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Paul Konerko's reputation already preceding him

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Overwhelming sentiment clashes with real team goals, making captain's contributions in final season difficult to measure

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Besides the problems it poses for the depth chart, one of the most frustrating things about Paul Konerko's swan song is an inability to read into anything with any degree of confidence.

A couple articles from the first days of spring training leave certain aspects of his return unsaid. For instance, here's Daryl Van Schouwen reporting on the bullpen/bench balance:

With 12 pitchers, having three first-baseman/designated-hitter types in Jose Abreu, Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko leaves room for a backup catcher, outfielder and infielder on what must be considered a thin bench.

And here's Dan Hayes talking about Konerko's clubhouse presence:

Chris Sale said Konerko affects everyone — not just position players — because he’s approachable. Konerko admits he lost some of that ability the past two seasons because he spent so much time in the training room preparing for games. Now that he’s a part-timer, Konerko has said he expects he’ll have more time to work on issues within the clubhouse and just be there for general counsel.

We've talked about both of these points before -- Konerko's combination of strengths and weaknesses was the last thing the roster needed, and it compromises Ventura's options. And he gets credit for shepherding young players even though no young position players have truly panned out yet, and he admitted he couldn't really pay much attention to them.

I don't want to belabor these issues, although belaboring is one of my things. I'll admit that I can't fully assess the intangible impact Konerko has, and it's foolish to rail against it with no allowances. Everybody in the clubhouse gushes about him, and while I don't think I should reflexively say, "That's gotta be worth something," fart-noising at it is equally rash. Healthy skepticism would dictate a wait-and-see approach.

Except, when the very apparent drawbacks continue to get glossed over or deflected, which makes it harder to take any assessment of his contributions at face value, whatever they might be. Confirmation bias is already running rampant when he hasn't done anything yet this season, and his supposed impact didn't show up in 2013's results, individually or collectively. At this rate, Konerko will get plaudits for all positive developments, and none of the blame if the entire product is hard to stomach.

And if it's a six-month gold watch ceremony, then I suppose that's appropriate. A retirement party isn't a great time to catch up on performance reviews. It's just a baffling blend of sentiment and business with real-time consequences, and trying to sift through it all may only get trickier as his personal end nears.

More spring links

Cactus League play won't start for a while, but early health and scouting reports reinforce the idea of Erik Johnson, Felipe Paulino and Andre Rienzo being the fourth, fifth and sixth starters on Opening Day.

Ventura said nice things about Daniel Webb, Mitchell Boggs said nice things about everything, and nothing is new with Nate Jones' butt.

Biggest takeaway from the early reports on Matt Davidson:

That golden hair helmet on the top of his head isn’t helped by the hair over his ears that seems to be darker in color. Davidson, who will turn 23 five days before Opening Day, is often teased that he bleaches the mop top. He insists he doesn’t.