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Paul Konerko: Despite Speed Bumps, Ballplayer Reached Impressive Milestone

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Paul Konerko: Despite Speed Bumps, Ballplayer Reached Impressive Milestone
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

It is a little hard to believe that Paul Konerko, who reached the 2,000 games played mark on April 7, has been around long enough to reach that rather elite milestone in longevity.

This is the player who, after being taken by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first round of the 1994 amateur draft, was so highly touted that Baseball America ranked him the second-best prospect in all of baseball in 1998.

This is the player who, despite coming to the major league stage with such great expectations, struggled mightily in his first two big league stints with the Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds, and by the end of the 1998 season he was being written off by some and shipped around like an unwanted wayfarer.

He settled in with the Chicago White Sox in 1999 and performed well in his first few years with the squad until his disastrous 2003, when he hit only .234 in 137 games. Perhaps most disturbingly, that was his age-27 season, the year when players tend to peak in production—leading some to believe his career was in a steep decline.

In 2004, he rebounded strongly and performed well through 2007, hitting over 30 home runs each year. Yet, once again, he had another subpar season in 2008, batting only .240 in 122 games. At 32, there were those who were beginning to wonder whether his time as a serviceable everyday player was nearing its end.

Once again, however, he rebounded and—inexplicably, due to his advanced age—posted the three best offensive seasons of his career from 2009 to 2011.

Konerko’s time in the big leagues has had its share of speed bumps along the way. There have been times when poor starts and poor seasons imperiled his career. But he has not let that bother him: Each time he struggled, Konerko came back strong the next year, posting bigger and better numbers.

And it is because of his ability to rebound and his incredible resilience that Paul Konerko, a five-time All-Star with nearly 400 career home runs, has played in over 2,000 games—a mark of longevity, endurance and quality. 

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