Right on Q: Appreciating Paul Konerko

Jonathan Daniel

You should see Paul Konerko for the player he was....

Paul Konerko's White Sox career is probably over. I agree with larry. It makes no sense for the White Sox to re-sign him, and the odds of another team signing Konerko to a one-year deal are rather slim.

So let's appreciate him while we still can.

The Paul Konerko of 2013 bears no resemblance to the Paul Konerko of 2006. That being said, the month of September gives White Sox fans the opportunity to see Paulie and bask in the memories of his 14 years on the South Side.

In many ways, watching Paul Konerko in 2013 is kind of like attending Frank Sinatra's final concert in Chicago. It was October 22, 1994 at the (then) brand-new United Center. The setlist was just 15 songs. His voice, while powerful, was not the voice that made Sinatra the greatest singer of the 20th Century. He couldn't hit the high notes. He remembered the lyrics with the help of a TelePrompTer. The people in the audience that night didn't pay to see a 79-year-old man sing songs that used to be good. They were there as part of the cultural experience of seeing Francis Albert Sinatra. The performance in 1994 didn't matter. They were paying for the chance to relive their memories of hearing Sinatra's music for the first time.

That's the appeal of seeing Paul Konerko in the final month of a lost season. His performance in 2013 doesn't matter. His 2013 numbers will disappear down the same memory hole that contains Frank Thomas' years on the Blue Jays.

Several years from now (or maybe next year?), Paul Konerko's number will be retired. He'll be in street clothes, surrounded by Thomas, Carlton Fisk, Billy Pierce, Harold Baines, and Luis Aparicio. His number 14 will be slotted between Little Looie's number 11 and Ted Lyons' number 16. There will be pomp, circumstance, and a scoreboard highlight reel that will start with this:

I can watch that every damn day.

Bears fans have ruined the experience of enjoying past championships. It is possible to enjoy the 2005 World Series without looking and sounding like one of the Super Fans.

Konerko bridges the gap between two eras in White Sox history. Konerko arrived in Chicago in November of 1998, as part of a trade that sent Mike Cameron to the Cincinnati Reds.

The Sox lost that deal, by the way. Cameron was worth 46.4 WAR over his 17 year career. Konerko is worth 28.7 over what will probably be a 17 year career.

Cameron played for eight teams. Konerko stuck around.

His Sox career started in 1999. The potential of the early 90s had disappeared. Jack McDowell was gone. Wilson Alvarez was gone. Alex Fernandez was gone. So were Robin, Ozzie, and One Dog. Frank Thomas was battling injuries. New Comiskey Park looked like a big blue albatross in the wake of the retro ballparks that had popped up since it opened in 1991.

Konerko was part of a youth movement in 1999. Most of us remember "The Kids Can Play." Today, a team stacked with cost-controlled young talent would be the toast of baseball. Back then, it was another sign of cheap ownership.

Skip Bayless in the Tribune wrote the following on June 10, 1999:

"Reinsdorf's payroll is about $24 million. The Cubs' is about $64 million. Now Sox fans can't even take solace in calling the Tribune Co.-owned Cubs "cheap."

"Sox fans are stuck with one reluctant star, one Big Hurt, a Frank Thomas content to hit for average and shrug off losses. Meanwhile, the Cubs' Grace has risen above a reputation as a media-darling singles hitter to become one of the game's most dangerous late-inning clutch hitters. Factor in leadership and Gold Glove work and Sox fans know Grace is now more valuable than the pouty Thomas.

As much as Sox fans love the occasionally sensational talent of second baseman Ray Durham, they know they would rather have tough-as- Nellie Morandini, who is more consistent with the bat, glove and winner's attitude."

"As intrigued as Sox fans are with left-fielder Carlos Lee's potential, they definitely would take Henry Rodriguez's chocolaty smooth home-run stroke. Sox fans know that former Sox and current Cubs center-fielder Lance Johnson is still more valuable as a wily leadoff hitter than Chris Singleton. Sox fans know Magglio Ordonez is their one rising star, but he's no Sosa."

Konerko wasn't even worthy of being torched. The 1999 Cubs, by the way, would implode after being swept by the White Sox at Wrigley.

Paulie was around for the most interesting - and rewarding - era in Sox history. An AL Central championship in 2000. The playoff run in 2005. The unexpected playoff berth in 2008.

2003 was one of the worst years of his Sox career (Imagine if he was his old self. Would it have been possible for the Sox to overtake the Twins?). He was the team MVP in 2010 (Imagine if he had a DH to protect him?).

And while Paul Konerko played for the White Sox, your life moved on. You grew up, you graduated from high school or college. You got married. You had kids.

Your life changed. Paul Konerko didn't.

With Konerko on his way out the door, consider the following.

The "Grand Old Men" of the White Sox are now John Danks, Alexei Ramirez, and Gordon Beckham.

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