Series ring, and a legitimate chance at 500 home runs. In a full season, he’s good for at least 25 dingers. If Konerko maintains that average through the next three seasons, you’re talking about a guy who is going to be just single digits away from 500.

Much like Jim Thome, Konerko could play into his 40’s as  DH and accumulate 500 and beyond by the time he hangs up the cleats. Do 500 home runs, a pretty good average, and a glaring lack of individual accolades put Konerko in the Hall of Fame?

Verdict: Yes. If Konerko gets to 500 home runs, he should be in. On honor alone (Konerko was never linked to PED’s), Konerko is more worthy than home run hitters such as Mark McGwire. Not to mention his all-around game was better.

The case for Adrian Beltre:

It’s all about health for Beltre. It still blows my mind that this guy has almost 2,100 career hits. So many years of anonymity in Los Angeles and disappointment in Seattle made Beltre forgotten until his 2010 resurgence with Boston. And Beltre has been in the bigs since he was 19, so despite being just 33 years old today, he’s in his 15th season.

If Beltre’s (who has been fairly lucky health-wise over his career) body doesn’t start breaking down with age, he has a very legitimate shot to reach not just the 3,000 hit milestone; but 500 home runs as well. Reaching either number makes you a very strong candidate – both means you’re definitely in.

Assuming Beltre will play at least six more seasons (he would be 39 then), whether it be at the hot corner or as a 1B/DH, seasonal averages would have to be fairly mild to reach both milestones. It would require about 150 hits and 25 home runs per season from now on. I think that is very attainable.

Verdict: He’s in. I don’t think he’ll quite get to 500 home runs. But the 3,000 hit club will welcome Beltre around age 40 in his final season. That, plus solid power numbers, a good average and multiple Gold Glove awards will get him in.

The case for Juan Pierre:

I know, I know. I sincerely hope you weren’t drinking something that may have the ability to destroy your laptop, because chances are you just dropped said drink all over the keyboard. Now pick your jaw off the floor at my suggestion and examine the facts.

Despite being immensely underrated, kicked to the curb by multiple fan bases and underutilized by multiple managers, Pierre has quietly made a borderline Hall of Fame case for himself. In 13 seasons with six different teams, Pierre is hitting  .296. He will be a hot two-week stretch away from 2,200 career hits at the end of 2012, and he’s only 34.

Not to mention that Pierre has stolen 588 bases and has a .989 fielding percentage, those hits speak for themselves. He has been mostly healthy his whole career, and could legitimately have 2,500 hits by age 36. At that point he knows it takes five full seasons at the most to reach the coveted 3,000.

Verdict: He doesn’t quite make the cut, and the dream title of “most anonymous Hall of Famer” dies with it. I think Pierre will stop getting small contracts from teams in need of a stolen base threatas he ages, and that will keep him around 2,800 hits.

The case for C.C. Sabathia:

The discussion starts and ends with “health” for the big boy, Sabathia. Arm troubles this season, at age 32, are very worrisome for the next great hope of a 300-game winner. He has 192 wins thus far in a career that has seen him ridden by various managers like a horse in the Kentucky Derby.

All that piggy backing has to catch up to Sabathia at some point, which is a damn shame. He’s one of my favorite pitches to watch and hails from the same region as I do, so I have a soft spot for C.C. But even with 250 or more wins, at least one Cy Young and at least one World Series ring, I don’t think his resume will cut it.

The halls of Cooperstown are decorated with the greatest hurlers to ever play the game. Even if Sabathia manages to stay healthy enough to be a regular starter until age 40, it would take an average of 13-14 wins to reach the milestone of 300 that guarantees you the Hall of Fame. I just don’t see it happening, especially as he gets older.

Verdict: I think I made it pretty clear – so close, yet so far for C.C. However, if Sabathia stays healthy for the majority of the next six or so seasons, he could rack up over 250 wins and over 3,000 strikeouts, which gives him an outside shot.

The case for Adam Dunn:

This one disgusts me. That being said, Dunn has put up gargantuan power numbers for most of his Major League career, and home runs are King in baseball, so we must discuss. As a 32-year-old, Dunn has already racked up 402 home runs. He is a DH most days, first baseman occasionally. Either way, that means no wear and tear on his body.

That also means he could pull a Jim Thome and play until his great grand children are in the minors. If Dunn is going to average 30 or more home runs for the next decade, as he very well could, then people won’t care how paltry the batting average or how many times he swings and misses.

There it is – the reason this case disgusts me. We are basing it solely on the amount of times a tight end (what? Might as well be – 6’6″ and 285 lbs) can swing really hard and hit a ball really far. Dunn will likely approach 600 career home runs. He will likely hit about .220 for his career. He will definitely strike out over 3,000 times. That’s all.

Verdict: Sigh…he’ll be in. Unless Dunn suffers a career-ending injury, there will be a plaque dedicated to the gigantic man who slugged mammoth homers sometimes, struck out most of the time.

Comment below – who else should we make a Hall of Fame case for? Did we swing and miss on any of these guys? And don’t forget to VOTE in the poll:

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- Jeremy Dorn @Jamblinman

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