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Konerko: 'Baines' name has HOF ring to it'

MLB.com @scottmerkin

LAS VEGAS -- Even before Harold Baines was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by receiving 12 of 16 votes from the Today's Game Era Committee on Sunday, Paul Konerko held strong opinions on the excellence shown by his White Sox teammate, coach and friend.

"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," said Konerko, the accomplished one-time White Sox captain during a Monday morning conference call. "So the fact he wasn't in there...

LAS VEGAS -- Even before Harold Baines was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by receiving 12 of 16 votes from the Today's Game Era Committee on Sunday, Paul Konerko held strong opinions on the excellence shown by his White Sox teammate, coach and friend.

"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," said Konerko, the accomplished one-time White Sox captain during a Monday morning conference call. "So the fact he wasn't in there...

"It's nice to see him get in and it's nice to see somebody that is just a good person and a good guy that just played the game. I'm glad there are these other vehicles to get into the Hall of Fame because he's just one of those guys, does the guy's name have a Hall of Fame ring to it? I feel like his name always did."

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Baines had three stints with the White Sox and crossed paths with Konerko during the 2000 American League Central championship season and the '01 campaign. The designated hitter/outfielder, who finished with 2,866 hits, 1,628 RBIs and an .820 OPS over 22 seasons, retired after '01. He was 42, only two years removed from driving in 103 runs with Baltimore and Cleveland in 1999.

That RBI total, especially in timely situations, was what set Baines apart, according to Konerko.

"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."

Video: Jerry Reinsdorf reacts to Baines' election into HOF

Konerko hopes Baines' induction continues to open the Hall of Fame doors for individuals who played a large part of their game as a designated hitter, adding people don't understand how tough and how mentally challenging it is and how special you must be to be good at that position. Baines compiled an .837 OPS and 981 RBIs in 5,806 at-bats as a DH.

There also was an interesting Hall of Fame idea presented by Konerko in relation to Baines' longevity.

"I personally think anybody who plays over 20 years should be in the Hall of Fame," Konerko said. "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."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Chicago White Sox