Paul Konerko still thinks Sox can be success without playoffs
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN firstname.lastname@example.org July 1, 2012 7:56PM
White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko was named to his sixth All-Star team Sunday. He is hitting .335 with 14 home runs and 40 RBI. | Charles Rex Arbogast~AP
Updated: August 3, 2012 6:21AM
NEW YORK — White Sox captain Paul Konerko caused a stir when he arrived at spring training in February and said this season could be a success even if the team didn’t make the playoffs.
‘‘Yeah,’’ Konerko said. ‘‘I still think that.’’
As the Sox (42-37) close in on the halfway point of the season, their 4-2 loss Sunday to the New York Yankees left them 11/2 games ahead of the Cleveland Indians and three ahead of the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central. But sitting in first place with a half-season to go didn’t change Konerko’s stance.
‘‘If we don’t win . . . then we just weren’t good enough,’’ Konerko said. ‘‘Whatever our record is, that’s how good we were. There isn’t any extra story to it. Whatever our record is at the end of the season will be exactly how good this team was. If that’s enough, it’s enough. If it’s not, we’ll get ’em next year.’’
Konerko was named to his sixth All-Star team Sunday, along with slugger Adam Dunn and left-hander Chris Sale. They were examples of things the Sox expected (Konerko), the bounce-back years they needed (Dunn) and the youthful injections they hoped for to signal a bright future (Sale).
Don’t take Konerko’s viewpoint to mean he doesn’t care. He’s the consummate professional and the most respected player in a clubhouse he is enjoying.
‘‘Coming from where we were last year . . . there was not a good vibe around here for many different reasons,’’ Konerko said. ‘‘We’ve come a long way. The overall feeling in here has come a long way. The best thing about this team is that whether we win big or lose a heartbreaker, this team really shows up the next day to play one game. We worry about the next one. A lot of the credit goes to [first-year manager] Robin [Ventura] and the staff on that one.’’
The Sox left New York with a split of their four-game series after winning the first two. Their offense went silent against Phil Hughes (9-6) after Kevin Youkilis and Alex Rios had RBI singles in the first inning. Eric Chavez and Robinson Cano halted Gavin Floyd’s run of two superb starts with two-run home runs in the second and third, respectively.
A bright spot was the pitching of rookie left-hander Leyson Septimo, who faced eight Yankees without allowing a hit or a walk.
Konerko talked up the performance of a pitching staff that features seven rookies and about Dunn, Rios and right-hander Jake Peavy putting substandard 2011 seasons behind them. And five games above .500 and first place on July 2 is nothing to sneeze at.
‘‘More than any of that, though, is the way everybody is going about their business and work,’’ Konerko said. ‘‘The way of life in here, how we approach each day, is great. That’s the reason those other things exist.’’
Ventura’s calm, one-day-at-a-time approach makes coming to the park more fun and less drudgery for Konerko. That means a lot.
‘‘No doubt,’’ he said. ‘‘If you think back to when it was the opposite and remember what that felt like, it’s a good thing. It’s not easy; it’s work every day. But everyone has the attitude of, ‘How can I chip in today?’ Everybody is in a good place.’’
And everybody has chipped in. If they haven’t, they haven’t stuck around.
‘‘We’ve had different guys carry the load, so it doesn’t feel like it has to be this guy or two guys,’’ Konerko said. ‘‘That’s a good thing. . . . We can win games without me hitting or Dunner not hitting the ball well. That makes you feel more solid as a team.’’