Why Paul Konerko Needs to Go on the Disabled List

JJ SSenior Writer IMay 27, 2008

It's no secret that Paul Konerko is playing hurt—and pitchers have taken note.

Konerko has been playing with a bone bruise on his right hand for most of the 2008 season, and it has seriously affected his play.

Pitchers have been busting Konerko inside all year with the knowledge that he'll be tentative to swing at a pitch that might aggravate the pain in his hand. When he does swing at those pitches and gets jammed, it's likely causing him even more pain.

Of course, Konerko—like most stand-up MLB players—won't offer up his injury as an excuse for his poor performance this year.

Yes, Konerko is a notoriously slow starter, but Konerko is hitting just .204 with five home runs (none in the month of May), 23 RBI, and a paltry OPS of .658 coming into Tuesday's game against Cleveland.

Yes, Konerko's stats took a dive last year, but he still hit 31 home runs, had 90 RBI, and an OPS over .800. You just don't lose that kind of production at age 32 unless there's something else going on.

That something else is Konerko's hand.

Just look at Konerko's performance in the White Sox May 27 loss in Cleveland. Konerko did pick up a base hit, but he left four men on base and was responsible for two unearned runs crossing the plate in the bottom of the sixth when he dropped a routine throw from second baseman Alexei Ramirez.

Baseball players have to play through pain during the course of a season, but those injuries rarely are as nagging as Konerko's. In addition to that, you have to wonder if the injury starting to become a mental problem for Konerko.

Either way, Konerko is still a good player. He can still be a big part of this White Sox offense, but what he needs right now is some time off.

A trip to the 15-day disabled list might be just the cure Konerko needs for his offensive blues. He'd get to rest his thumb, clear his head, and hopefully come back with confidence.

In the meantime, the Sox have two good options at AAA Charlotte to play for Konerko while he rests.

Brad Eldred currently leads AAA hitters in home runs with 18, has driven in 49 runs, and has an OPS of .950 for the Knights. While he's just a career .199 hitter, he at least could provide some pop at the bottom of the order.

The other option would be to call Josh Fields up at play him at first base. While Fields hasn't been great at the AAA level, hitting just .250 with seven home runs and 20 RBI, he proved he can hit at the MLB level last year when he blasted 23 home runs for the White Sox from June to September.

The problem with calling Fields up would be that it would stunt his growth at third base, a position he likely will be playing for the White Sox next year when Joe Crede leaves for a fat contract elsewhere.

Either way, Eldred or Fields likely would produce more offense than Konerko is giving the Sox right now.

The biggest issue with putting Konerko on the disabled list is that the White Sox couldn't do it retroactively—meaning they would lose Konerko's services for at least 15 days.

However, that may not be a bad thing, as it might take two weeks for Konerko to clear his head.

With Jim Thome and Nick Swisher still slumping, the White Sox cannot afford to have three hitters in their lineup who are really struggling to hit. It's unfair to Konerko to expect him to play through this injury, and right now, the best option may be to give him 15 days off by putting him on the disabled list.