The White Sox will close out a dismal season Sunday at home against the Kansas City Royals, but instead of the brutal won-loss record, fans can focus all their attention on Konerko instead.
This has happened before, of course. The White Sox’s World Series-clinching victory in 2005 could have been Konerko’s last hurrah, but the first baseman signed a new five-year deal, turning down a more lucrative offer from the Los Angeles Angels.
Again, at the end of the 2010 season, White Sox fans poured their heart out in support of Konerko, who somewhat surprisingly signed a new three-year deal, even after Adam Dunn was signed presumably as his middle-of-the-order replacement.
Now Konerko stands at another crossroads. The 17-year veteran will play, he will likely get a video tribute and at some point be will be removed from the game so he can walk across the field and soak in the admiration from White Sox fans all over again.
In 2010, Konerko said that nobody really deserves to be treated that well once, much less multiple times. Well then, call Sunday a bonus admiration day that might make him cringe a little.
After Sunday, things will get complicated for Konerko, who said he will take a month to decide whether he wants to retire or wait for offers. The White Sox would be his preferred destination to return, and he says it is the only team for which he will consider for a part-time reserve role.
Ultimately, a season when he failed to meet his own personal expectation, as well as team expectations, will weigh heavily on him.
“That’s huge; it’s maybe the biggest thing,” Konerko said. “You only get to go through these kinds of things once, a career once, so you try to rely on advice from other people. You try to talk to the people who have been through it. The majority of them are always, ‘If you can play, play, do it the way you want to do it. Go back to the drawing board. Go get ‘em.’ And I get all of that.
“The other side of it is, this is how careers are supposed to end. Not everybody gets to do it exactly how they want to do it. It’s supposed to kind of be not the best because that’s what closes you out, when you say, ‘OK, I’ve had enough of that, and they’ve had enough of me.’ So I can see it both directions. I can tell you more of me is the first one. And the advice I get is more the first scenario, but that doesn’t mean it’s right either.”
If he sounds confused, it’s because he is. Konerko even admitted as much.
Sunday shouldn’t be as confusing. Konerko will play and the fans will finally have something to cheer in a season that has gone all wrong.
Konerko will one day have his number retired by the White Sox and a statue is sure to be placed somewhere on the concourse. That’s what you get when you are a fan favorite whose offensive numbers are only eclipsed by an offensive machine like Frank Thomas.
When the day is over, it will all get confusing again, especially for Konerko.
“I don’t really have answers, I just know what’s happening,” Konerko said. “I think taking a month off, a month away from this, which I know if I do that, the more you don’t play, the needle will always move toward wanting to play. That’s what I feel would happen, that’s what people tell me. I just have to make sure I know what’s real and what isn’t.
“I could go fish out 20 guys in that clubhouse that don’t feel like playing a baseball game right now, and I’m probably right there with them. But how much of that is real, because I guarantee you as November clicks in, December, they’re going to want to play again and so will I. But I’m in a different situation. I have to figure out of it’s really real, if that’s something I want to do. I don’t know that answer right now.”