While at the parade yesterday for the World Champion Chicago White Sox, I was thrilled to catch a glimpse of World Series MVPJermaine Dye, AJ Pierzynski, Geoff Blum, Aaron Rowand, and Paul Konerko. Those were the ones I could make out through all the wonderful chaos. I was not fortunate enough to actually see the rally live since I had to get back to work, but I later read what Paul Konerko and others had to say to the fans.
Paulie’s words… or rather his actions, spoke volumes to me. Most nobably in this postseason, when Konerko was hitting clutch after clutch home run, I was struck by a centered, focused, and humble man. I saw a professional of the highest degree – maybe not with the best numbers in all categories, but without all the baggage of some other sluggers in the game. I’ll take Paulie’s consistent production and professionalism over the sometimes eye-popping but baggage-laden "superstars." Paulie gave the game ball – the last out to an emotional Reinsdorf – a final act fitting of a player and a ballclub so selfless, so relentless, so worthy to be called Champions. We all know of another first baseman from a Sox team of a different color who won it last year, who felt he owned the priviledge to "lend" the final out ball to his team, but I won’t name names. He’s not on that team anymore. I wonder why?
Konerko is not that kind of guy. He is anything but. It is my sincerest belief that if the White Sox have any hopes of, dare I say, repeating what was done in 2005, they must find a way to sign Paulie to a long-term deal. I can’t help but believe maybe Paulie wants that shot after saying at the rally, "I started to wonder, ‘What would make people think we are a good team? The only thing I could come up with was maybe do this one more time next year." That would be a dream for all White Sox fans. Still, dreams must be forged within the context of the real world. If real-world economics make it possible for the Sox to keep Konerko, I believe they will get it done.
On top of all this, Konerko is a guy who has been healthy and consistent year after year, and is a team player without the baggage. This is precisely the kind of guy the White Sox must keep. They know what they’re getting in Paulie, and it is all these things, save speed, they want in a player. This is the kind of player who epitomizes solid team baseball – exactly the kind of baseball that allowed the White Sox to win a World Series Championship for the first time in 88 years.
Konerko has earned his right to test the market. The White Sox may have made a mistake in not signing him last winter. Still, Reinsdorf has a chance to respond to Konerko’s team gesture of giving him the last out of the 05′ World Series. A re-signing is the only scenario that makes sense to me, but of course, it’s always easy to spend someone else’s money. Money aside, and I’ll admit that is a pretty darn big "aside", Konerko’s contributions to one of the most historic teams in White Sox history, were too substantial in my opinion to allow him to walk. His Game 2 grand slam in the World Series only put an exclamation point on his immense contributions. If Konerko was merely a nice player with solid stats he would be dispensible, but he is not. He epitomizes what the White Sox are -hardworking baseball players who go about their business. He has become the face of the organization, a franchise player, and I cannot think of a better man to represent that organization with Sox pride. He is a man of honor, of humility, and class.
Konerko puts team before ego. All these guys did. All were on the same page. I am convinced Ozzie had a lot to do with that. Still, Ozzie also needed the kind of players who would play his game, and Paulie is exactly that kind of guy. The class Paulie demonstrated with the final selfless act in a long, glorious season of a team that put winning and the White Sox organization before anything else, has put the perfect ending on a perfect season. It’s going to be a great winter! White Sox World Champions!! I never get tired reading that…