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.
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.
In my previous article on this subject, I focused on Carlton Fisk and the bad things that the Sox stumbled into when they fell into the trap of bringing him back for one more year. Here Rick Morrissey mentions that Jerry Reinsdorf doesn't want this to end badly with Konerko. This time, Konerko should come back because he's "meant so much" to the team. So, I was wrong to compare using Fisk since he didn't win a World Series. Obviously, that means more. So, this time, let's take a look at a player that was an All-Star four times and helped his team win a World Series -- Mark Buehrle.
Sure the cases aren't exactly the same. In 2011, Mark Buehrle was 13-9 for a team that team that finished 79-83. His 3.8 WAR that season is a lot better than Konerko's -1.5 WAR last year. Despite Buehrle's strong season, when a pitcher is over 30, signing him to another big contract is a big risk. Also, the team spent heavily the previous offseason to re-sign Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski plus the acquisition of Adam Dunn. All three were also over 30 when signed.
Unlike Konerko, the reporters were wringing their hands that Buehrle would have to go. Instead, the players themselves were making the statements about what Mark Buehrle meant to the team.
‘‘There’s a whole lot out of my hands in this thing,’’ reliever Matt Thornton said in a phone interview. ‘‘As a player, you want to be on a team that gets better, and losing Mark Buehrle does not make us a better team. Obviously, it’s not my call. But . . . his consistency is as damn near close to a guarantee as you get.
‘‘ . . . But who knows? Maybe Jerry and [general manager] Kenny [Williams] sit back and watch the market, then say, ‘Hey, we’ll match what any team offers you.’ Maybe. But that’s huge if we lose Buehrle.’’
"[Y]ou want to be on a team that gets better, and losing Mark Buehrle does not make us a better team". That's not a reporter or a very polite GM saying that. It's the team's top reliever.
Buehrle ended up signing with the Miami Marlins for four years and $58 million. According to Morrissey, "Certain players transcend the coldhearted decisions", but apparently Mark Buehrle was not one of them.
While counting up achievements, does Mark Buehrle rank below Paul Konerko in meaning? Buehrle is short two All-Star games, but does a no-hitter, a perfect game, and three Gold Gloves mean as much as two All-Star games? So, what's the exchange rate for meaning to Schrute Bucks or real dollars for that matter?
While saying that Konerko means more for the team than the numbers indicate, Morrissey is also taking a swipe at those looking at the numbers as justification for not bringing back Konerko. Colin took a look at the numbers last night on Twitter while grumbling over just discovering the previous columnist's article.
Since of course I looked it up, the White Sox got 4 free wins from Paul Konerko over the course of his career.— Gustavo Adventure (@colintj) November 20, 2013
Spending approximately $20 million on keeping Konerko and getting rid of Adam Dunn for 2014 as Paul Sullivan suggested would likely wipe out the value of these excess wins.
Calculating from Mark Buehrle's Baseball Reference page, the Sox got 32 free wins over his time with the Sox. While several of these were during Buehrle's relatively cheap pre-arbitration and arbitration years, the Sox still got 13 free wins in 5 seasons after his arbitration expired. Depending on whether you take the actual value of the two years of Buehrle's current contract ($17 million) or average them out ($29 million), he has been at $3.0 million or $5.2 million per WAR. Looking over Konerko's most recent contract, the Sox paid Konerko just over $11 million per WAR. We might have an approximate exchange rate for meaning.
Still, baseball remains a game of nostalgia. If it wasn't, would Dewayne Wise be immortalized in U.S. Cellular already for "The Catch"? Would Harold Baines' number have been retired just weeks after trading him away in 1989? Would the Sox have brought Baines back for 2001 to hit .131/.202/.143 and keep him the whole season? What means more: a grand slam in the World Series, the ball caught to record the last out of that World Series, or getting a save in a World Series?
Do these things give major leaguers a golden ticket to keep coming back regardless of the actual value to the team? Should they? With all the fuss about Konerko this off-season, does that mean the Konerko "means" more to the White Sox than Buehrle or other players? To the fans? To Jerry Reinsdorf? To the reporters?
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.
I believe we have our answer.