Konerko farewell could be real this time

Will Paul Konerko's 15th season with the White Sox also be his last? Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

CHICAGO -- Chicago White Sox fans will get one more chance to let Paul Konerko feel their true feelings.

On the last day of the 2010 season, with Konerko's contract about to expire, fans on hand at U.S. Cellular Field gave the veteran first baseman multiple rousing ovations.

It no doubt stirred emotions for the team's longtime first baseman, as well as the emotions of his family, who were watching the proceedings unfold from a suite above the first-base side.

How much it led to Konerko then signing a three-year extension can be debated. But fan appreciation had to play somewhat of a role as Konerko ultimately re-signed with the White Sox instead of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who play not far from his Scottsdale, Ariz., home.

With that three-year deal now set to expire after the 2013 season, a familiar scenario seems set to unfold. This time, though, the odds of Konerko signing yet another deal with the White Sox seem less likely so if fans want to show an outpouring of love and appreciation yet again, it might not hurt to start the deafening roars earlier than Game 162.

The facts remain, though, that if Konerko doesn't elect to retire, he will be 38 years old at the start of his next contract. And while it's possible that he could come back for less yearly than the $13.5 million he will make from the 2013 season, he will still command a significant chunk of money.

The club might be inclined to spread those finances throughout other areas of the roster.

There also is the reality that the White Sox have an option at first base, for one season anyway, if Konerko departs. Although not as consistent as Konerko on offense or defense, Adam Dunn is signed through 2014 and could move to the field full time.

What won't be replaced are Konerko's leadership skills. His no-nonsense approach and extreme work ethic have earned him respect from teammates, opponents and fans. And even though his over-analysis of his unsuccessful at-bats has earned him ribbing from teammates, there is no doubting that Konerko pains over his failures more than the most cynical fan.

And just what kind of team player has Konerko been? Consider that he is making things easier on the White Sox's finances this year by reportedly deferring $7 million of his salary for the upcoming season out over the next seven years. Konerko will actually be paid $6.5 million this season and then $1 million per year until 2020. The last time he made less than $6.5 million in a season was in 2003.

After drinking in the adulation from fans on the final day of the 2010 season and then returning with a new deal in 2011, Konerko admitted that no player deserves a second sendoff like the one he had just received. But a second one he is sure to get this year.

What's probably safe to say is that after Konerko leaves, nobody is expected to wear No. 14 again. The number's last hurrah could come this season. But who knows? If White Sox fans show enough Konerko love in 2013, perhaps there's a chance he could wear the jersey one more year.

So get out the posters, buttons and bumper stickers White Sox fans. It's never too early to start the "No. 14 in 2014" campaign.