By Adam Hoge-
CHICAGO (CBS) With the departure of A.J. Pierzynski in the offseason, only one member from the 2005 World Series team remains on the White Sox: Paul Konerko.
And after the 2013 season, there’s a real possibility there will be none.1
Over the last 14 seasons, no player has meant more to the White Sox organization than Konerko, who will turn 37 before Opening Day. A career .285 hitter in a White Sox uniform, Konerko has racked up 415 home runs and 1307 RBI, both good for second all-time in franchise history behind only Frank Thomas.
It’s conceivable Konerko could pass Thomas in home runs this season (he needs 34) and if he comes back in 2014, he should pass Thomas’ RBI total of 1465 (he needs 159).
But therein lies arguably the biggest question facing the White Sox after 2013: Will Konerko come back when his contract expires at the end of the season?
Unlike when he was free agent in 2005 and 2010, retirement is on the table. And given the severe four-month slump he experienced in 2012, many might assume it’s an option he’ll seriously consider.
But the truth is, Konerko hasn’t really thought a lot about 2014, because he has no idea how he’ll feel when 2013 is over.
“Not really,” Konerko said Friday at SoxFest when he was asked if he’s thought about what will happen after the upcoming season. “I’m aware. It’s not much different than it was a couple years ago when I was here. At that point there’s different scenarios that can play out. But there’s so many moving parts to it all that you can’t just handicap or gauge how it’s going to go because I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Arguably the biggest variable is the bone chip he had removed from his wrist as soon as the 2012 season concluded. It was something that had bothered him for a few seasons and while he never used it as an excuse, it obviously contributed to his slump last season. General manager Rick Hahn said Friday that the bone chip was much larger than Konerko expected when it was removed and had he known that, he may have had the surgery a year or two prior.
Remember, at the start of last season, Konerko was hitting the ball better than ever. He sprayed it to all fields in the Cactus League and carried that right into the season, where he still managed to make the All-Star Game despite his numbers starting to dip in late May. Now that the wrist issue has been resolved, it’s conceivable he’ll have a full year of success, even at 37 years old.
“I don’t know what I’m going to feel, how I’m going to feel seven months from now, what I’m going to be thinking, what other people are going to be thinking,” Konerko said. “I mean, there’s so much to that, a lot of heavy thoughts there. A lot of things you can think about.”
In other words, what happens in 2013 will go along way in deciding what happens in 2014. Konerko has not made up his mind going into the season and will wait to see how he feels and what his value is when it is over.
For now, the only thing he can do is what he’s done in a White Sox uniform every year: Work his hardest to play well and win games.
“The main thing is just trying to go out and have a good season,” Konerko said. “It doesn’t really matter what year you’re in, if you have a year coming up to play, whether you’re 22, 30, 35, whatever it is, it’s always about the year coming up so that’s kind of what my focus is. Just try to do it as right as I can and go out and lay it all out there.”
There’s never been any question about Konerko doing that. And when the long grind of his 15th Major League season comes to end, there will either be something left in the tank or not.
If there’s not, well, the Hall of Fame debate can start a year early.
Adam is the Sports Editor for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox 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 columns here.