In The Life of Reason, George Santayana wrote the often mis-quoted and mis-attributed quote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." If the White Sox front office is at all thinking like Paul Sullivan in his article, "Sox owe it to Konerko to dump Dunn", the White Sox might be doomed to repeat the past in 2014.
1993 was a special year to be a White Sox fan. In his third full season, Frank Thomas was already an elite player. With a solid core of veterans and young players, the Sox were ready to make a run for the playoffs. Then came June 28.
On June 28, 1993, the White Sox released the future Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk. Fisk returned to the Sox that season to get the record for defensive games at catcher record. He didn't need this record to make it to the Hall of Fame. Although his iconic home run in the 1975 World Series, wasn't enough on its own, the fact that he was still catching almost 18 years later certainly was. Unfortunately, the writing had been on the wall for a while that he was done. Fisk was re-signed as a free agent for 1993 in mid-February. In late April, the White Sox picked up Mike LaValliere to join Fisk and Ron Karkovice as the the third catcher even though the days of carrying three catchers had been over for a few years. On June 22, 1993, he passed Bob Boone with his 2,226th game as a catcher. He never took the field in a game again. There was no farewell tour. No video montage. No last chance to see him play.
My first White Sox game ever was four days later. For much of my life as a Sox fan, Fisk was my favorite. Well, at least since Mike Squires left. The night before my first White Sox game, I contemplated not going. Fortunately, I ended up talking my moody self out of it.
While the four home runs from the Sox, including a grand slam from Ventura that hooked around the right field foul pole, gave the fans plenty to cheer about, the mood was pretty mixed. Lot's of Fisk signs appeared throughout new Comiskey. Fans cheered them and chanted. There was quite a bit of anger in the crowd that night, and we weren't alone.
Despite being elected to the Hall of Fame in 2000, the White Sox Carlton Fisk night didn't happen until 2008. Fisk's acrimony at his abrupt departure caused a huge rift. While I'm sure there are two sides to the story with numerous people and egos involved, there are lessons to be learned here, good and bad.
2014 could be a special year too. The Sox have an elite starting pitcher in Chris Sale. There is some young, unproven talent on the team along with some steady veterans. There are holes on the roster, but you don't need the wildest imagination to see a competitive team. In theory, they could fill one of those holes somewhat cheaply with Paul Konerko. It could turn out OK. The Bill James Handbook for 2014 has Konerko projected at a respectable .271/.353/.443 for next year.
Or ... it could turn out to be as bad as last year, or maybe even worse. That could put the Sox in the same position they were with Fisk -- having a promising team with a chance to make the playoffs, but with an anchor sitting on the bench.
The choice to not sign Konerko for next season seems like the best scenario all around. Konerko is unlikely to ever make the Hall of Fame and is far from any milestone that would improve his chances. His fame in Chicago is already secured, and he'll likely have his own statue out near Harold Baines, even if he never suits up for the Sox again.
It would be pretty awkward, though, having Paul Konerko Day in September with the video montage, bobbleheads, and special fireworks show knowing he's a big part of the reason the White Sox aren't playing in October next season. It might be a bit more awkward having the day if he were DFA'd in mid-July and the Sox made the postseason. If the Sox want the honor Konerko and his memory, then walking away from table respectfully is probably the best choice they make.