Since the days of Frank Thomas, the face of the Chicago White Sox franchise has been without question, Paul Konerko.
In 15 seasons wearing a White Sox uniform, Kornerko has earned a .277 batting average and has hit 427 home runs, an average of 28 round-trippers a season. Konerko has played some good baseball well into his thirties, seemingly not missing a beat up until last season. In a very uncharacteristic season for Konerko in 2013, Konerko hit .244 with 13 homers in 447 at-bats. A back injury may have been the cause of the sudden regression, but no matter the cause, Konerko struggled.
After seeing the first visible signs of regression skill-wise and given the fact that Konerko, now 38, was contemplating retirement, the White Sox acted fast and signed Cuban first-baseman Jose Abreu to a six-year deal worth $68 million. Given the huge contract, it was clear that the White Sox had just invested in their first-baseman of the future — a smart move given the uncertainty surrounding Konerko.
As we all know Konerko decided to resign with the White Sox for one more season, which in my eyes, coupled with the Abreu acquisition, made the White Sox a better team while also giving the organization a chance to send Konerko off the right way — meaning, in Derek Jeter fashion.
Well, the White Sox must see things totally different than I do because early on this season things couldn’t be any further from a Jeter like farewell, with the No. 1 difference being the fact that Jeter is actually playing this season.
Entering Friday’s matchup with the Kansas City Royals, the team’s fourth game of the season, Konerko had a grand total of two at-bats. Abreu’s talent has been as good as advertised — actually almost better — and because of that I have had no problem with his solidified spot in the lineup at first base.
I have, however, had a huge problem with the fact that there is a designated hitter spot in the White Sox’ lineup that Konerko has not occupied on a regular basis.
Entering Friday’s game, Adam Dunn had started every game at DH, and in 12 at-bats, Dunn had two hits, five strikeouts and .176 batting average. Dunn’s two hits were both of the home run variety, highlighting the only advantage Dunn has ever had over Konerko as a hitter — power.
The Royals started Jeremy Guthrie in Friday’s match-up. The fact that Konerko wasn’t in the lineup when he has batted .320 in a combined 20 at-bats against Guthrie over the past three seasons — especially when compared to Dunn’s .269 batting average against Guthrie during the same time span — is definitely confusing.
The White Sox lost Friday’s game 7-5, and Dunn actually raised his batting average to .188 with his 1-4 performance.
Because Konerko is playing in his last season, has done so many good things for the organization, and has always been a better hitter than Dunn — Konerko should be playing on regular basis. Konerko deserves the chance to play in his farewell season and the fans deserve the chance to see him do it. No disrespect to Dunn, but a player of his caliber should not be the reason Konerko is not in the lineup.
Well since both Konerko and Dunn are primarily 1B/DH players at this point in their career, and Abreu is locked in at the position, that leaves both players with DH as their only option for playing time right? Well, not necessarily.
Dunn has played a total of 1,126 career games in the outfield. Why not let the better hitter and player that has meant so much to your franchise play out his last season as your starting DH, and let the inferior hitter find his way on the field at a corner outfield spot if you value having his bat in the lineup that much — Makes total sense to me.
If the White Sox want Dunn in the lineup, fine, I just feel like they should make it happen at the expense of another player who is not the face of the franchise, because let’s be clear — as long as Konerko is on the White Sox roster — he is still the face of the White Sox franchise.