Last Wednesday night Mark Buehrle shut down the Mariners and in the process eclipsed 200 innings on the season, the 14th consecutive year that he has done so. In fact, Buehrle has not thrown fewer than 200 innings in any season of his career since a late season call-up in 2000, and has won at least 10 games in every single one of those seasons. Given the recent tributes to Paul Konerko, it seems fitting to give a nod to a guy that I would deem to be his pitching foil for their era of White Sox baseball.
It is easy to say now, but at the time the White Sox opted for John Danks instead of Mark Buehrle I didn't feel very confident about it. Although Danks' peripherals were recovering to 2008 levels, the results just weren't quite there (although the defense famously let him down repeatedly during the seasons leading up to his contract extension). Meanwhile, although Buehrle didn't project to age well, nothing about Buehrle really fits into projection systems. He has never done what he was supposed to, and he has been nothing short of a freak (the good kind) when it comes to durability and consistency. One imagines that if they could go back, the White Sox front office may have offered Buerhle the contract the gave Danks instead. And although Hindsight keeps turning down offers to be the GM, I don't think it was that weird a premise - even sans shoulder injury - to prefer Buehrle's 33-36 seasons to Danks' age 27-31 years.
So now we see Paul Konerko getting all of these accolades and video montages when his pitching counterpart was allowed to walk in free agency. After all, Buehrle came up with the White Sox, pitched just shy of 2,500 innings, constituted a huge part of the World Series starting rotation, and was the opening day starter nine times. Like Konerko, he was one of only a few acceptable/correct answers for "Who's your favorite player on the White Sox?" once Frank Thomas left. Buehrle also has some of the best regular season highlights of the last 20 years with his No Hitter, his Perfect Game, and of course the Opening Day Between The Legs Flip Throw That Konerko Caught as well.
I suppose you can't really fete a guy who is leaving to keep pitching for another team because they wanted him more than you did. It works better with Konerko because Konerko is just retiring. But with the benefit of hindsight, letting Buehrle walk is all the more puzzling. It's not like Buehrle wasn't beloved off the field and in the clubhouse as well. Oh well - the Marlins did offer him an absolute ton of money.
Buehrle would have to pitch 10 more years (through his age 45 season) while averaging 10 wins a season to get to 300 wins for his career. Despite the fact that he has been pitching like Jamie Moyer's Late Peak for several years now already, and despite the fact that as I mentioned earlier, Buehrle doesn't resemble anything normal, this is a guy who has been hinting that he may retire since his early 30s, so it's hard to guess what his win total might be once ineffectiveness or disinterest puts a cap on his career.
At the very least, I will be rooting for him to keep his streak going next year, and it would be fantastic if circumstances allowed him to finish his career on the White Sox. In my mind, Konerko and Buehrle are very much connected, and I would like to see the latter get the same type of farewell as the former.