Paul Konerko’s career is ending quietly.
There’ll be no pre-game farewell ceremonies at ballparks around the league, and Metallica won’t set up shop at US Cellular Field to serenade him with a live rendition of his walk-up song, “Harvester of Sorrow.”
That wouldn’t be his style.
Konerko’s just a guy who showed up for seventeen years and did his job so well, so consistently, and so quietly, that folks who aren’t Chicago White Sox fans can be forgiven for underestimating his value to the game.
He’s been the face of the Sox for a decade, turning down two opportunities to chase large free agent contracts along the way. During the 2005 World Series, his Game Two grand slam catapulted the Sox to their first world championship in 88 years and, in acknowledgement of his loyalty and quiet leadership, he was named captain the following spring. Soon, his number 14 will hang next to the other all-time White Sox greats at “The Cell” and a statue of his likeness will reside on the outfield concourse.
In a just world, his plaque would hang in Cooperstown, too.
I’m not one to get hung up on these kinds of arguments, but there’s a case to be made for the likes of Konerko. In addition to the impact he’s made on White Sox history, his body of work stands out among all big leaguers for its consistency and longevity. With 434 career home runs, .356 OBP, and .491 SLG, the six-time All-Star rubs shoulders with Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield, Tony Perez, Jim Rice and Billy Williams.
While he’s an outlier in terms of WAR and JAWS, Konerko compiled his numbers with a lunch bucket, dogged determination and a commitment to approach bordering on the maniacal. And he did it during an era of inflated offense when many of his peers opted for a pharmaceutical edge.
Paul Konerko probably won’t get that plaque in the Hall of Fame, and that’s a shame, because he’s one superstar who could help class up the joint.
About the Author
TS Flynn is a writer and educator in Minneapolis. He posts baseball ephemera several times daily over at his website. On Twitter, he’s @mighty_flynn.