By Sidney Brown (@sidkid80)
As “Mr. Professional,” Harold Baines, took his place among the greats in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame last week, the question came to me regarding who will be the next retired Chicago White Sox player to be elected to Cooperstown?
A number of names come to mind, primarily among them is former Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle. To measure up the franchise’s most recent workhorse ace as an all-time great got me to thinking where does he hold up among the best pitchers in Sox franchise history?
The South Siders have a fair share of legendary hurlers from previous decades — Ted Lyons, Billy Pierce, LaMarr Hoyt and Wilbur Wood to name a few — but for this list I zeroed in on a selected few who dominated in the time period where I am most knowledgeable as a Sox fan. It can be also noted how much better just about everyone on this list was as a White Sox compared to what they all did for other teams (Chris Sale’s World Series win in Boston notwithstanding).
Here’s my list of my top five White Sox pitchers I’ve seen.
5) Jason Bere
Selected in the 36th round of the 1990 draft, Bere started his career on fire, going 24-7 in his first two seasons.
With an all-star appearance under his belt in 1994, the sky seemed to be the limit for Bere but elbow and shoulder injuries would derail the remainder of Jason’s career, especially after leaving Chicago in 1998 (he did return to the city, playing for the Cubs from 2001-02).
Bere’s impact during his time with the Sox should not be ignored as he was part of, for a time, perhaps the best young rotation in baseball.
Years with Sox: 1993-1998
- Career: 71-65, 5.14 ERA
- Career with Sox: 39-32 record, 5.21 ERA, 2 CG, 360 BB, 459 K
- Best season: 1994 — 12-2, 3.81 ERA, 80 BB, 127 K (All-Star selection)
4) Alex Fernandez
As part of the young movement in the early 90s, Fernandez was positioned to be a rising star, starting off his career with four consecutive seasons with 10-plus wins and racking up tremendous numbers along the way.
After getting traded to Florida in 1997, Fernandez got a ring with the ’97 Marlins but his career never picked up again after suffering a torn rotator cuff injury during that year’s NLCS.
Years with Sox: 1990-1996
- Career: 107-87 record, 3.74 ERA
- Career with Sox: 79-63, 3.78 ERA, 27 CG, 9 SHO, 426 BB, 951 K
- Best season: 1993 — 18-9, 3.13 ERA, 3 CG, SHO, 67 BB, 169 K
- 0-2 in 1993 playoffs: 1.80 ERA, 6 BB, 10 K, 6 R
3) Jack McDowell
Straight from California, the early ’90s ace of the rotation came into form in 1991 and compiled stats ranking with among the best in baseball.
Three straight All Star appearances, back to back 20 win seasons and an American League Cy Young Award is quite a resume. The leader of this young rotation was part of the blueprint for the 1993 AL West Division title, but failed when it mattered most in the American League Championship Series against Toronto.
In spite of his playoff failure with the Sox, Black Jack dominated with pitches from out of this world and the endurance to go deep into ballgames.
Years with Sox: 1987-1994
- Career: 127-87 record, 3.85 ERA
- Career with Sox: 91-58, 3.50 ERA, 49 CG, 10 SHO, 419 BB, 918 K
- Best season: 1993 — 22-10, 3.37 ERA, 4 SHO, 10 CG, 69 BB, 158 K (AL Cy Young Award)
- 0-2 in 1993 playoffs — 10.00 ERA, 10 ER, 5 BB, 5 K
2) Chris Sale
With the departure of Mark Buehrle in 2011, the next Sox pitching star to rise to the occasion was Chris Sale.
After a short stint in the bullpen to start his career, Sale turned to a full-time starter soon after and wowed everyone with his mix of pitches that kept hitters guessing in the batters box.
Sale’s gangly and unorthodox style helped him tally many strikeouts and victories and shot him up through the rankings of best pitchers in the game as he was named to the American League All-Star team for five straight seasons (2012-2016).
The only downfall to Sale’s time on the South Side was his not being able to pitch in a playoff game, but his fortunes turned after being traded to the Boston Red Sox, where he would win a World Series title in 2018.
Years with Sox: 2010-2016
- Career (entering 2019): 108-71 2.98 ERA
- Career with Sox: 74-50 record, 3.00 ERA, 14 CG, 2 SHO, 12 SV, 260 BB, 1244 K
- Best season: 2012 — 17-8 record, 3.05 ERA, CG, 51 BB, 192 K
- 2015: 274 K
- 2016: 6 complete games
1) Mark Buehrle
Buehrle defined consistency and excellence for the modern-day Sox.
With his fast-paced tempo and mixture of pitches, Buehrle drove opponents crazy. No more was his impact on the mound more evident than during the 2005 playoffs, including Game 3 of the World Series where he picked up the only save in his career on the way to the Sox’s historic championship.
Earlier in the run, Buehrle would also help lead the Sox rotation to pitch four consecutive complete games during the 2005 ALCS against the Anaheim Angels (Games 2 thru 5), ranking them as one of the best pitching staffs in playoff history.
Although Buehrle didn’t blow opponents away with power stuff, he used his mind and strategy to get hitters out and tally numbers ranking him among the best pitchers in his era.
Years with Sox: 2000-2011
- Career: 214-160 3.81 ERA (with Sox: 161-119 record, 3.83 ERA, 8 SHO, 27 CG, 1396 K)
- Best season: 2002 — 19-12 record, 2 SHO, 134 K
- Playoffs: 2-1 record, 4.11 ERA, CG, SV, BB, 16 K
- Pitched 200 innings in 14 consecutive seasons (2001-2014)
- 4x All Star with Sox: 2002, 2005, 2006, 2009
- Pitched no hitter on 4/18/07 (vs. Texas)
- Pitched perfect game on 7/23/09 (vs. Tampa Bay)
With a slue of young Sox pitchers just beginning to make themselves known in the likes of Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Carlos Rodon, a new bar for greatness could be set in the future for the next generation of Good Guys in Black.
Only time will tell that, but in the meantime the throwers listed here provide the clearest examples of excellence these new pitchers will have to meet.
Sidney Brown is WARR Media's resident Chicago sports historian