November 28, 2014
LOS ANGELES — Paul Konerko’s farewell circuit around baseball has been relatively low-key, nothing close to the Derek Jeter goodbye tour.
Aside from the Cubs giving the White Sox’ No. 2 home-run hitter and RBI producer of all time a No. 14 from the Wrigley Field scoreboard, there hasn’t been much in the way of recognition that this is Konerko’s final season at parks in which he’s playing his last game. The P.A. announcer in Houston made mention of it, which was nice.
“I want a new car everywhere I go,’’ Konerko sarcastically said with a grin before dressing for his final game at Dodger Stadium, home of the team he broke in with in 1997.
In reality, Konerko, who pinch-hit and went 0-for-1 in the Sox’ 2-1 victory Wednesday, appreciates being appreciated but doesn’t long for any hoopla.
“The best way to put it is I expect to go through the season status quo,’’ Konerko said. “If something pops up like it did at Wrigley, even better. That’s really cool.’’
Konerko does appreciate it. And he especially has enjoyed tips of the cap from players and coaches and kind words from fans.
“I’ve had enough coaches and players and fans in all these places, with things they’ve said, it’s been plenty for me,’’ he said. “Two months in, that’s the No. 1 thing that has caught me off-guard. I didn’t think guys were watching or paying attention or even cared, but I’ve had a lot of people come out of their way to talk to me, and that’s pretty cool.’’
In his part-time role, Konerko isn’t producing as he did during his prime, but that hasn’t stopped crowds at U.S. Cellular Field from consistently giving warm applause, cheers and “Paulie, Paulie” chants. It hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“I’ve heard nothing but positive things,’’ he said. “It hasn’t been all great [Konerko is batting .196 with three home runs and 14 RBI]. There are days you’re looking bad or are in a bad stretch, and in the on-deck circle you hear positive things like, ‘Hey, you’re going to bust out here.’ The best way to repay that praise is to play hard and keep doing it. It’s that simple.
“Yeah, you try to earn the fans’ praise and trust and play hard for them. The guys in this room are dialed in on their job, but on the nights when I don’t have it or you’re hurting, you have to have some other motivation, and you play for your fans. You try to play hard for a lot of reasons, but that’s one piece of it. All you can hope for is that they like what you do.’’
Konerko had 151 at-bats over two seasons for the Dodgers before returning to the minors and getting traded to the Reds. The Dodgers will always mean something to him because of what he learned coming up through a system that demanded conduct and fundamentals be done right.
“They had one of the better systems,’’ Konerko said. “I was very lucky playing with them in the minor leagues. That did a lot for me.’’
NOTES: The Sox’ lineup is missing its spark from leadoff man Adam Eaton, who’s 4-for-40 in his last 10 games. Manager Robin Ventura said Eaton hasn’t been working deep into counts as much and was more productive when he did.
“It always looks better when you’re working counts and getting hits,’’ Ventura said. “It’s not a talent thing. He just has to weather it.’’
◆ Jose Abreu, who played his third game since coming off the disabled list with inflammation in his left ankle, appears to be moving OK.
“He’s been getting down the line pretty good,’’ Ventura said. “That’s something he’s happy about, that he doesn’t feel like there’s anything really to restrict him.’’
◆ Tyler Flowers caught John Danks (4-5) for the first time this season.