The Unabridged Paul Konerko
Since the end of Spring Training, Paul Konerko steadfastly has avoided talking about his future. His preference is and always has been to focus on baseball and address the personal stuff at the end of the season or in the postseason.
But on Friday afternoon, the consummate White Sox leader spoke for 23 minutes about his future with just two games left in this forgettable season. Aside from wanting to stay with the White Sox, being willing to play a part-time role only with the White Sox and most likely retiring after 2014, Konerko wasn’t able to provide any definitive assessment for the immediate future.
He came up with great analysis on the matter, as he has been doing for the past 15 years. Here’s many more of his quotes that didn’t make it into the story at MLB.com.
ON NOT AUTOMATICALLY ASSUMING HE’LL HAVE AN OPTION TO COME BACK
“I’m going to answer questions here but I just want to say it’s all under the premise that there’s a choice and an option that they want me back, that it’s all on the basis and set to the backdrop that there’s a choice here.
“I don’t know that. I haven’t talked to the White Sox formally, we haven’t spoken about anything. Under normal circumstances I hate to answer questions and speculate on things I don’t even know are questions yet.
“But I want everyone to know that I’m not sitting here knowing … everything could be made up for me. I don’t know what my choices are. I don’t know what my options are. I know none of that, so speculating on it seems kind of weird to me, but I understand the timing of these things, so I’m going to answer questions set to that there is that choice.
“A lot of players you guys deal with have that sense of entitlement that they’re always going to have that. That’s not the way I go.”
ON HANDLING ANOTHER YEAR PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY
“You never totally know. I can’t say yes. I feel like there are some things that you go through during a season that are kind of isolated things that you feel like, ‘OK, well that will never bother me again.’ There are other things that you just know, ‘Hey, that’s never going away. That’s going to hang around. Can I get through with it?’ But it’s one of those I’ll have to (consider) over the next month or so.
“Again it’s not just the playing of the games. It’s the travel. It’s the Spring Training. It’s the offseason. It’s all that stuff. You have to be able to absorb all of that work. I go back and forth on that kind of stuff because I’ve done this for almost 20 years professionally.
“You always can do a little more than you think, but it is a commitment, and at least for me, you want to be able to go out there. It’s one thing if you’re a utility infielder that’s kind of lost the ability to swing the bat (from) when you were a starting player, but you’re still defensively good or this or that, you can kind of get through easier. It’s not as big of a deal. Someone like me, I need to go out there and swing the bat every day, and to have to be able to do that, you have to think about those things.”
ON WHETHER PHYSICAL OR MENTAL PART PLAYS MORE INTO THE DECISION
“Physical is a bigger chunk of it. Mentally I think you can always rebound. This isn’t the first season I’ve had that’s been rough. There have been other ones. Part of that, the older you get, you can kind of let it go quicker and know that I could turn.
“I remember when I was younger, 10 years ago, I had a rough one, and really just thought it was the end of my career. I didn’t know how I was going to respond to that. I think you get better at that. You do get beat up more every year mentally, but I think ultimately, you get a little better at it. But physically, that’s the thing you have to know. It’s not just the season.
“If you could snap your fingers and know it was next Opening Day, and just knew you had the season, that’s tough. The seasons are tough, but when you talk about the offseason and Spring Training, those are big things, big things that you have to want to do. The season doesn’t start on April 1. It doesn’t start on Feb. 15. For me, it starts on Nov. 10, Nov. 15, somewhere right around then. So you have to know you’re willing to go from right then all the way until now. That’s a long year. So physically you have to know if you’re up for it.
ON PREFERRING TO FINISH AS A WHITE SOX PLAYER
“I don’t think there’s any doubt of that. I don’t know the options that are going to be made available to me, but I think that’s always been my goal. Certainly when I signed back here after ’05, I felt like that was it, and then after 2010, that just kind of locked it in. That’s definitely what I envision.
ON THE DECISION WEIGHING ON HIM THIS YEAR
“There are so many layers to the season that are bad, unfortunately. This is really the only season when you think about it, for me anyway, every season I’ve played before this, and when I say every season I mean since I was like seven, that I knew I would play the next year. I feel like if I do play, the one thing I can give you of any substance today probably would be that if I do play next year, that will probably be it.
“So that’s really what it boils down to. I would know the answer to that. This is the only one that would wind up being that I didn’t know the answer the whole way, and I don’t know if I handled that well, don’t know if I liked it. It’s not just the game. It’s not just the playing. When your whole entire year, everywhere you go, whether it’s to this city or that, there are so many relationships with people.
“Am I going to see this person again? Am I going to be back here? All of those little things that you guys can probably imagine, but there’s even more of them. (I was) in between on all of those, and I didn’t like that. Looking back on it, that was probably, I don’t want to say a mistake, but I don’t know if I was sure enough in Spring Training or before to say one way or the other, and maybe I should have figured things out more to say, ‘Listen, I plan on definitely playing beyond this year,’ or ‘This is it.’ It probably would have been a better year personally for me either way.
