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Why Paul Konerko's New Contract Is Not Money Well Spent....

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Rock Mamola

Producer/Host on WSCR 670AM The Score.

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"O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won"
(Walt Whitman - 1865)
 
The captain of the south side is back.  Breaking news this morning that Paul Konerko signs a three year deal worth 37.5 million dollars.  According to the White Sox press release on the new deal, "Paulie" will receive $12 million in 2011 and 2012 and $13.5 million in 2013.  Of the $13.5 million due in the final year of the contract, he will receive $6.5 million in 2013 and $1 million annually from 2014-2020.  The talk of the deal of the last couple of days has been up and down from its a for sure deal to be had to what seemed like the White Sox last chance at signing the 34 year old first baseman.  However in what seemed like the final day of possible talks between Konerko and the White Sox, Konerko decides that his home for the last twelve seasons is where he would like to be.
 
Coming off what could be considered the best season of his career, Konerko was rumored to make anywhere from 13-15 million dollars a year with multiple teams rumored in the mix.  However the captain decided to stick with his mates on the south side of Chicago at what seems like a hometown discount with the way this contract is structured.  Currently at an estimated payroll of around 107 million dollars and  Kenny Williams using the term "all in" as far as how the team will approach the final payroll figure for the 2011 season, White Sox fans should be excited that their team is bringing in high dollar talent to compete with the big boys of the American League. 
 
However with all the spending the White Sox are doing by bringing in sluggers like Adam Dunn and now with the addition of Paul Konerko, is Kenny Williams going about this the right way? 
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One thing I have always respected about Kenny Williams is he has always been a very aggressive General Manager.  Never really relying on developing draft picks but using them to bring in proven talent year after year.  Kenny Williams has brought in players like Jim Thome, Jake Peavy, Bobby Jenks, Freddy Garcia, Jose Contreras via trades and took chances on players like Jermaine Dye, AJ Pierzynski, Tadahito Iguchi and Juan Uribe.  Not every single transaction under Williams' watch has panned out and there have not been many draft picks of Williams' that were traded away as prospects that have panned out either.  The fact the Williams always stays active taking risks and making the White Sox relevant year after year is what makes him not only the most exciting but also a well respected general manager around baseball.   
 
This off season is no different as Williams continues to spend and the White Sox payroll (at least for 2011) continues to rise.  Of course the White Sox will not be spending as much as the Yankees or Red Sox of the baseball world, but their payroll is estimated to eclipse the record setting 121.2 million dollar payroll of 2008.  Flashing back to that 2008 season, the White Sox finished 89-74 needing a "Blackout Game" to make the postseason where they lost out to the eventual American League representative in the World Series in the Tampa Bay Rays.  While there is no scientific method of truly defining that an increased payroll equals winning (and more often than not it does not), the White Sox are trapped in an identity crisis of sorts.   
 
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White Sox fans remember "the softball" teams of the earlier days of Kenny Williams tenure as GM of the White Sox.  Before winning the World Series in 2005, the White Sox averaged 223 home runs a year in the first four seasons under Williams' reign.  While the power numbers were there for those four seasons, it did not result in any playoff appearances.  Then in 2005, the era of "Ozzie ball" began as the White Sox began to concentrate on a national league style of baseball over the "softball team" mentality of the previous four seasons.  Concentrating on pitching, defense, and fundamental offense the White Sox went on to win the World Series going 11-1 in the postseason.  Since 2005, the White Sox have been stuck in a constant identity crisis trying to recreate the magic of 2005.  Trading solid defense in center field (Aaron Rowand) for a power hitting left handed bat (Jim Thome).  Playing under-developed talent in Josh Fields and Jerry Owens for near full seasons and attempts to rebuild and win at the same time have come and failed.  This season the White Sox are going back to their past but what baseball is straying away from.
 
