Saturday, September 7, 2013

Retiring Sox sluggers? Not likely!

It seems to be the theme story that sportswriters for many outlets feel compelled to write about these days – the notion that the two “big bats” for the Chicago White Sox are on the verge of quitting!

A different uniform more likely than retirement in '14
I have lost count of the number of news outlets that have come up with stories speculating that both Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko will retire as professional athletes following this season.

PERSONALLY, I DON’T think either one will “hang it up,” so to speak. I expect to see both of them in a uniform in 2014 – albeit at least one of them with another ball club.

The one I refer to is Konerko, who came to the White Sox back in 1999, has worked his way up the career team records list in several categories and is one of the few ballplayers who can claim to have been parts of the first-place finishing White Sox teams of 2000, 2005 and 2008.

But he has a contract that expires after this season. At age 37 and just from watching his on-field play this year, it is obvious he’s no longer as good a ballplayer as he once was.

Which means it shouldn’t be surprising if White Sox management decides that sentiment is not a good enough reason to retain him. It is likely the White Sox will decide to offer him only some sort of a token-pay contract – IF they don’t just decide to let him go altogether.

Konerko's not the next Bernie Williams
IF THEY LET him go, he could negotiate a deal with another ball club. Which wouldn’t be unusual. Few ballplayers (even the ones who wanted to, like one-time White Sox star Frank Thomas) play entire careers for one major league organization.

So Konerko wearing another uniform? Trying to get in another season or two before he decides to hang it up (just like one-time Chicago Cub Mark Grace wound up finishing his playing days with the Arizona Diamondbacks)?

He's more likely the next Big Hurt
The idea seems too hurtful to some fans, who want to believe that Konerko would sooner quit the game than wear another team’s uniform. Kind of like what happened to Bernie Williams when the New York Yankees let him go after 2006 and he declined offers from other teams.

There may be some sense of loyalty from Konerko to the White Sox organization. Yet I just don’t see him passing, particularly since there are hints that he is capable of playing for another season or two.

Will Adam Dunn top Mr. October?
ADD KONERKO TO the list of Mark Buehrle and A.J. Pierzynski of prominent White Sox players now working for other ball clubs. It’s just fact.

Not that Konerko is the only one whom is facing speculation that he’s done. Adam Dunn could also be gone – if we want to believe the rumor mill.

It seems to be based on the idea that Dunn has said he will quit playing baseball when it is no longer fun for him. Even though he has a contract running through 2014 (at $15 million for the season). Would he give up that kind of money because he’s miserable?

Dunn likely to top Slammin' Sammy
I doubt it. Even though I realize many White Sox fans would like him to leave because of his performance the past three seasons in Chicago.

DUNN IS A muscle-bound guy (a one-time college football player) who has always amounted to home runs or strikeouts when he bats. As of Friday, he has 30 home runs this season – sixth best in the American League.

But he also has 162 strikeouts in the 131 games he has played this season. When matched up with his .226 batting average (only .328 percentage getting on base), the sense is that the home run total just isn’t worth the overall package.

Which makes me think that the people who are “predicting” a Dunn retirement are engaging in wishful thinking – not what he’s inclined to do.

Mr. 2,193, and counting
It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Dunn, who is 33, wants to play a few more seasons just to show that this White Sox portion of his career has been an aberration. If he makes it to 500 career home runs (he’s 64 short of that goal), it would cause many fans to forget just how many times he struck out.

UNLESS, OF COURSE, he also winds up setting a career strikeout record. At 2,193, he’s short of Reggie Jackson’s record.

He’s also shy of Sammy Sosa’s strikeout total of 2,306 – which probably would have increased enough to top Jackson, had he not burned so many bridges in baseball that he’s effectively black-balled from the game.

That could be the next statistical achievement done by a White Sox player in coming seasons. Perhaps while Konerko watches from first base while playing for another ball club.

See what we get to look forward to in 2014!


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