The end may be approaching, but Konerko's career keeps ticking

989725.png

The end may be approaching, but Konerko's career keeps ticking

Paul Konerko isn't afraid to tell it like it is. There's little gray area in his words. What he sees, is what you get, which over the course of his career could fill a library of reporter notebooks.

The White Sox captain arrived at Sox Fest knowing that this could be his last as a player. It may not be the focus of his attention, but in the back of his mind, its there.

He knows the end is near.

When will the retire? Hes not sure yet. But with another year added to the back of his baseball card -- his 16th in the majors -- he says hes prepared to say good-bye.

"A couple years ago, I sat right here and I was ready for that to be the last year," Konerko told CSNChicago.com at the Palmer House Hilton, the site of Sox Fest.

He says he loved the approach of the 2012 White Sox.

"The concentration on the small things last year was as good as any team I've ever been on."

As for him, he admits that his hitting was a season-long struggle.

"I was lucky to do anything I did -- all year."

This is coming from a man who could possess a PhD in hitting. He's Dr. Konerko with a bat instead of a stethoscope. You can also call him Professor Konerko, the academic king of hitting. However, if you asked him to grade his performance from last season, he might give himself a D. Possibly even an F.

"I never felt that good from the get-go, so it was kind of one of those years where it was smoke and mirrors for most of it," Konerko admits. "Looking back on it, I feel like it could have been a disaster if I didn't grind through it probably as much as I can. I just didn't feel like I had it. You have years like that."

Konerko ended the season batting .298 with 26 HRs and 75 RBIs. Not great, but also not good for someone like Konerko, especially considering his red-hot start.

On May 27, he was leading the majors with a .399 batting average. He also had 11 HRs and 33 RBIs. Reporters started asking him about the chances of actually finishing the season batting .400.

But Konerko knew something that we didnt.

"Sometimes balls are falling for you. Things happen and the numbers say you're doing well and you just don't feel good. That happens too," he explains. "I'd say that's more of what was going on during the beginning of the season. I could tell by the way I was hitting. I could just tell."

So now we are left to ask the question: Was 2012 just a fluke year or was it the start of the final downward trend of Konerko's career?

"That's a good question. If I was listening to the interview, I'd say, well, that's called a trend of what's happening," Konerko says. "I understand that. That comes with the territory. I can't think like that."

Instead, Konerko, who turns 37 on March 5, can only think about the upcoming season. Nothing more, nothing less. Where's it all going? He doesn't have the answer. But he remembers how he felt after the 2009 season, another trying year at the plate when he thought about retirement for the first time.

"I wasn't that young then. It was a similar year where I felt okay but the game felt really hard to play all year. Then you come back for a couple years after that and feel like it's very easy to play, so you never really know where it's going to turn."

Here's what Konerko does know:

"I'm still good at this. This is what I do, and I still want to do it. That's another thing. Just because you can't do it anymore, doesn't mean that you don't want to play anymore. I think people should know that. Don't look at the numbers, that if things are going well in 2013, that necessarily means I would play after this season. And the reverse of that is true, too.

It has to start with you having a passion to get ready in the off-season. That commitment from early November all the way until spring training. If it was just playing a six-month season, guys would probably play longer if they could, because that's the fun part. Getting ready for a whole season is a huge commitment. If you say you're going to do it, you can't shortchange that."

Paul has seen many of his teammates from the 2005 World Series squad retire. Three of them -- Jermaine Dye, Joe Crede and Aaron Rowand -- were there at Sox Fest.

Dye says you just know deep down when its time to leave.

Konerko believes hell know too, but hes not there yet. Theres more baseball to be played. Still, he cant help but think about the next chapter in his life, whenever that day comes.

"It's tough not to," Konerko says. "This time in your career there can be some heavy thoughts about that kind of stuff, but at the end of the day my job is no different than it was 10 years ago. That's to go out and do well for the 2013 Chicago White Sox. That is the goal. That's what I'm going to do. If I do that, the other stuff will sort itself out. Whether it's the game and the team sorting me out, or me sorting the rest of it out. Who knows? I have no idea how that's going to go."

Baseball doesn't have a clock. Careers do.

But for now, Konerko is still ticking.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jason Benetti stops by to talk the future of the White Sox

yoan-moncada-0524.jpg
USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jason Benetti stops by to talk the future of the White Sox

There's a lot of buzz around the future of the White Sox.