The old saying goes "the trend is your friend" and the trend is moving away from a "softball team" type of game and more toward a pitching and defense type of game (i.e. San Francisco Giants, Tampa Bay Rays, etc).  While the White Sox starting staff can still be compared with some of the best in baseball from top to bottom, the bullpen has some issues.  Minus Bobby Jenks, JJ Putz, Scott Linebrink the back end of the bullpen has some holes that need to be addressed.  You also need to look at the hot corner as Brent Morel (career .960 fielding percentage in minors) currently is your starting third baseman for 2011.  Kenny Williams needs also to look at if  they can trust in Carlos Quentin and his production when healthy.  Quentin has missed 94 games over the past two seasons and when he did play averaged a .240 batting average with 24 home runs and 72 RBI.  Defensively Quentin is a liability due to his recent injuries and also limited range.  The White Sox still have plenty of issues that need to be addressed but the free spending on players like Konerko and Dunn make me wonder exactly if Williams is putting the money in the right areas.  
 
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Spending money does not always guarantee winning, but the way Kenny Williams has spent on his payroll this off season reeks of desperation and loyalty.  Trusting in Paul Konerko to put up the season he did last year with a three year deal which actually pays him through 2020 seems daunting to me especially when there are younger/cheaper options out on the market who put up the same averages that Konerko does.  Adam Laroche compares rather well to Konerko and the market is showing Williams could have gotten him at half the price of Konerko.  Former Chicago Cub Derrek Lee compares closely to Konerko and also adds a gold glove to the position.  You would figure with the relationship manager Ozzie Guillen has with Lee from their Florida Marlins days, Lee would love to return to Chicago of course for a cheaper rate.  Those are just two examples of how the White Sox could have freed up some money to go out and shore up the other question marks on this team in a must win season not only for Ozzie Guillen, but maybe for Kenny Williams.
 
As much as Kenny Williams has been aggressive and kept the off season and trade deadline exciting, compared to other general managers who have held the same position as long as Williams has had the least success of them all while spending the most on payroll.
 
GM's Who Have Held Same Positon Since (at least) 2001:
Daniel O'Dowd (Colorado) -2 playoff appearances (1 world series 2008)
Brian Sabean (SF) - 3 playoff appearances (2 world series (2002/2010))
Brian Cashman (NYY) - 9 playoff appearances (3 World Series (2001/2003/2009))
Billy Beane (OAK) - 4 playoff appearances (No World Series)
Kenny Williams (CWS) - 2 playoff appearances (1 world series (2005))
 
Outside Brian Cashman of the Yankees, every other general manager on that list has yet to spend over 100+ million dollars on a single year's roster....Williams has done it four times since 2001 and is headed for his fifth.  If Kenny Williams wants to build a winner like he did in 2005, he needs to spend like he did in 2005......wisely.  At a payroll of 75.2 million dollars, the 2005 White Sox were built with balance, defense, a solid rotation and a strong bullpen.  You cannot say that about the current 2011 Chicago White Sox roster currently over 103 million dollars and work yet to be done.   
 
Those who continue to hold onto the past will never be successful in the future.  With the signings of AJ Pierzynski, Paul Konerko and the continued support of Ozzie Guillen by Jerry Reinsdorf, loyalty will only keep you stagnant in a game that is constantly evolving.

Hence why Paul Konerko coming back was not spending wisely.
 
-RoCk
 
Rock Mamola is the Associate Producer of The Mully And Hanley Morning Show and co-host of The Joe O And Rock Show on WSCR 670AM The Score
 
You can follow The Mully And Hanley Morning Show at twitter.com/mullyhanley
 
You can follow The Joe O And Rock Show at twitter.com/joeoandrockshow


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13 Comments

patrick said:

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the konerko move seems to be all reinsdorf. i am a konerko fan, but i felt the money would be better spent on derek lee. you would get him cheaper and if he is healthy this year, i believe he will have a good season. as a general manager or owner, you can't make moves with your heart or make moves for the fans. also, now the question lay with the bullpen. the way it looks now this team will need the runs to stay in and win games

Rock Mamola said:

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Patrick,

My main concern is all this money is spent on Konerko and he ends up with his averages for 2011. Then what will the fans say going into 2012? Was he worth the money?

It's one thing to spend a ton of money, and it's another to get the best bang for your buck. Just don't think Paulie is the best bang for the White Sox buck with a few options out there who give about the same production for half the cost.

Thanks for checking out the post.

-RoCk

GeekToMe said:

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YES! No sooner than the ink has dried on the contract and already Sox fans are griping about Konerko. Had Reinsdorf let him go, you all would have complained about how cheap he is and how he lacked loyalty. Now that he re-signs your team captain, you complain that having him is going to hurt other aspects of the team.

