Wednesday, May 09, 2012

All-Time Teams #6: Chicago White Sox

This is part of an ongoing series where I'm naming an all-time team for each of the current 30 MLB franchises, and using this as a vehicle to discuss their greatest eligible player who is not in the Hall of Fame.

There are 12 Hall of Famers on this White Sox team, which becomes the new standard for American League franchises. But, of course, the south-siders can't compare to their crosstown rivals in this department.

Franchise History
Chicago White Sox (1901- )

An asterisk (*) denotes a Hall of Famer.

C - Carlton Fisk* (1981-1993)
1B - Frank Thomas* (1990-2005)
2B - Eddie Collins* (1915-1926)
SS - Luke Appling* (1930-1943, 1945-1950)
3B - Robin Ventura (1989-1998)
LF - Minnie Miñoso (1951-1957, 1960-1961, 1964, 1976, 1980)
CF - Fielder Jones (1901-1908)
RF - Harold Baines* (1980-1989, 1996-1997, 2000-2001)

Ed Walsh* (1904-1916)
Ted Lyons* (1923-1942, 1946)
Red Faber* (1914-1933)
Eddie Cicotte (1912-1920)
Wilbur Wood (1967-1978)

Hoyt Wilhelm* (1963-1968)

C - Ray Schalk* (1912-1928)
1B - Paul Konerko (1999- )
2B - Nellie Fox* (1950-1963)
SS - Luis Aparicio* (1956-1962, 1968-1970)
IF - George Davis* (1902, 1904-1909)
OF - Joe Jackson (1915-1920)
OF - Magglio Ordonez (1997-2004)

Keith Foulke (1997-2002)
Billy Pierce (1949-1961)
Mark Buehrle (2000-2011)
Roberto Hernandez (1991-1997)

Al Lopez* (1957-1965, 1968-1969)

I meant to point out in the Cubs post that John Clarkson was the first player to appear on two different teams. Now we can add Carlton Fisk and Hoyt Wilhelm to that list. In fact, Fisk is the first player named as a starter for two teams. This might have more to do with the fact I'm less-than-impressed with Ray Schalk's Hall of Fame career, but I'm sure Pudge won't be the last. This is another thing I'll be keeping track of as this series continues.

Greatest Eligible non-Hall of Famer

Since we're talking about Hall of Fame eligibles here, that rules Joe Jackson and Eddie Cicotte out. Frank Thomas, of course, is not yet eligible, but will be a shoe-in unless voters start throwing the "S" word around in reference to him.

Suspicion, that is.

There are a few people out there who think Harold Baines has a case, and I'd say that Billy Pierce, Robin Ventura and Wilbur Wood are all under-rated. But, Minnie Miñoso is clearly the most worthy of this distinction, in my book.

I do have a personal Minnie Miñoso story to tell. It's nothing special, but worth a mention.

Circa 1995, I was on a work trip to South Bend, Indiana. One evening, I was in a retail store of some kind when an employee's voice came over the loudspeaker announcing a giveaway contest. They were awarding a prize to the customer who could produce evidence he or she had come the furthest to shop in their store.

South Bend is in western Indiana, bordering Michigan to the north and not far from Illinois to the west, so another customer was understandably convinced being from Ohio would prove good enough to win. That is, until I unearthed my New York driver's license with Albany address. (I suppose the fact I was from New York was enough, as I could've been from Jamestown and still won by a landslide.)

The prize was two tickets to a South Bend Silver Hawks game the following night. At the time, South Bend was the Class A Midwest League affiliate of the White Sox.

I don't recall if I successfully recruited a co-worker to accompany me to the game. In fact, my hazy memory is of going to the game solo, which is something I've done countless times without reservation.

I also don't remember much about Coveleski Stadium, the home of the Silver Hawks, which is named after Hall of Famer and 55-year South Bend resident Stan Coveleski.

What I do remember is that Minnie Miñoso was there signing autographs, for free. I've never been much of a memorabilia collector, but every once in a while I decide to seize an opportunity. This, of course, was one of those occasions.

I quickly popped into the nearest souvenir store and purchased a cheap Silver Hawks ball which, with Mr. Miñoso's gracious assistance, became this souvenir:

Faded Minnie Minoso autograph on Silver Hawks souvenir ball

Of course, none of this, in any way, has anything to do with Miñoso's Hall of Fame case, which is pretty much moot at this point. His name appeared on last year's Veterans Committee Golden Era ballot, but he received just nine of 16 possible votes, leaving him three short of election. He was also passed over by the 2006 special election of the Negro Leagues Committee, which inducted 17 former players, pioneers and executives of black baseball.

Miñoso's Hall of Fame case is borderline. At first glance, he appears to fall short, but when his late start in the minors due to segregation is factored in, I believe an argument can be made in his favor.

Minnie was signed by the Indians in 1948, but he was already 22, unproven at the highest level, and his road to the majors blocked by several veterans. So, he toiled in the minors for 2+ seasons before being traded to the White Sox in early 1951.

In Chicago, he became an instant star, homering in his first at bat and finishing the year with a .326/.422/.500 triple slash line, a 151 OPS+ and leading the league in triples (16), stolen bases (31) and HBP (16), while scoring 112 runs. He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting and fourth in MVP voting that season.

Miñoso averaged 5 WAR per year from 1951 to 1959, 4.1 per year through 1962, his age 36 season. His 1963 season was a -1.7 WAR disaster, signalling the end of his career. I've said before I think 4 WAR per year over 15 years is a Hall of Fame career. Miñoso's productiveness falls three seasons short of that, but what do we make of his late start?

I normally don't cut a guy any slack for a late arrival to the major leagues, but the fact of the matter is Miñoso was already 21 years old when Jackie Robinson made his major league debut. Obviously, the majors didn't become fully integrated overnight, and we can't fault Miñoso for not being the guy Branch Rickey handpicked to be the first.

So, it stands to reason that, given the opportunities white ballplayers had, Minnie would have been drafted younger and potentially would have fully broken into the majors 2-3 years earlier than he did.

Would this have been enough to make his Hall of Fame case that much clearer? I'm not so sure. He did flame out a little young, to be honest, and didn't quite have the peak necessary to make up for that. Regardless, Miñoso had a great career that is, at the very least, borderline Hall of Fame worthy, and that's a pretty impressive accomplishment as far as I'm concerned.

Next Up: Cincinnati Reds


  1. Personally, I'd vote for Minoso for The Hall. His 130 OPS+ is the same as Clemente, Winfield and Yaz. Late start, but nice career.
    I like this series,

    1. Thanks Bill. Regardless of my position on the fence with regard to Minoso, I was definitely rooting for him to get elected along with Santo.

  2. Thanks for mentioning Billy Pierce, whose Hall case is worth a long look.

    I'm curious as to whether you picked Fielder Jones over Shoeless Joe because you needed a center fielder or because Jackson didn't do enough in his short career. This is a weak enough defense with DHs playing first and right, so I understand throwing a right fielder in center could cost some runs.

    1. I guess I'm just insistent on starting players only at positions where they started for at least a few years. Jackson certainly seems like a guy capable of shifting to center, but I didn't think an exception was warranted here. Fielder Jones is a pretty weak starter, I realize. I'm going to have to bend my rules, as you'll see, pretty soon.