Virtually every player on the 35-man Hall of Fame ballot has some tie, tenuous or otherwise, to the Chicago White Sox. Some of the highlights:
After the 1996 season, Roger Clemens had decided — after his home state Houston Astros and Texas Rangers took a pass — that he wanted to settle in Chicago with his family, and pitch for the White Sox. He was looking for something in the neighborhood of $8 million per year, but Ron Schueler and his scouting staff infamously opted instead to reward Jaime Navarro with a four-year deal, $20 million deal. Over the next four seasons, Clemens generated 27.5 bWAR ... Navarro, -5.0 bWAR. No, that’s not just 5.0 bWAR over four seasons, it’s negative 5.0 bWAR. Navarro would never have a positive-WAR season again in his career, while Clemens would churn out another 58.0 bWAR after 1996.
Freddy Garcia was both a famed member of the White Sox’s 2005 World Series staff, and a pitcher who commanded both Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez in trade after the 2006 season. When he returned to Chicago via free agency in 2009-10, he had enough gas in the tank for 3.4 bWAR over 38 starts.
Jon Garland spent his first eight seasons with the White Sox, generating almost all of his career bWAR with the club (18.5 of 22.5). His peak of 4.6 bWAR came in that historic 2005 season. That he was snatched from the Chicago Cubs, still a bespectacled teen (18 years old), is even better. (Seriously, can you imagine, today, trading away your first-round choice (No. 10 overall) just a year after the draft, at all ... let alone, for Matt Karchner?)
After the terrible setbacks of 2008 with the Los Angeles Dodgers and 2009 with Texas (combining for -1.3 bWAR), Andruw Jones signed with the White Sox for the 2010 season and got his mojo workin’ again. Coming off of a $22 million contract, Jones signed for part-time play and part-time money ($500,000). He put up a 1.9 bWAR in just 328 plate appearances, hit his 400th career homer in Sox Park, and earned himself one more contract, with the New York Yankees, in 2011-12.
Roy Oswalt got the stuffing kicked out of him by the White Sox in the fifth inning of Game 3 of the 2005 World Series. The inning started off with a Joe Crede solo shot, and in a very Clemensian move, Oswalt hit Crede to load the bases back up with two outs, as the White Sox batted around. That one-inning shellacking marred Oswalt’s only World Series appearance.
Andy Pettitte started Game 2 of the 2005 World Series but petered out after six innings, leaving with a 4-2 lead. Unfortunately, that meant Dan Wheeler came in to relieve Pettitte, and Wheeler eventually loaded the bases on a phantom Jermaine Dye HBP with two outs, whereupon Chad Qualls yielded the tastiest grand slam in World Series history (or, at least, Chicago World Series history) to Paul Konerko.
Well-maligned during his time in Chicago, Juan Pierre was a righteous cat, all things told. He had a cumulative -0.6 bWAR in 2010-11 with the White Sox, with most all of the negative value coming from his dreadful fielding in left. If the White Sox had been able consistently to inject Pierre as, counterintuitively, a DH, both team and player would have ended up in the black.
The one beef I recall having with Ken Williams during my beat time was over signing Manny Ramirez. To bring Manny in to a team famously anti-PED seemed wholeheartedly counter to Chisox culture. And KW did not like being questioned along such lines. Anyway, Ramirez was ineffectual (0.2 bWAR) over 28 late-2010 games with the White Sox.
Let’s talk Mariano Rivera, as he’s getting boosted as a possible unanimous selection. Oh, please — and not just because there are some doofus voters out there. But Rivera, you recall, broke into the majors as a starter. His second career win — and correct me if I’m wrong, but longest career outing — was July 4 at Sox Park, an eight-inning, two-hit, 11-K effort. The future saves leader struck out Dave Martinez three times, and The Deacon, Warren Newson, all four times he faced him. (Given I just looked up the box, what’s the deal with Martinez and Newson switching corner outfield spots twice in the game, Martinez RF-LF-RF, Newson LF-RF-LF?)
Sammy Sosa, do we really need to get into it? I suppose a great thought exercise would be to imagine the White Sox never traded Sosa. How would we rationalize his bending of the rules, from PEDs to corked bats, or his excessive Sammy-hamminess? Let’s just say, Sosa on the White Sox oozed with potential. Talk about a Panther — he might well have been Luis Robert before Robert was even born. I can still crisply recall Sosa’s two-homer Opening Day vs. the Baltimore Orioles — both homers were upper tank, no?
Omar Vizquel managed to have a modest impact on the White Sox late in his career — sartorially, if in no other way — and is now an up-and-coming manager in the Chicago system. Vizquel played all four infield positions plus DH with the White Sox, including his first career appearance at first base. Ultimately, Vizquel had no statistical impact on the club in 2010 and 2011 (-0.2 bWAR), but his clubhouse leadership then can be measured now, as he is being trusted with the young careers of such White Sox blue-chippers as Robert and Blake Rutherford.
And finally, Kevin Youkilis, heh, he sure made a brief, big impact on the 2012 White Sox, when they were a first-place team shocking the hell outta the league (and, no doubt, Robin Ventura himself). In three months (after a midseason trade) and 80 games, Youkilis piled up 1.4 bWAR in a sort of career last gasp.
Who’d I miss? Did Lance Berkman have a secret free-agent flirtation with the White Sox? Did Jeff Kent get into a postgame fight with Tony Phillips? How many times did Williams almost trade for Vernon Wells?
Additionally, feel free to share a personal memory of any of this year’s HOF contenders, White Sox-related or not.