It's a case of 'damned if you do and damned if you don't' for the best sports owner in Chicago, and that's coming from a Cubs fan.

Rock Mamola said:

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Elliott,

Two things:

#1 - see the hat in my avatar?

#2 - It's hard to complain about how cheap Reinsdorf would be after spending what he did on Adam Dunn and what they would have to spend on a first baseman and bullpen. Konerko just raises the payroll even more and could handcuff Kenny on some possible options for the bullpen (if not 3B or RF).

It's not damned if you do and damned if you don't, it's more a case of not spending wisely and getting the best bang for your buck. It's tough to convince me that a 34 yr old man with a career year is worth the deal he got.

I.E. - Jermaine Dye (granted, not the numbers PK had in his final year, but very comparible)

-RoCk

J. Brown said:

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Konerko is the current face of the franchise (particularly for and to Chicagoans) - he's the press-friendly face of the organization. He's also coming off of a definite career year, with numbers that he worked hard over the last few seasons to attain. While I'll agree that there are still gaps in the roster (coughBULLPENcough), getting Paulie locked in for a few more seasons was a must-do move. I'd question the signing of Dunn to anything longer than a 2-year deal before questioning the desire to keep Konerko in a Sox uniform.

Rock Mamola said:

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J.

Paulie was not a must-do move when there are other options out there for cheaper with averages almost exactly to Konerko's. This deal makes me believe that the rest of MLB wasn't willing to pay Konerko what he wanted, so go back to the ol well where you know they will give you whatever you want.....cause you're the captain.

Dunn signing is a little questionable because I would have liked to see what other teams would have offered him before being aggressive like the Sox were. It almost makes me think with the whole back and forth last season w/Thome that the Sox panicked and went after the closest thing to Thome without getting him.

Thanks for checking out the post

-RoCk

Rich G said:

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I'm pretty sure a Sox fan quoting Walt Whitman is one of the signs of the apocalypse.

Rock Mamola said:

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LOL

The only reason I brought it up was because I saw Dead Poets Society a couple of days ago.

-RoCk

EddieRybarski said:

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Great post, Rock. It remains to be seen if this is money well spent, but this definitely gives a lot of context. One thing I think should be acknowledged is the intangible things Paulie brings. Aside from being the friendly face of the organization and a fan favorite, he's a great clubhouse guy. He is a huge part of the positive team chemistry that the White Sox have (and Cubs can't seem to find). He is more valuable to the Sox than any other club because he is so much apart of who the White Sox are. In that regard, the signing is similar to Jeter re-upping with the Yanks. It had to happen, and I'm glad Paulie realized that.

Rock Mamola said:

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Eddie,

Remember what Kenny and Ozzie said about Mark Kotsay last season and why they brought him back?

Good clubhouse guy.

Fans should concentrate on the numbers on the field rather than what's good for the clubhouse. I wouldn't mind a clubhouse full of assholes, but if they win on the field....who cares!

Can't compare Jeter to Paulie.....Jeter wins you rings while Paulie wins you a ballgame once in a while.

-RoCk

FrankS said:

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The 2005 White Sox hit 200 homers. They weren't exactly a Punch and Judy team.

Rock Mamola said:

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Agreed on the number, but that is way down from the average of the four previous seasons.

-RoCk

DrRock said:

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I'm glad the White Sox did not try Derrek Lee, as I agreed with broadcaster Pat Hughes' season summary about seeing a player growing old before your eyes, including poorer hitting eye and bat speed. Adam LaRoche is a point well-taken, though like so many baseball veterans joining the White Sox from Rios to Kotsay, would he take a half season before his average came up to prior numbers? Lastly, I feel Paulie's fielding is underrated, as he has as much chance of getting a Gold Glove as beating a Red Sox (Youkilis) and a Yankee who could not bat .200 in the postseason (Swisher) as getting the last open voted spot on an All-Star team.
Also, he is overshadowed by Buehrle (regular ESPN highlights) and Alexei Ramirez (highest rumored fielding F/X ratings of MLB shortstops?--unsure, it's proprietary) on his own team.

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