“But again that still doesn’t get around the fact that what’s happened with the rest of it. Some of this stuff, there’s a lot in your control, but there’s a lot out of your control. And this has just been a real rough year for everybody. I don’t know any guy on our team right now that hasn’t been eaten up by this team and what’s gone on here for three weeks or a month at one point during the season. It’s been a struggle. It’s been rough, and that can happen to anybody at any age.
ON ROUGH SEASON PLAYING INTO HIS DECISION
“It’s maybe the hugest thing. 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. Going back to what I said, when that choice is put in front of me, if it is, that’s probably when I’ll have to think harder about it. We’re kind of talking now like it is.”
ON COMING BACK AS A PART-TIME PLAYER
“The only thing I can say on that would be the only place I could do that would be here because my family likes it here, my kids love it here, it’s a great place to be in the summer. I’ve been here. If I do come back in any capacity, even if I come back as, again, I don’t know the choices and all that, I think it’s going to be looked on, more importantly by myself, is that, I’m always holding myself to the standard that I’ve set, as far as the production I’ve had and what I’ve done.
“Other people are going to hold me to that, and I get that, but it’s probably not fair to myself to do that as much, and I’m going to have to come to grips that if I do play, I’ve got to kind of relax on that a little bit and know if I come back here, production can be done in a lot of different ways. It’s not always just driving in runs and hitting home runs.
“I’ve got to be better, if I’m going to come back, at working with the young guys and be better to them and be not so much consumed like I was 10 years ago. I’ve just been so, my head’s down and I just do what I do and I’m probably going to have to make adjustments on that kind of stuff to enjoy if I do come back. I think I could do it but I would definitely have to change some of my ways of the way I do things.”
ON PART-TIME VETERAN LEADERS BEING VALUABLE
“If I could allow it anywhere, it would be. Like what you said about going out the right way, if I did come back it’s not about that means I come back and I want to drive in 100 runs and I want to make an All-Star team. It’s not like that. It’s more just the vibe of how you want to feel when you go. And if that meant the plan from the beginning of the year was this, and Plan A, and you succeeded in that plan, that means that’s going out right.
“The guys you mentioned (Mark Kotsay, Jason Giambi), the role has to exist. I don’t know the roster, the way that’s going to shape up. That’s on Rick (Hahn) and all that. I’m very conscious of, I feel like I’ve always, since I’ve been a little kid, earned my way on to the playing field. No one did a favor for me. I always feel like I earned my way on. I’m not quite sure I can say that right now for next year. So that’s a problem with me, that’s a concern with me. The argument can be made that, well, OK, everything you’ve done up until now, regardless of this year, you have earned that.
“I don’t know the answer to that, but it definitely crosses my mind because I don’t want to put anybody in a tough spot that for other reasons that’s why I’m back here. If I’m back here, I want it to actually make sense. Assuming that I come to that conclusion that I want to play, that has to make sense for the other side because the White Sox have always been honest with me and treated me well. I’m not looking to power play somebody into a job. That’s just not who I am.”
ON FAMILY BEING A MAJOR PART OF HIS DECISION
“That’s another thing about next year. I’m going to have to look at going back to what I said, I’ve kind of always done things the same way. If I do play, I have to change the way like when I travel, I have to have the family come more with me to lessen the time away. Sometimes it’s tough with the school situations but that’s something that maybe the year or two I’ve dropped the ball on. I could have been a little bit more ahead because as your kids get older, you are missing stuff. But it wasn’t the way I do things. I’m going to have to be a little different. I’m going to have make adjustments how the way I do things because I’m a little set in my ways.
“That will be something I’ll have to address if I do play again. I have to go less time without seeing my kids, wife, all that kind of stuff.”
ON TEAM’S MISERABLE YEAR
“You know it’s possible in a sense that you see other organizations that turned. The Red Sox last year lost 90-something games. So, I’m sure that wasn’t what they had in mind. You know there are a lot of good teams now. So if you don’t get off right and these guys don’t play right or this guy gets hurt, anything is in play. I’m happy that in my 15 years it’s really the only one that was like this.
“The ’07 year I just don’t count along these lines because there were so many injuries it wasn’t even the real team that was playing most of that year. This year wasn’t quite, I can’t say that. We had our team a lot of the time and we just were bad.
“But I’m pretty lucky. 15 years in one spot. We had teams, I’ve been to the playoffs three times, which isn’t a ton. But we’ve had, you are into September every year being in it at least, maybe into the last week. That’s what you are looking for. There’s no guarantees you are ever going to make it to the playoffs. It’s always been pretty competitive.
“Definitely shocked. It was pretty much the same group of guys as last year. So I don’t think anybody saw this coming. I know there are a lot of people who thought we overachieved last year, but I don’t think they would have even said it was going to go this bad this year.”