This will be the long overdue second entry on my "Top Ten" series. Today I will be listing my ten favorite White Sox players of all time. I actually put quite a bit of thought into this list, and feel comfortable with who I have chosen.#10 - Minnie Miñoso -
One of the most underrated players in the history of baseball, it is an absolute joke that Minnie Miñoso is not in the HOF. In fact, most people don't even say his name right. Notice the tilde over the "ñ" in Miñoso? It is pronounced "mean-YO-so", not "minn-OH-so" as most people say it. You'd think a career OPS+ of 130 would get people to say your name right! Minnie was an excellent all-around player. He could hit, field, and run.
Minnie has always been a class act, and I will always remember the times I have met him in person very fondly. When I saw him at Soxfest in 2008, Minnie responded to my claims that he belongs in the HOF with a long diatribe of his own, completely agreeing with me. Well, you're in the (theoretical) ChiSoxCollector.com Hall of Fame!
#9 - Gary Peters -
Another very underrated Sox player, Peters posted 4 ERA+'s of 132 or better in his time with the ChiSox. For those that don't know, ERA+ a statistic measuring ERA against league average, while adjusting for ballpark factors. A 100+ is average. An ERA+ of 132 means that Gary Peters was 32% better than an average pitcher in 4 of his seasons with the Sox. Since 1950, Gary has registered the 6th & 8th best White Sox single-season ERA+, and his career ERA+ of 116 (minimum 1000IP) is the eighth best Sox total since 1950!
To top off his pitching credentials, Gary is an amazing guy. I finally got to meet him at a card show in Chicago in 2007. The first thing he said when he arrived at the signing table was something along the lines of "If you're a Cubs fan, get out!". Gary, I couldn't have said it better myself.
#8 - Mark Buehrle -
Thus far, Buehrle has a career ERA+ of 122, good enough for second on the White Sox career list since 1950. Combined with his perfect game, no hitter, and stellar postseason play in 2005, Mark has as good a claim as any as the best modern (1950+) pitcher in Sox history!
I've only (briefly) met Mark once, at Picnic in the Park in 2008. However, based on his antics on the field and in the dugout, I have no reservations stating that he is just a swell guy. Sliding on tarps during rain delays, openly talking about his in-progress no-hitters, and doing everything he can to catch all of the ceremonial first pitches just so he can meet the celebrity, Mark seems like a regular guy with an extraordinary talent.
#7 - Jason Bere -
Jason was a ChiSox legend in the making when overuse and injuries derailed his career. Began career with ERA+s of 121/124 in 1993/94, then never again reached 100 in a full season. He threw 110 or more pitches in 22 of his first 46 Major League games. There is a strong likelihood that this heavy workload is responsible for his subsequent dropoff and injuries.
Jason was always a willing signer. During his first few seasons with the Sox, he always parked outside of Gate 1 of Angel Stadium, and signed for everybody that was waiting there for autographs.
#6 - Tim Raines
- Sox fans only got to see Raines at a very good player, not the fantastic player that he was at his peak with Montreal. Tim was likely the second best player in the NL during the 1980s, surpassed only by Mike Schmidt. His 133 OPS+ was the fifth highest of the decade, but once you factor in defensive and baserunning value, he almost certainly surpasses the 3 directly ahead of him (Jack Clark, Daryl Strawberry, Pedro Guerrero). However, Schmidt's 153 OPS+ is probably too much to overcome. Raines is quite possibly the best eligible position player not in the HOF, and he is an infinitely better candidate than the recently elected Jim Rice.
Raines has always been a great signer. Even now, as manager of the Newark Bears, he makes sure to sign one per person for everybody that wants an autograph. One of the few game-used items I have been given directly from the player is a wristband (with his #30 on it) Raines gave me after a game against the Angels.
#5 - Steve Sax -
Sax was my favorite player growing up. I was heavily influenced by my mother in this regard, who loved the Dodgers and referred to him as "Sexy Saxy". Rest assured, his sex appeal has nothing to do with my childhood affinity for him as a player.
When I first began getting into Sabermetrics in the early 2000s, one of the biggest disappointments was finding out that Sax wasn't nearly as good as I thought he had been. He perceived value was represented by two things: batting average and stolen bases. It turns out his batting average was empty (no power or walks) and his decent stolen base totals were countered by his mediocre success rate (71%, roughly break even). Combined with his mediocre defense, Sax was at best an average player throughout his career.
