By Adam Hoge-
CHICAGO (CBS) Back in early April I made a statement that I thought was a little outlandish, but not too crazy. Now it seems like a no-brainer:
Paul Konerko will pass Frank Thomas and become the White Sox’s all-time home run leader.
Thomas hit 448 home runs for the White Sox in his career. Konerko is sitting on 378 home runs with the Sox after hitting his 21st of the season — and fifth in five games — Tuesday night against the Cubs. That’s only a difference of 70 home runs, something that should be easily attainable before his current contract with the White Sox expires at the end of the 2013 season.
Never thought I would be saying this, but maybe Kenny Williams should have given Konerko more than a three-year deal in the offseason. He probably assumed what I, and a lot of other people, assumed after Konerko’s great 2010 season: He’s 35 years old and has to slow down eventually.
That slow down might still be coming, but not this season. Konerko is tied for the major league lead with 21 home runs and is top two in all three American League triple crown categories. He’s a legitimate MVP candidate in mid-June and shows no signs of letting up, considering he has hit 11 home runs in his last 20 games.
And the crazy thing is that he said Tuesday that this isn’t the best he has felt in his career.
“I don’t think I’ve ever felt as good as I felt the first couple months of last year,” he said. “That was for like a two month stretch. This has been like a week or two, whatever it has been.”
White Sox purists won’t want to hear that Frank Thomas’ crown as the franchise’s best player is already being challenged, but that’s exactly what is happening.
While Konerko’s .284 career average with the White Sox will never compare to Thomas’ .307 average in Chicago, his durability, reliability and consistency are already much better than Thomas’. He’s been a much better leader and teammate in the clubhouse than Thomas ever was and there’s no doubt he is a much better defensive player, especially considering Konerko won that battle head-to-head when they were teammates. Thomas was forced to become a full-time designated hitter because of Konerko’s glove.
What ultimately might be the tipping point in this argument is whether or not Konerko can beat Thomas’ RBI record with the White Sox. Thomas finished with 1465 RBI in Chicago and Konerko currently sits at 1186 RBI with the White Sox. For Konerko to rack up 279 more runs batted in, he will probably need an extra year on his current contract and play with the Sox in 2014.
Last winter, I would have said 2013 will definitely be Konerko’s last year in black and white, but honestly, who knows? He’s on pace to have the best year of his career at the age of 35 and his work ethic doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
“The work is still the same,” he said Tuesday night. “The routines are still the same because even if you have a good feeling, you are working like hell just to keep it. If you don’t have it, you’re working like hell to get it. So either way you’re grinding, you’re working. There’s no let-up.”
No let-up. That’s the mentality Konerko needs if he is going to establish himself as the best White Sox player ever.
It’s really not as crazy as it sounds.
Do you agree with Adam? Post your comments below.
Adam is the Sports Content Producer for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the White Sox, Blackhawks and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his blogs here.