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White Sox great Paul Konerko feeling “lucky” as 18-year career winds down

Aug 11, 2014, 12:28 PM EDT

Paul Konerko Getty Images

White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko isn’t getting a city-by-city farewell tour like Derek Jeter, but the 38-year-old six-time All-Star is retiring after 18 seasons in the majors.

Konerko has struggled in his final season, hitting .236 with five homers and a .650 OPS in 64 games as a part-timer after 15 years as an everyday player, so he’ll finish just short of reaching 450 homers and 2,500 hits for his career.

Konerko spoke to Scott Merkin of about how he feels with things winding down:

I can say this statement: I will be an ex-baseball player next month. It’s the truth. Since the All-Star break, it’s becoming more real. It’s there, you know. You can feel it coming. But like everything, I’m trying to spin it to where it’s not a bad thing.

It’s just part of the life cycle of the player. I’ve been lucky to play for a long time. I’m trying not to look at it as a sad occasion. I hope nobody else is. I’m graduating on to other things and there’s a time for this. Every player has to go through this stuff. I’m lucky because mine came a lot later than most. I feel lucky for that.

Konerko had a helluva career, especially considering he was once written off as a prospect bust after struggling in his first few cracks at the big leagues with the Dodgers. He’s played more games in a White Sox uniform than everyone except Hall of Famer Luke Appling, hit more home runs in a White Sox uniform than everyone except Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, and ranks 10th in franchise history in Wins Above Replacement.

  1. delusionalcubsfan - Aug 11, 2014 at 12:52 PM

    Classy guy, awesome player in his day. Even as a Cubs fan who’s loyalty definitely lies on the North Side, I’ve always respected Paul Konerko. He will be missed.

  2. natstowngreg - Aug 11, 2014 at 1:14 PM

    The following is in no way a criticism of Derek Jeter. Nor is it a criticism of his farewell tour. Though I’m confident some Yankees fans will take it as one. Your problem, guys.

    There’s something wrong with Derek Jeter getting a farewell tour, and Paul Konerko not getting one.

    • louderthanwords1 - Aug 11, 2014 at 1:26 PM

      I’m not a Yankee fan and I do think Konerko has been a great player but not one deserving of a farewell tour. Jeter, Rivera and Chipper were guys who got farewell tours because not only are they future hall of famers throughout their careers they were the face of baseball. Farewell tours should be for those special type players and Konerko falls short. The White Sox however should(and I’m sure they will) do something special for him.

    • pete2112 - Aug 11, 2014 at 1:38 PM

      I am a Yankees fan and I have to admit that it’s a little embarrassing and very over the top with regard to Jeter’s farewell tour. I don’t really understand it and that’s not to say Jeter hasn’t had an impressive career, but his whole career has been full of accolades, so I don’t think the farewell tour is really needed. Having said that, I don’t think Jeter wants it anymore than anyone else and this is certainly not something he’s calling the shots on.

      • nothanksimdriving123 - Aug 11, 2014 at 4:05 PM

        I suspect that Mr Jeter could have very quietly made it known to MLB teams that he would accept only the following:
        A charitable contribution in his name, and
        Whatever applause the crowd chose to give him.
        I doubt anyone would have objected to such a tour.

      • indaburg - Aug 11, 2014 at 6:43 PM

        I agree with your first sentence, pete. I think a “farewell tour” is crass. That said, if Jeter didn’t want the accolades, Jeter could have waited to announce his retirement to avoid the attention or he could have asked that in lieu of any retirement farewell gift, a donation be made to a charitable organization in his name, as nothanksimdriving suggested. He knew exactly what would happen when he announced his retirement when he did. Jeter is too media savvy not to know.

      • carpi2 - Aug 11, 2014 at 11:05 PM

        You have to remember, Jeter’s farewell tour has served as a marketing campaign for every team he visited throughout the year. Part of the reason why every team gave Jeter a unique gift was to use said gift to draw attention to their own organization. Every year, less and less genuine sentiment is displayed by professional sports organizations

    • csbanter - Aug 11, 2014 at 3:55 PM

      Comparing Kornerko and Jeter careers is like that whole night and day thing. There is no comparison, furthermore its all about RE2PECT.

      Tip your cap son…

    • clydeserra - Aug 11, 2014 at 6:09 PM

      there is something wrong with farewell tours. Full stop.

      I do not care for player rivera nor player jeter.

      They are great baseball players. Sure. But I don’t need to fawn over them at my stadium.

    • dinofrank60 - Aug 11, 2014 at 11:29 PM

      And who are they doing this for?

  3. Eternal Optimist - Aug 11, 2014 at 1:19 PM

    He made me want to turn on the TV. Baseball kind of loses a little when a player like Paulie retires. He treated the game with respect and humility, even though he was an all-star caliber player. I hope the youngsters in the Sox dugout have been taking notes.

  4. hojo20 - Aug 11, 2014 at 1:33 PM

    See you in Cooperstown, Pauly.

