CHICAGO – Paul Konerko is admiring the Mariano Rivera retirement tour from afar, but isn’t exactly envious.
First of all, Konerko knows that the farewell salute Rivera is being given each time he passes through a ballpark for a last time is reserved for surefire Hall of Famers with grand stature in the game.
Mostly, though, he knows of a story that will never make him wonder if teams will recognize his final days, whenever they may be.
“Someone was telling a story the other day about someone who kind of went that route, announced (retirement) and all that, and no one cared,” Konerko said with a laugh. “So you have to be careful about all that stuff. You don’t want to be that guy. He expected to get gifts in every city he went to and got nothing. I might steer toward the other (route).”
Pressed for names, Konerko wasn’t talking. He said it was a player who retired a while ago, but Konerko can be good at misdirection sometimes.
It all begs the question, though: Would Konerko consider retiring after this season?
“I don’t know; I haven’t thought about it much,” Konerko said when asked if he would prefer Rivera’s exit path or would rather sneak out of the back door.
Konerko would much rather talk about Rivera’s place in the game that discuss anything that has to do with his uncertain future.
“It’s just amazing the fact that he’s stayed healthy that long and have the arm that would withstand throwing that much,” Konerko said of the 43-year-old Rivera. “He’s a special human being. He’s got special makeup. He’s just got the perfect makeup, everything, physically and makeup to do what he does. His command is great.
“Guys know what’s coming. It’s no real mystery. Everybody knows what’s coming, you just can’t hit it. Every now and again I’m sure he has a bad outing but over that long of time to have that much success, when pretty much everybody knows where you’re going and what you’re going to do, it’s mind boggling.”
Rivera returned the compliment, although he was a bit more succinct that Konerko.
“He has always been a great competitor,” Rivera said. “A gentleman, a guy that always fights hard for his team and that’s what you want to see in baseball.”
Rivera even offered some advice if Konerko was contemplating retirement.
“He has to do what is right for him and his family,” Rivera said. “When he comes to that conclusion I think he will be ready for that. My advice is that he can do the same thing I am doing because you will enjoy it, especially interacting with the fans.”
It seems as if Konerko has already ruled out doing the same thing as Rivera. The longtime White Sox captain will reserve all the retirement talk for another day and just concentrate on what the White Sox need to do down the stretch in a disappointing season.
Retirement or not, the last 7½ weeks could still end up being Konerko’s last in a White Sox uniform after 15 productive years on the South Side, and he doesn’t appear to have any intention on slowing down even if his body tries to tell him otherwise.
“Make sure you’re getting you’re getting your leads, looking for that ball in the dirt, make sure you’re doing all those little things,” Konerko said about the plan until the end of the season. “We’ve been doing that. The thing is, in September everybody is going to try to get a hit, or get outs if you’re pitching, because that’s your thing. We have to make sure we’re dialed in on those other things.
“I’m sure we’re going to play some teams in races. I’ve never been on that role (spoiler) as a team, but if that’s what we need to embrace, that’s what we need to embrace.”