Sax is also probably the least fan-friendly of those on this list. By no means is he a bad guy, but in my personal meetings with him he doesn't seem to enjoy fan interaction very much. Once, in 1993, I was badgering Sax for an autograph during batting practice prior to a game against the Angels. Admittedly, I was a bit over the top in my pleas for an autograph. He got visibly annoyed, but the action he took to shut me up made my day (more like my year). He picked up a bat off of the ground, and literally threw it at me from about 10 feet away. He'd probably say that he threw it to
me, but as I was holding a binder in one hand and a sharpie in the other, the likelihood of me catching it couldn't have been high. Luckily, good hands were always my best athletic tool (both in baseball and football) and I caught the bat in my sharpie hand. It turned out to be a Robin Ventura gamer, which to this day is probably the most prized item in my collection. Thanks Steve!
#4 - John Danks -
John has only been with the Sox for three years, but he has made quite an impression on me in that short time frame. After a mediocre rookie season, John has put up a combined 130 ERA+ over the last 2 seasons. Not only that, but he cemented his status as a ChiSox legend when he pitched 8 shutout innings in the "Blackout" tiebreaker against the Twins in 2008, then followed that up by getting the only Sox win in the Division Series against the Rays.
John is also as fan-friendly as can be. I've met him a couple of times now, and he literally signs everything people ask him to sign. Hand him 10 cards, and he'll sign 10 cards (situation permitting) while making an effort not to smear any of them. He is personable and friendly as well. Let's hope the Sox get Danks locked up in a long-term contract ASAP!
#3 - Billy Pierce
- Billy Pierce belongs in the Hall of Fame. This isn't a question. Of all HOF-eligible pitchers since 1950 with 3000+ IP, Billy's ERA+ of 122 is the highest. His 199 ERA+ in 1955 is the third highest single season total since 1950 amongst non-HOFers. Combined with his excellent postseason performance (1.89 ERA across two World Series) he is a no-brainer.
If being a fan-friendly gentleman is counted towards HOF candidacy, then Pierce goes from just belonging to being downright inner-circle. He is as classy as they come. He signs everything put in front of him in person, and signs every piece of mail. A class act all the way!#2 - Robin Ventura -
Rockin' Robin is the best defensive third baseman I have ever seen.
He was also a very good hitter with a 114 career OPS+. He has a much stronger HOF case than people are giving him credit for. Most writers aren't even mentioning him as a possibility. There are LOTS of players worse than Ventura in the HOF, though admittedly that alone isn't a good reason for election. Robin was a better hitter than Brooks Robinson, while probably slightly inferior as a fielder. From a quality perspective, they are roughly equal. The only thing that separates Brooks from Robin is career longevity.
Ventura has always been relatively fan-friendly. Particularly later in his career, he seemed to truly embrace the fans. During spring training while with the Dodgers, he would sign every autograph, pose for every picture, and even hold lengthy conversations with fans after practice had ended.
#1 - Frank Thomas -
The Big Hurt. Probably the biggest reason I'm a Sox fan to begin with. The best right handed hitter I have ever seen. Frank has seven of the top eight OPS+ seasons in the long history of the White Sox (Dick Allen's 199 in 1972 is #2 on the list). Frank's 211 OPS+ in 1994 is the highest in AL history by anybody not named Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, or Mickey Mantle. His 182 OPS+ over his first 8 seasons is the second highest in the history of baseball, behind only Ted Williams. Only 7 hitters have had more 175 OPS+ seasons. Truly an inner circle HOFer, even if he isn't seen that way.
Frank is also a good guy. He may put his foot in his mouth with the media from time to time, but when it comes to relating to fans, he does it right. From the day he came to the big leagues he has been a very good IP signer, which is unusual for a genuine superstar. I will never forget Frank Thomas signing autographs before a Sunday afternoon game against the Angels. It was sweltering hot, and Frank had sweat just dripping off of him. He didn't let that stop him from signing autographs for 15 minutes during batting practice. I've only seen one other superstar sign for that long during BP, and that was Cal Ripken. That afternoon has been memorialized forever on a baseball card. Behold, Frank's 1996 Score card (click image for a larger version):
Do you see the fan in the top left corner, wearing a green hat and holding a Sharpie cap in his hand? Yeah, that's me! And the Sharpie in Frank's hand is mine, which is why I'm holding a cap. If I ever forget what a good guy The Big Hurt is, I just have to look at this card for an instant reminder.
*Honorable mention for the following players that I'm also a big fan of: Wilson Alvarez, Joe Crede, Lance Johnson, Jim Landis, Jim Rivera, Bob Shaw