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Paul Konerko’s message to returning White Sox: We need a lot of work

Chicago White Sox's Paul Konerko reacts after striking out seventh inning baseball game against OaklAthletics Wednesday April 13 2011 Chicago.

Chicago White Sox's Paul Konerko reacts after striking out in the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday, April 13, 2011, in Chicago. The Athletics beat the White Sox 7-4 in 10 innings. (AP Photo/John Smierciak)

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Updated: November 26, 2011 12:28AM

MINNEAPOLIS — The 2011 White Sox, a collection of underachievers and a caravan of dysfunction, are at rest. The fateful day: Sept. 3, after blowing an 8-1 lead against the Tigers in an eventual loss. Beloved team of chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and somewhat loved organization of a South Side fan base that had grown more impatient since 2005. Funeral services begin tonight at 7:10 at U.S. Cellular Field, and visitation runs through Sept. 28.

That’s the proper way to send the boys off, with the last three weeks of the regular season more formality than excitement.

And who better to handle the eulogy about a franchise yet another season removed from the magical ’05 World Series run than the team captain himself? The problem is the introspective Paul Konerko doesn’t always say what you expect him to say or even what you want him to say.

Heck, he still considers it too early to talk about the year as if it’s over.

His first comment was, “It’s a little bit early to do the whole dissertation.’’

OK, humor us.

“Like anybody else that works in a company for over 10 years, you have thoughts about things and you have feelings about how things could be better, but that’s not for me to share with people,’’ Konerko said when talking about this year and moving forward. “That’s for me to know and to go out and keep doing my job. At the end of the day, I have to show up next year and not worry about other people and the work they put in or the job they plan to do, how they plan to do it. My first priority is doing my job.’’

A craft he has become very good at.

Reading between the lines

As a matter of fact, it wasn’t long ago that Konerko would abuse bat racks and dugout walls with the best of them. Now he’s the poster boy for excellence in an organization in which there are far too few players following his lead in the work-ethic department.

What was telling in talking to Konerko — nicknamed “The King’’ — on Wednesday, however, was how he chose to end the season with a statement that was more cliffhanger than explanation of a year gone wrong for the second consecutive season.

At the end of 2010 — when it seemed possible that the Konerko era with the Sox was coming to a close — he was asked about the sideshow that goes along with playing for the Sox, and if that could translate into catching the rival Twins.

His response was somewhere between very telling and a real head-scratcher.

“With the talent and the people here, we can do that if we tidy up some things and get a little better with some things and move their way, move toward them,’’ Konerko said.

When asked if the tidying up had to do with on the field or off the field, he said, “A little bit of both, a little bit of everything.’’

So what now? What are these thoughts that are not for him to share on this $127 million wreckage?

Well, Konerko’s not saying. What he would say is what you see now is probably what you’re going to get in 2012, at least from a personnel standpoint. Embrace it, and hope it improves.

Back for more (of the same?)

“With the moves that have been made, I don’t think we’ll have a team out there that isn’t expected to win,’’ Konerko said. “Not only because of who we have in here now and who is still going to be here. Everybody would like to be the Yankees or the Red Sox, where you go into every year and say, ‘OK, as long as we don’t have a bad three weeks, we’re probably going to make the playoffs.’ A lot of teams feel like, ‘OK, we’ll have a good-enough chance if everything goes our way,’ and that’s probably where we are. If you’re asking me if I’m afraid of breaking the whole thing up, I don’t even think that’s possible.’’

Translated from “King’’ speak: Because of the bad contracts, it’s going to be a lot of the same players trying to put together much different results, and it’s up to them to put the work in and come back prepared.

Not quite the eulogy that was expected, but close enough.

And, by the way, in lieu of flowers or cards sent for the funeral, donations would be appreciated. After all, $127 million doesn’t pay for itself.

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