Chicago White Sox: Is This the End for Paul Konerko?
He has played the second-most games in team history, behind only Luke Appling.
He has the third-most hits, behind only Appling and Nellie Fox.
He is fourth in runs scored, behind only Frank Thomas, Appling and Fox.
And he is second in home runs and RBI, behind only Thomas.
In other words, he's in pretty good company.
There's no doubt that when he finally leaves Chicago, Konerko will go down as one of the most productive players to ever wear a White Sox uniform. Really the only question at this point is, when will that be?
Now in the midst of the final season of his current three-year contract and struggling through a subpar season, it would appear that this may be the swan song for good old No. 14.
Or is it?
Rumors have circulated over the summer about his possible retirement, and Konerko himself has said all along that he will make that decision when the season is over. He recently spoke with Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune about the possibility of retiring at the end of this season.
Well, the thing is, if you're worrying about the rest of this season, then you'll worry about that (retirement) later on. ... We're definitely not on the verge of clinching, so obviously everything is tougher. It's just less fun. ... As far back in the standings as we are, it's tough to play games every night that you know probably have no effect—other than knowing you went out and did it right.
And Konerko has certainly done it right during his time on the south side, but he has battled injuries this season and hasn't looked the same at the plate. His current slash line is .248/.318/.358, which is a far cry from his career slash of .281/.357/.492. In addition, his .676 OPS is the lowest in his 15 years with the White Sox.
However, he is only one year removed from a season in which his slash was at .298/.371/.486 and he made his sixth All-Star game appearance. So can he still be productive enough for the White Sox to be bring him back for another year?
Well, according to a recent tweet from Bob Nightengale of USA Today, apparently Konerko still thinks he has something left in the tank.
Paul Konerko is telling friends that he definitely wants to return to #Whitesox next year and believes he can still be productive— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) September 4, 2013
The truth is that Konerko is more than likely done putting up 30 home run, 100 RBI seasons, but if healthy, he probably has enough left to warrant a roster spot in 2014.
He's a pro's pro and he has not only been one of the most respected guys inside the White Sox clubhouse, but in all of baseball as well. He is the type of veteran who every team needs in order to keep everyone else in check and show them the way things are done.
And he has always been that guy.
He's never been a guy who looked for the spotlight. In fact, he's generally tried to avoid it.
What he has been is the humble captain who led by example and was quick to deflect the attention elsewhere. However, if there's anyone that deserved the attention, he's the guy.
It's also fitting that he is the only player remaining from the 2005 championship team. After everyone from that team has moved on, Konerko still remains as the steady captain leading a team of players who were just kids when his major league career began.
However, this season has been rough on Konerko, as the White Sox have played miserably all season long, and he's had to battle various injuries. It's clear that it has taken a toll on the 37-year-old, as evidenced by his numbers.
It will be interesting to see what the White Sox want to do once the season has concluded.
If Konerko wants to come back, I'm sure they will consider it, albeit at a much lower cost—which I'm sure isn't something that will bother Konerko a bit, considering he's never been about the money. If he were, he would have been gone a long time ago.
The issue will be whether he can still produce at the age of 38. If he feels like he can, it may be tough for the White Sox to say no. But at the same time, Rick Hahn and company have a job to do: to field the best team that they can.
Konerko has always been a team guy, and I get the feeling that if he thought he couldn't produce anymore and was a detriment to the team, then he would walk away.
I guess we'll find out in the coming months what his fate will be, but just in case, maybe Sox fans should find their way to U.S. Cellular field one more time before this season concludes—not to watch this mess of a team, but to watch one of the organization's all-time greats play at least once more.
This team doesn't deserve it, but he certainly does.
If you need extra motivation, maybe this video will help.
It's the defining moment for one of the greatest in White Sox history.
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