One of the biggest headlines coming into the 2013 Chicago White Sox season is the future of Paul Konerko. This being the final year left on his three-year, $37.5 million contract, the possibility of Konerko not wearing the black and white in 2014 is becoming more and more likely. Not only is the veteran first baseman’s career with the Sox unknown after this season, but rumors of Konerko retiring after 2013 have also surfaced. When asked about this topic at SoxFest a few weeks ago, Konerko answered the question exactly how he has approached contract situations in the past. Konerko told the media at SoxFest that he wasn’t worrying about his contract, but instead was focusing on the upcoming year. If Konerko does in fact retire, or play for another team after this season, what will his legacy as a Chicago White Sox be?
“Pauly”, a name so many White Sox fans use when referring to Konerko, is arguably the most underrated player in the MLB. A six-time All-Star, Konerko has quietly dominated the American League since joining the White Sox in 1999. Also the 2005 ALCS Most Valuable Player, Konerko has the accolades that usually make a player a household name. However, throughout his 16-year career in the MLB, Konerko has seemingly always been left out of the discussion of the MLB’s best. And now that Konerko’s time left as a South Sider is starting to shrink, is he once again being under-appreciated? Should White Sox fans stop calling him Pauly, and start calling him the greatest Chicago White Sox player of all-time?
With Konerko still having at least one year left in a White Sox uniform, the answer to these questions are still somewhat unknown. That being said, if Konerko never played another inning for the Sox, I believe you can make a case for him being the greatest White Sox to ever play.
When looking at Konerko’s ultimate legacy as a White Sox, you shouldn’t put all of your focus on numbers. His numbers with the White Sox- 2,135 hits, 415 homeruns, a .285 AVG- are very respectable, but at the same time don’t exactly blow you away. But numbers can only tell you so much. What those numbers don’t tell you is how important Konerko has been as a leader for the White Sox throughout his entire career. And how Konerko led the 2005 White Sox to a World Series Championship with his play on the field, and his resilient attitude off of it. Something else those numbers don’t explain to you is how Konerko hit the biggest home run in White Sox history. A Konerko grand slam in game two of the 2005 World Series brought the Sox back to life, and helped catapult them to a Series sweep of the Houston Astros. Konerko’s statistics and numbers don’t show you just how much he’s meant to the White Sox.
Yes, former White Sox players like Frank Thomas, Luke Appling and Nellie Fox are true White Sox greats. But when you look at everything Paul Konerko has done as a Chicago White Sox, and what he can still accomplish if he sticks around for a few more years- 33 home runs shy of becoming the All-Time White Sox leader in home runs- it’s hard to not place him atop the list of White Sox greats. Once Konerko hangs up the cleats, he should not only become the 10th player in White Sox history to have his number retired, or just have a statue of himself built inside of U.S. Cellular Field like other Sox players have. In my mind, Konerko should go down in the record books as the greatest Chicago White Sox player to ever walk the earth.
Whether you agree with me or not, as a White Sox fan, seeing Konerko walk off the field one last time as a White Sox, and hearing the chant “Pauly, Pauly, Pauly” one final time will be the end of a true Chicago White Sox legend.