If Konerko were to retire tomorrow, it’s doubtful the 37-year-old would have the resume to earn a Hall induction. His 425 home runs rank him 45th all-time, but leave him behind a slew of other players at his position who are or will be Hall-eligible – most notably Jim Thome (612), Mark McGwire (583), Frank Thomas (521) and Fred McGriff (493). His 2,212 career hits leave him well out of the top 100, and while his .282 batting average is impressive in today’s hit-starved MLB landscape, it doesn’t even rank him in the top 500 in major-league history.
Also hurting his cause is a peak period that doesn’t exactly suggest super-stardom. Konerko hit .291 with 106 home runs from 2004-06, earning three All-Star nods and a sixth-place MVP vote in 2005. It’s an impressive stretch, but not nearly long or sensational enough to warrant Hall of Fame consideration.
His time as a designated hitter might also hurt his Hall candidacy. Konerko has played more than 350 games as a DH, and voters have traditionally kept offensive expectations high for players whose only job is to hit the ball. Konerko has excelled in the role, but not to the extent that others have – Thome in particular.
Konerko’s only hope may be in the counting stats department. If he can continue his career into his early-40s, he should end up north of 500 career home runs – a plateau only 25 players have reached – and 2,500 hits. While those numbers aren’t leaps and bounds above his current totals, even a modest bump may be enough to warrant consideration when combined with his longevity (2,177 games and counting) and consistently solid defense.
First base is one of the most heavily scrutinized positions in the eyes of Hall voters. No major-league first baseman has been inducted since Eddie Murray in 2003, and only four (Rod Carew, Orlando Cepeda, Tony Perez, Murray) have made it to Cooperstown in the last 25 years. Paul Konerko has had a strong, productive major-league career – but unless he can stay in the game for several more years and rack up hits, home runs and RBIs at a solid pace, he won’t be remembered as a Hall of Famer.