The White Sox close out their season series against the Cleveland Indians today, but since Paul Konerko is out with the broken bone in his left hand, he can already close the book on his career against the Tribe.
At 243 games, Konerko has only played the Twins (257) and Royals (250) more. The Tigers can creep ahead of the Indians if Konerko can come back by the Sept. 22-24 series, but we'll get to that in a bit.
Looking at his performance against the Indians, you'll see a lot of homers -- second only to the Twins, against whom Konerko has hit 50.
(If you're wondering, the triple came against Dave Burba back in 1999.)
When it came to parting gifts, the Indians upped the ante after a nice start by the Twins. Cleveland president Mark Shapiro and bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr. presented Konerko with a White Sox-themed Gibson LP guitar, which ties together a Cleveland landmark with one of Konerko's non-baseball interests.
Konerko may be too busy fretting about his fretting hand to appreciate it right now. He says he'll play for the Sox (baseball, not guitar) before the end of the season -- ideally at some point on the last road trip of the season, but during the last series at home, if nothing else. If the 2014 calendar or Konerko's career had more days remaining, I doubt he would be so adamant about that quick of a turnaround while he can't close his hand into a first.
"I'll finish on the field, one way or another," Konerko said about the fracture of a sesamoid bone in his left hand. "I don't care if I go up there and take three pitches and strike out. I'll finish on the field.
"Listen, it really doesn't matter as far as if I wound up playing three games instead of five. Does it really matter? I'm not sure it's a huge deal in the grand scheme of things. But I guess the alternative is just sitting all day and doing nothing. I would rather go out and play when I can play."
The tortured nature of this development exposes the difficulty in trying to execute this farewell tour with the desired amount of grace. It required a lot of things to go right, starting with a buy-in from the audience and an acceptable level of performance.
The former posed zero challenge, because "reverence" is the default setting for Konerko. The latter? Well, it's more like that hurdle was just removed from the track. Take this blurb from Daryl Van Schouwen's story:
Perhaps the best-case scenario is game action during the final road trip through Kansas City, Tampa and Detroit so he’s not dealing with rust on top of the injury during the last series.
Rust would be a concern for most players, but in this case, Konerko is 4-for-37 over his last month of action. It'd be hard to tell the pre-injury Konerko from the post-injury Konerko across a handful of games, which would seem to signal the problem, but the observers who notice and/or care seem to be in the minority.
But even with the audience conditioned to receive this swan song fondly, the Sox and Konerko still had to count on his health holding up. The aging process isn't being nearly as cooperative as the humans involved, which really sucks, because the farewell tour had just reached the point that brought all White Sox fans together.
Even somebody like me -- somebody who thought Konerko's 2013 season was a natural end to his career -- can appreciate the opportunity to celebrate a great career when it comes at zero cost. The expanded roster removed all the complications that killed the buzz for me over the first five months. Nature abhors a vacuum, though, and while White Sox fans will gladly give Konerko a hand regardless, it's a shame it won't be one he can use for a few weeks.