Chicago White Sox

Paul Konerko: Harold Baines' Hall of Fame election well deserved

Harold Baines waves during a news conference for the baseball Hall of Fame during the Major League Baseball winter meetings Monday in Las Vegas.
Harold Baines waves during a news conference for the baseball Hall of Fame during the Major League Baseball winter meetings Monday in Las Vegas.

Over his 22-year career, Harold Baines posted a .291/.379/.460 hitting line with runners in scoring position.

In the key situation, the left-hander had 92 home runs and 1,193 RBIs in 2,627 at-bats.

More than a few critics were howling after Baines was voted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday night by the 16-member Today’s Game Era Committee, which includes White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and former Sox manager Tony La Russa.

After all, Baines never received more than 6.1 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America when he was first on the Hall of Fame ballot. He was removed from consideration in 2011 after falling below the 5 percent threshold.

Baines never complained about being overwhelmingly snubbed by the BWAA, but he found new life with the Today’s Game Era Committee. Former Sox teammate Paul Konerko, for one, was thrilled with Sunday’s announcement.

“I think with Harold, it’s just a combination of a lot of things,” Konerko said Monday. “I think you’ve got to have the numbers up there. He’s got really good numbers and really solid statistics and all that. With him, it’s probably one of those things where there was the longevity of him just always being a constant threat and being dangerous and being kind of a guy that no one wanted to face for a long time, and just being very clutch and quiet and very unassuming, too.

“I think if you do it for that long and kind of are just the same person over and over, there are some guys that when you add it all up, it’s like is this guy a Hall of Fame guy? I think everybody’s always known he is.

“I’m glad there are these other vehicles to get into the Hall of Fame, because he’s just one of those guys. I’ve told people a lot of times, there are a lot of great hitters in the Hall of Fame, but Harold Baines is better than a lot of them.”

For his career, Baines had a .289 batting average with 2,866 hits, 384 home runs and 1,628 RBIs. He was a six-time All-Star.

He also consistently came through with runners in scoring position, and that’s the main reason Konerko believes Baines belongs in Cooperstown.

“He was just so clutch,” said Konerko, who spent 16 seasons (1999-2014) with the Sox. “You’re going to get a lot of great comments about Harold, but the No. 1 thing you’re going to hear over and over, he’s the guy you wanted up with the game on the line. He was just great at it.”

Playing more games as a designated hitter (1,643) than outfielder (1,061) cost Baines on the BWAA ballot. Konerko never thought that was fair.

“I DHed some, and it’s not easy, so I wish writers or whoever is in charge of the voting, I wish they had perspective on just how tough it is,” Konerko said. “I don’t think people understand how special you have to be to be a really good, solid DH for a long time. I think people understand how pinch-hitting is very tough, but DHing is essentially like pinch-hitting four times a night. If you do it for a long time, 10 years, 12 years, I just think people don’t understand how tough and how mentally challenging it is.”

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