Bringing back Paul Konerko can't be an emotional decision

paul-konerko WS.jpg

Paul Konerko breaks into his home-run trot after hitting a grand slam in the 7th inning of Game 2 of the 2005 World Series---SEE! You're already getting emotional!

I've been trying to gradually break out of the extremely alluring habit of ripping apart everything Phil Rogers writes.  Sure enough, I had problems with what he wrote about Paul Konerko; he mis-characterized the organization's stance, he exaggerated Konerko's performance, and he generally attempted to transform the simple question of whether the White Sox should risk overpaying for depreciating skills into battles of 'Good man vs. Evil team', 'Good man from past vs. Evil Future', and 'Rationality vs. Phil Rogers'.

But mostly, Rogers was guilty of suggesting that emotion be injected
into a baseball decision.  It's fine to be emotional about a baseball
decision, especially as a fan.  In fact it's only natural.  I for one
know, that if Paul Konerko leaves for another team after this year, I
will be very, very sad.  If he signs with the Twins, I'll be apoplectic.

But it would be dumb, dumb, dumb, to suggest that Kenny Williams
approach the Konerko situation in the same way.  If anything, he's paid
to deal with it in the most heartless fashion possible.  There's no
doubt that Kenny thought more about the .590 OPS Jermaine Dye had after
the All-Star break last season than he did about the World Series MVP award he won
in '05, and he probably took more time noting that Jim Thome's OPS had
declined in each of the past 4 years, and that he adjusted poorly to
limited at bats in LA, then he spent watching replays of the 2008
one-game playoff. 

Kenny_Williams_V2.jpg

The decision-making process on Konerko should be as cold and humorless as Kenny Williams seems to be at every waking, joyless moment.

As well he should.  Sentimentality is just how teams wind up carrying a
roster full of washed-up former greats.  Just imagine if the White Sox
were still lugging around Joe Crede's wounded back on the payroll, or
took the championship victory as proper motivation to commit years to Carl Everett. 
Or what fate would the Blackhawks face if they put their priority on
keeping fan-favorite Dustin Byfuglien rather than selling him high to
get prospects while also getting under the salary cap?

Rogers points out that Konerko's production since he was re-signed
(2006-present) is on pace to virtually equal his level of production for
the period of 2001-05.  This is as impressive as it is irrelevant. 
It's also misleading because the present period is helped by 2006
(Konerko's best season), and the earlier period is dragged down by 2003,
where Paulie had an almost season-long slump.  But it's all irrelevant,
because at 34, Paul can no longer be rewarded for past performances, he
can only be paid for expected production.

Of course, everyone is paid for expected production, so let me
clarify; Carlos Quentin was signed to a contract this season, rather than
allowed to go to arbitration, or dealt off, or shot, on the basis of
past performance.  At only 27, and still in his physical prime in terms
of hitting, the White Sox had every reason to think that Carlos could
replicate previous levels of production (or at least come close) even
though his 2009 left something to be desired.  The same cannot be done
of Konerko.  At his age, any dropoff he has in play is potentially a
sign of physical decline, and it's not remotely safe to assume it can be
restored.

jermaine_dye1.jpg

JD's 1st half OPS - .942, his 2nd half OPS - Gordon Beckham

This renders Paulie's amazing and revelatory 1st half, replete with
memories of game-changing home runs, functionally meaningless in terms
of his contract situation.  If he has a Jermaine Dye-type 2nd half, he's
most likely gone, and probably should be, but if he indeed finishes
with the 39 HR and 123 RBI that Rogers gleefully points out he's on pace
for, then 2011 should be viewed as an opportunity for him to continue
his slugging, and he should be re-signed....but not for too long.

Ultimately, this could be decided by what Paulie wants.  If he's hoping
to secure one last big payday for his career (indeed, that is his due
reward for having a career year at this age), then the Sox probably
won't be served well by getting into a bidding war with dumber baseball
teams (The Mets come to mind).  But, if as before in '06, Konerko is
looking to stay with the White Sox, then the team would certainly be
foolish to bypass an opportunity to work with him on a reasonable deal
(3 years or less, 10 million a season at the very most).

No matter the case, you'll know it was a mistake to re-sign if the first
words out Kenny Williams' mouth are "It's good to have our captain
back," or "We thought Paul should finish his career in Chicago", or
anything else besides "We think Paul Konerko will be an All-Star again
in 2011."

Follow White Sox Observer on Twitter @ WhtSoxObserver and on Facebook.  Look out for
WhtSoxObserver on Twitter especially during games for in-game
commentary and updates  

Leave a comment