Every fan base for every team has a player that is loved, and revered by most of the fans. The White Sox are no different. From Shoeless Joe in the 1910s, to Luke Appling in the 30’s, and 40’s, the Baines/Fisk years of the 80s, the Thomas 90’s; even now, it’s arguable that the White Sox, and their fans, are in the Konerko years.
Konerko appeals to the fan base for many reasons. He’s part of that Chicago sports lore of “hard working players that bring their lunch pails to work every day” that Chicago sports fans eat up for whatever reason. But, you can’t argue Konerko’s numbers and tenure. Konerko was the starting first baseman for Chicago’s first baseball championship in 88 years. Konerko was named captain of the White Sox heading into the 2006 season, a position he has held since. Konerko, since coming to the White Sox from Cincinnati for Mike Cameron back in 1999, has put up a consistent 283/359/499(858) 121 OPS+ line with about 32 home runs a season.
Heading into the 2013 season, Paul Konerko enters his age 37 season, and a contract year. Paul Konerko also has milestones ahead of him, some of which are more in reach than in others. Konerko has 422 home runs, 415 with the White Sox. He is 78 shy of 500 for his career, and 34 shy of tying Frank Thomas’ all time White Sox home run record of 448. Konerko is also two hits shy of passing up Frank Thomas for third on the all-time White Sox hits leader lists. Personally, I think RBIs are irrelevant, but he’s only 159 shy of being the White Sox all time RBI leader. Konerko also only needs to play 55 games to play in the second most games as a White Sox player in White Sox history.
Some will argue that this is mostly due to playing for 14 seasons with the same team, and while that is true, you also have to be productive for most of those seasons. With the exception of 2003, Konerko has been a relatively productive player during his long tenure in Chicago. Some may also argue, that the White Sox have never had a lot of big power hitters in their past. Again, that is true; the White Sox didn’t have their first 30 home run hitter until Dick Allen in 1972, and didn’t have their first 40 home run hitter until 1993. So, comparing Konerko to other first basemen since 1999 (when Konerko became a starter), he is second in home runs, third in hits, 5th in OBP, and 6th in slugging.
Point being: Konerko has benefited from a long career, but he’s been long, productive, career. Konerko isn’t the mediocre pitcher that got to 300 wins because he had an offense to score runs for him (I know, apples to oranges, but its 3 AM and I’m a bit tired, so cut me some slack, yo)
As far as the records go, obviously Konerko is a lock to pass Frank Thomas for second on the all-time hits leader for the White Sox, and should be a lock to play 55 games to have played in the second most games in White Sox history. For those curious, Luke “old aches and pains” Appling holds the record for hits, and game played. The 34 home runs needed to break Frank Thomas’ record may be a stretch. Even if Konerko’s wrist hadn’t slowed him down in the second half and replicated his first half’s numbers, he
would have only swatted 28 bombs, instead of 26.
With all due respect to the older crowd who got to see Frank Thomas in his prime, I’m hoping Konerko break’s the record. I think for younger Sox fans, Konerko is our generation’s Thomas. When I got into the White Sox back in 2005 (and no, I wasn’t a band wagoner), Frank was broken d own and didn’t play all that much (34 games). Personally, I’d like to see the guy who’s been the best hitter in Sox history since I started following them break the record.
The 500 home runs, and 159 RBIs needed to be the all-time RBI leader for the White Sox are incredibly low. If Konerko hits 78 home runs and knocks in 159 runs, the Sox are winning 120 games, at least. Those are probably going to take a 2013, and 2014, assuming Konerko plays. But that is another factor. Heading into 2014 Konerko will be entering his age 38 season, and I don’t know if Konerko will still want to play, and if the Sox are willing to give him anything more than a 1 year deal. Believe me, I would love for Konerko to get to 500, and punch his ticket to Cooperstown, but you have to be realistic.
But, then again I didn’t think that Frank Thomas would get to 500 after he left the White Sox following 2005.