LAS VEGAS — The reactions to Harold Baines’ election to the Hall of Fame were not all as euphoric as the ones from Jerry Reinsdorf and the White Sox.
But for those scratching their heads as to how Baines reached baseball’s ultimate fraternity, Paul Konerko has some insight.
Another White Sox legend with a statue at Guaranteed Rate Field, Konerko spent plenty of time around Baines during his playing career, though just a couple years as teammates. But Baines’ work as a White Sox coach made him a constant presence around Konerko’s teams in the 2000s and 2010s.
Baines might be catching online flak for being a designated hitter or owning statistical achievements based on longevity rather than dominance. But Konerko wants those critics to realize that nothing Baines did was easy. He just made it look that way.
“I think with Harold it's just a combination of a lot of things,” Konerko said on a conference call Monday morning. “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 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 just think there are some guys that when you add it all up together, 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.
“I personally think anybody who plays over 20 years should be in the Hall of Fame. It's just that much of a grind. If you get 20 years of service time or beyond, I feel like they should have a special wing for you anyways.
“I DH’d 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 because I think it would probably be elevated. … But 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 DH’ing is essentially like pinch hitting four times a night. And 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, how special you have to be to be good at that position.”
Members of the White Sox family are obviously biased in this argument, but they’ve got numbers to back up their happiness. Numbers and that unquantifiable aspect of the greats that makes them great.
“He was just so clutch,” Konerko said. “You're going to get a lot of great comments about Harold, but the No. 1 thing is you're going to hear over and over: He's the guy you wanted up with the game on the line. And that's what most middle of the order guys want to be. He was just great at it. It was always about driving runs in because that's what we had to do.”
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