The more we hear about Paul Konerko's back problems, the more he appears to be heading down the Joe Crede Unceremonious Departure Memorial Highway.
The White Sox's captain missed his fifth consecutive game on Saturday due to a sore lower back. He hasn't appeared in a game since Sunday, and his absence compromised Robin Ventura's roster possibilities during the Friday doubleheader. They chose to carry Brent Morel as the 26th man instead of the customary extra pitcher, and they could've used a new arm when Brian Omogrosso and Ramon Troncoso took beatings.
Rest alone didn't help, so he took a half dozen injections to help the healing process. They allowed him to take batting practice on Saturday and hope for a Sunday start, but when Konerko describes what led to the six-shooter, it seems like there are flags abound:
"I'm counting today because we're already on today, so I'm counting today as the first 24," Konerko said. "It was a weird thing. I played Sunday in Kansas City. It was a long, tough game, but there was nothing in that game that made me think I did anything to anything. It was just a game.
"Got up Monday morning and couldn't even erect myself, standing up tall for most of the day. The three days after that were pretty much the same. Just a lot of soreness, no stability, no ability to really move. Really, really bound up.
"Just kind of came out of nowhere. Felt a little improvement Thursday and more today, but not enough where I can play tonight. These injections, I actually kind of had them back in '06 when I had a little bit of a back problem then and they seemed to help out then."
The reference to his 2006 problems caught my eye, if only because I don't remember back problems plaguing him. Available evidence in the form of statistics and newspaper accounts suggests they were far less conspicuous.
For instance, having a career year certainly did wonders to mask physical issues. He hit .313/.381/.551 over 152 games that year, which was good for a personal-best OPS (.932) and OPS+ (134) at that point. Furthermore, Konerko ended the season on a strong note, hitting .344/.402/.600 with six homers in 25 September starts.
That's when his back hurt him the most, which is counterintuitive. Reports said that he spent serious time icing his back, but it only cost him one start during the stretch run. And as the 2006 season wrapped up, Konerko did admit that his back bothered him for most of the year. From a Daily Herald article on Sept. 27 of that year:
The biggest thing was his back . It's been bothering Konerko since May, and he'll embark on a strengthening program this winter to alleviate the problem.
"It's not like it's a major thing that keeps you out,'' Konerko said. "It's a pain in my (butt), but it's in my back . It's just harder to get ready, to get going, to get up every day. Believe me, there are guys on this team that are worse; there are guys playing with worse.''
Konerko could be dealing with similar problems now, but there's a lot of mileage between age 30 and age 37, and it can cause other parts to join in the fun (Konerko mentioned how the back issue might have roped in his problematic hips that threatened his Sox career before it even started).
It's possible the injections could get him back on the field, and for most of the rest of the season. They could also turn out like Brent Morel's cortison shot from last May, which allowed him to have a revival that lasted all of three days.
The latter seems far more appropriate for a season that doesn't allow anything to be enjoyable for long. Right now, it's turning Konerko's 2013 into the Seinfeld series finale -- not just in relative quality, but in actual plotline, because these minor figures from the past have shown up to testify against him. I'm half-expecting to see Bone-Bruised Thumb and Floating Bone Fragment make appearances before it wraps up. Sure, Floating Bone Fragment was supposed to be dead, but that wouldn't be the third-most absurd development this month, so who knows what the rest of the year has up its sleeve.