    • pete2112 - Aug 11, 2014 at 1:46 PM

      I’m a Yankees fan, but I have a lot of respect for Konerko as he always played the game with class and played for a great city. He put up some great numbers and was the face of the franchise for a long time, but are his numbers HOF caliber? I’m just wondering if his numbers are enough to get him in.

      • wjarvis - Aug 11, 2014 at 2:18 PM

        No they aren’t HOF caliber. I’ve always thought of Konerko in the same light as Mark Grace when he was a Cub. An excellent player who was a favorite of a lot of fans, but realistically wasn’t one of the best players in the game.

      • nothanksimdriving123 - Aug 11, 2014 at 4:10 PM

        Hall of the Very Good.

    • stepsinsc - Aug 11, 2014 at 2:49 PM

      Y’all planning a trip there together, to take in the sights?

    • fathersworkandfamily - Aug 11, 2014 at 11:01 PM

      Is he buying a ticket?

      (really good player for a long time, not a HOFer)

  5. sportsfanjay - Aug 11, 2014 at 2:58 PM

    I just got back from Cooperstown to see Frank Thomas inducted. (If you haven’t gone to an induction ceremony, or been to Cooperstown…GO!) I love Paulie but his numbers not HOF worthy. I honestly don’t see him in the same light as Frank, Rickey Henderson, Robin Yount, or Ken Griffey Jr. (HOF 2016)
    He can be inducted into the Hall of Really Good, along with Fred McGriff, Mark Grace, and many others.
    I’m sure the White Sox will retire his number 14. Rightly so.

    • asimonetti88 - Aug 11, 2014 at 3:44 PM

      McGriff deserves to be in the Hall of Fame for cheesy infomercials for his efforts with Tom Emanski though!

    • twinfan24 - Aug 12, 2014 at 6:15 PM

      I agree that he likely isn’t HOF. But, I hated seeing him come up against the Twins. He is not only Hall of Very Good, but in his prime was Hall of Feared to See at the Plate (there has to be a shorter way to say that).

  6. bmadormo - Aug 11, 2014 at 4:35 PM

    He was a good to very good consistent player. Should be enormously proud of all he accomplished in his long career. I am a Yankees fan- enough of these farewell tours. Jeter has had plenty of recognition throughout his career. KONERKO is a classy professional.

  7. sbmcmanus - Aug 11, 2014 at 4:38 PM

    Good god, we can’t seriously be talking about Konerko and the Hall of Fame. Defense is an actual thing that happens and counts. Net of horrid defense, baseball-reference has Konerko as 4 wins below average for his career (we can give him 2 below average by excluding his early career pre-White Sox flop). But still, he wasn’t even that good. His counting stats are way inflated because of the era his career spans.

    • wjarvis - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:28 PM

      Anytime a face of the franchise player is close to their final games people are going to talk about the HOF. Among active players he’s top 10 in hits, total bases, home runs, RBI, and walks. Defense is a thing, but consider this, he was the better option at 1B for the White Sox than either Frank Thomas or Jim Thome, who will both be HOFer’s.

      Now I don’t believe for a second that he’ll make the HOF and probably won’t even see a second ballot, but I can understand why it’s at least brought up.

  8. bigpimp69 - Aug 12, 2014 at 2:50 AM

    PK is a lot closer to a HOF’er than these comments are suggesting. He was a non-setroid guy who thrived in the heart of the steroid era. He had to face juiced up pitchers and was forced to have his numbers compared to A-Rods & ManRams of time (jokes all of them). He was the face and captain of the franchise. He brought a World Series to the Second City (who could forget that Grand Slam?). He was great with the media. While his numbers might not hit the typical “benchmarks” but he could very well get the nod for “doing it the right way”.

    • wjarvis - Aug 12, 2014 at 5:04 AM

      I’m one of those writing the comments, so I’ll just compare him to two other first baseman that I think are a lot closer to the HOF border and also don’t have any PED accusations: Carlos Delgado, and Fred McGriff.

      Delgado has the same batting average but higher OBP, SLG, OPS, OPS+, with more doubles, triples, home runs, RBI, runs scored and walks. Even though Delgado was as good or better at almost everything on the field, he will likely struggle to enough support.

      Or a current player on the ballot Fred McGriff who is even further ahead of Konerko (and Delgado for the most part too). He leads Konerko in batting average, OBP, SLG, OPS, OPS+, runs scored, hits, doubles, triples, home runs, RBI, SB, TB, and walks. Oh yeah he got 11.4% on his 5th ballot, and is moving in the wrong direction.

      There are a number of other 1B candidates that played in his era as well who are generally thought to be clean who have better cases than Konerko.

      • bigpimp69 - Aug 12, 2014 at 1:15 PM

        McGriff should be in. Six straight season of 30+ HRs. The guy was a beast. But, let’s be honest, Paulie gets a bit shafted by playing (almost all of his career) for the second team in the second city. If he had played in NY or Boston he would be talked about as an All-Time great and would be a lock for the HOF.

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