Mark Buehrle, the White Sox’ Mr. Dependable, belongs in the Hall of Fame

You could count on him for 200 quality innings every season.

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Pitcher Mark Buehrle, a steady and dependable player for the White Sox, deserves a spot in Cooperstown.

Pitcher Mark Buehrle, a steady and dependable player for the White Sox, deserves a spot in Cooperstown.

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I have a bias when it comes to Mark Buehrle. The former White Sox pitcher could get a sportswriter through a game in 2 hours, 30 minutes, which, by today’s standards, is pretty much the speed of sound. You’d make deadline with no worries, and you’d be home or at a bar at a decent hour. I had a theory that if a Sox beat writer had a child in the spring, you could walk back the pregnancy to one of Buehrle’s starts the previous summer.

That’s not a reason to vote for him for the Baseball Hall of Fame, but it does fit in with the major theme of his career. You could set your watch by this guy and his skill.

I’m voting for Buehrle because of his incredible dependability. Is dependability a good enough reason to put someone into the Hall of Fame? I started with “no’’ for an answer and ended up with “yes’’ when it came to Buehrle.

He had 14 consecutive seasons of 200 innings or more. In the season in which that string was broken, he pitched 198⅔ innings — and led the American League in complete games with four. Then he called it a career.

I’m sure I’ll be accused of having hometown leanings when it comes to Buehrle and the Hall, especially by those of you who see his 3.81 ERA. And, indeed, that career ERA is merely fine, though it needs to be mentioned he had to face AL designated hitters season after season. Still, there is greatness in his regularity and constancy.

This is especially important to remember and honor now, when starting pitching is being reduced and minimized, almost to the point of being unrecognizable.

I’m guessing there are plenty of Cubs and Red Sox fans who believe that Jon Lester is a sure-thing future Hall of Famer. His career ERA is 3.60. He has had eight seasons of 200 innings or more, six fewer than Buehrle. His best seasons were much better than Buehrle’s, but year in and year out, Lester played for better teams than Buehrle did.

Buehrle, a five-time All-Star, was a great fielding pitcher (four Gold Gloves). He had a no-hitter and a perfect game, an amazing accomplishment given that he didn’t have a blazing fastball. Oh, and he helped the Sox win the 2005 World Series.

He needed two hours, three minutes for his perfect game against Tampa Bay in 2009. Not enough to get him in the Hall on its own, but bless him anyway.

Here are the other players who will make my ballot:

Curt Schilling — I’m not a fan of his politics or the lack of basic decency when it comes to his fellow man, but that’s not what’s up for discussion here. His pitching is, and it was excellent. In the postseason, his winning percentage was .846, third-highest in history. As I pointed out last year while making a Hall case for him, he led the AL in strikeout-to-walk ratio in five of his last seven seasons. That’s excellent, especially in a 20-year career.

This is a good place to insert my continued opposition to Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens ever seeing the inside of the Hall of Fame as members. I’m very concerned they’re going to get in, thanks to voters who don’t think it’s a big deal that both were drug cheats. It takes 75% of ballots cast to get into Cooperstown. Clemens received 61.0% last year, Bonds 60.7. Sammy Sosa received only 13.9% last year. I guess his steroids had a bad exchange rate. Each of the three former players has one more year of eligibility after this.

Billy Wagner Wagner’s problem as a Hall candidate is that he pitched in only 903 innings, well below the workload of the closers who have gotten in. But he accomplished a lot with relatively little. Opponents had a wimpy .187 batting average against him, and his 2.31 ERA is among the lowest in history.

Todd Helton —For years, Larry Walker had the thin, hitter-friendly air of Coors Field against him in his quest for the Hall. He finally got in last year. Helton, Walker’s former teammate, is going to have the same uphill battle. He has a .316 career batting average, with much of his production coming at home. But it’s not his fault that he’s a victim of geography. His road slash line (.287/.386/.469) stacks up well against Derek Jeter’s (.306/.370/.431). And, as we have been told so many times, Jeter was a god.

Gary Sheffield —Sheffield could hit the crap out of the ball, a description that won’t win me any poetry awards but one that happens to best express why opponents feared him. And his numbers are Hall good enough: a .292 average, 509 home runs and an on base-plus-slugging percentage of .907. He finished in the top five in Most Valuable Player voting three times.

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