SoxFest: Paul Konerko not sure what’s in store after season
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN firstname.lastname@example.org January 25, 2013 9:56PM
Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko is introduced during SoxFest at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, Ill., on Friday, January 25, 2013. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media
Palmer House Hilton
Updated: February 27, 2013 6:17AM
This could be Paul Konerko’s last SoxFest. And his last year with the White Sox, maybe the last of his career if he decides he has had enough baseball.
Father Time and the business of baseball will break up the best of relationships, and the face of the franchise knows that. Konerko watched Mark Buehrle walk away in free agency a year ago. And A.J. Pierzynski, the other last remaining piece from the 2005 World Series champs, wasn’t really wanted back this offseason and left for the Texas Rangers.
Both were productive and fan favorites. Just like Konerko, whose 415 home runs and 1,157 RBI with the Sox rank second only to Frank Thomas.
“I’m not naïve,’’ Konerko said. “Here’s what I know. Mark and A.J. had good years and were front-line guys at what they do, and both had a great desire to come back here. They didn’t come back. So there are things that obviously are not in your control. I’m not naïve to know that teams have agendas and plans, and I understand that part of the game. I say that with no edge.’’
Konerko, who turns 37 in March, saw his production decline in the second half after a torrid first half and finished with 26 homers and 75 RBI. He had a loose particle removed from his left wrist the day after the season and doesn’t use the wrist as an excuse. It affected his hitting for about two weeks in June.
As rested players gathered at SoxFest at the Palmer House Hilton, Konerko was prepared for the questions about being in the last year of his contract. He almost didn’t come back the last time his deal was up, but chairman Jerry Reinsdorf stepped up and re-signed Konerko and Pierzynski as part of the “All-in” campaign that fizzled out in 2011.
“I’ve been through this three times,’’ Konerko said. “This time and the last time are a little similar. I was prepared two years ago that this could be the last time I play. I’ve kind of gone through the whole exercise of the preparation for that, so it’s just a matter of kind of rekindling that.
“You know at some point your career is going to end. I don’t know right now. My thing is just have a solid season and do my job. That’s all it boils down to. I signed a contract to do a job, and I want to make sure I do what I signed up for. That has nothing to do with the other distractions of, ‘What are you going to do?’ If I spend time thinking and talking about that stuff, I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing for this team.’’
The wrist surgery went better than Konerko expected. He said he could’ve played a game 10 days later.
How he feels next September will involve much more than the wrist. Myriad factors will play into whether the Sox want him back and whether he wants to continue playing.
“How I’m going to feel seven months from now, what I’ll be thinking, I can’t project,’’ he said. “There are so many moving parts that factor into that decision — kids, family, teams, body. I could not possibly factor all of those decisions now and project it out. I can’t do it.’’
Time moves on. A SoxFest without Pierzynski was the latest reminder.
“It already is weird being here without A.J.,’’ Konerko said. “Usually by now, he’s wearing you out about something. I talked to him last week, and he was at Rangers Fan Fest. It doesn’t have the same ring. It will be odd not having him. But you kind of get used to [it]. It’s how the game is.’’