Paul Konerko should get last raps with White Sox
BY RICK MORRISSEY email@example.com | @Morrissey_CST November 20, 2013 8:13PM
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It should be black and white, just like the White Sox’ uniforms.
Either Paul Konerko can help the team or he can’t.
Either he has enough left in his tank or he doesn’t.
In between is for the fainthearted, right?
Yeah, well, no. There are shades here, nuances. Flesh and blood are involved. Memory, too. Human stuff.
I think Konerko is done. I also think that if he wants to play another year for the Sox, he should.
Reason looks in horror at what emotion is suggesting.
If you tilt your head in just the right way, you might see Konerko as a battle line in the war (WAR?) between emotion and sabermetrics.
There is no measure from 2013 that would make you want Konerko on your roster, not at his age (he’ll turn 38 during spring training) and not with the nagging injuries that always seem to be tugging at him. He went .244/.313/.355 last season. The metrics crowd would suggest euthanasia is in order.
But Konerko has meant so much to this franchise, and that’s why the Sox are leaving his return up to him. He and Jerry Reinsdorf have a very close relationship, and the Sox chairman has made it clear that he doesn’t want this situation to end badly.
What does Konerko bring to the table? Wrong question.
What has he brought to the table? Better.
In a world always straining to look forward, there’s something to be said for respecting the past. I get it: The Sox lost 99 games last season, and this hardly seems the time to get sentimental. In pro sports, you pay athletes for what you think their future production will be. You don’t pay them based on past performance.
And yet, why not, just this one time? Why not look at everything Konerko has done for the organization and reward him for it?
Fifteen years of service to a team, of sweat and effort, is not something a stats-inclined person would necessarily consider. But in Konerko’s case, it can’t be dismissed. He was an All-Star six times and helped his team win a World Series, which seems to come around every 100 years in this town.
He has been a hitting machine for the Sox. Oh, he has had his struggles. You wouldn’t have wanted to be trapped inside his head during one of his prolonged slumps. He fought himself, often. But he got up off the canvas after two bad seasons and put up big numbers again. He’s the only player I know who did not hear it from fans for being as slow as a two-toed sloth on the base paths.
The present and future for the Sox is Cuban Jose Abreu, who will get the bulk of the innings at first base, Konerko’s position. The kid could learn a thing or 30 from the veteran. For that alone, Konerko’s return would be worth it.
Are the Sox’ fortunes in 2014 going to ride on whether he’s on the roster or not? I doubt it. Let him share the designated-hitter duties, and if he gets back to his old form, wonderful. Either way, swallow the last year of Adam Dunn’s contract and start fresh.
The very idea of coming back for a farewell tour would kill Konerko. He doesn’t want to be a haggard Babe Ruth leaning on his bat and saying goodbye. I’m not suggesting a long adieu. But there are instances when athletes who have meant a lot to an organization deserve to go out the way they want. Or, to put it another way, Konerko shouldn’t go out like Frank Thomas did with the Sox or Brian Urlacher did with the Bears, which is to say bitterly. He has always carried himself with dignity. A messy departure wouldn’t be in keeping with how he operates.
You probably don’t care about this, but it needs to be said anyway: Konerko talked with reporters before and after every game, even when he didn’t want to, which was probably every day. He believed it was his obligation to the fans, and he also knew it took heat off his teammates. If he talked, they didn’t have to.
I don’t want this to sound like a eulogy because it isn’t. It’s simply a recognition of what this guy has meant to a team and a city.
Certain players transcend the coldhearted decisions that are so much a part of the sports world. Konerko is one of them.