White Sox announcer Jason Benetti joined SportsTalk Live on Wednesday to discuss the team's exciting young prospects and how soon they'll be making their way to the South Side.

Also joining Pat Boyle on this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast are the Tribune's David Haugh, Pro Football Weekly's Hub Arkush and WGN Radio's Sam Panayotovich.

The guys also react to Mike Glennon's recent comments and Kevin White’s uncertain status at OTAs.

Plus, they wonder if Kyle Schwarber has finally found his spot in the Cubs' lineup.

Take a listen to the latest episode below:

Jose Quintana rocked as White Sox swept by Diamondbacks

Jose Quintana rocked as White Sox swept by Diamondbacks

PHOENIX — Jose Quintana looked as if he might be on the way to a second consecutive gem on Wednesday afternoon before it quickly took a turn for the worse.

After three perfect frames, Quintana got hit hard in the middle innings and was forced out of the contest. The Arizona Diamondbacks offense awoke from an early slumber against Quintana to complete a sweep of the White Sox, who fell 8-6 in front of 18,002 at Chase Field. The eight earned runs allowed by Quintana are the most he has yielded in a start in two years and raised his earned-run average to 4.82.

“For us it’s also a tough thing to figure because he has been so great in his career,” first baseman Jose Abreu said through an interpreter. “It’s something that we are not accustomed to seeing from him. But he’s a hard worker and we all know how talented he is and we’re all confident in him. I think it’s just a matter of one thing for him to clean it up and to be that Jose Quintana that we know.”

None of what transpired in the first three innings Wednesday offered any indication of what was to come. The 2016 All-Star pitcher picked up where he’d left off on Friday night in Seattle when he combined with David Robertson on a one-hitter.  

Quintana’s offspeed pitchers were diving and Diamondbacks hitters had no chance. He induced checked swing after checked swing and racked up five strikeouts in three innings and even made a smooth defensive play on Gregor Blanco’s bunt-base hit attempt to start the fourth inning with the White Sox leading 2-0.

But then it all went south.

Nick Ahmed doubled to left and red-hot Paul Goldschmidt doubled to deep center to make it a 2-1 game before Chris Owings tied it with an RBI single. Things only got worse for Quintana in the fifth inning when he hit the first hitter Brandon Drury with a 1-2 pitch. Quintana then left a 1-0 fastball over the middle and Jake Lamb didn’t miss the mistake, driving it the opposite way for a two-run homer and a 4-2 lead. Four batters later, Ahmed doubled in a pair and the rout was on. Goldschmidt’s single knocked Quintana from the game.

Owings had a sac fly off Anthony Swarzak to score one inherited run and Drury singled in the other to put Arizona ahead by six.

Quintana allowed eight hits and struck out seven. The eight runs he allowed were the most he’d allowed in a start since the Detroit Tigers tagged him for nine runs on April 19, 2015.

“It’s just execution,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Most times when guys are being hit around, a lot of it has more to do with executing and location. I think it’s more pitches get out over the plate. ... Based on the swings, they were pretty good swings, so I’m assuming they were pitches out over the plate.”

[WHITE SOX TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

The poor outing raised Quintana’s earned-run average by nearly a point from 3.92. Even though it’s still more than two months until the Aug. 1 nonwaiver trade deadline, Quintana’s inconsistent start to the season has also almost certainly harmed his perceived trade value. Not only has Quintana pitched poorly, but shifts in the plans of other clubs could provide contending teams with more trade options. However, with teams still focused on the upcoming draft and the deadline a way off, Quintana has more than enough time to get back on track.

Quintana said he plans to do what he’s always done — discard the tough outing and move on. It’s the same way he has operated since 2012 and it has helped become a highly regarded member of the White Sox.

“Just turn the page and keep going,” Quintana said. “It’s different feeling than last year. But I feel pretty good. Never think in the past. If you have a bad day, just keep going. Keep doing, we doing good in the past. So, just keep doing my things and throw the ball well.”

One player who has continued to stay hot for more than a month is Abreu, who blasted his 100th homer on Tuesday night. For an encore, Abreu matched his career high with four hits, including a two-run homer in the sixth inning that got the White Sox to within 8-4.

Melky Cabrera had an RBI groundout in the seventh inning and Abreu singled in another to make it an 8-6 game.

But the White Sox got no closer.

Leury Garcia’s solo homer in the second inning gave the White Sox an early lead. Abreu doubled in the fourth and scored on a double play to make it a 2-0 lead.

From April 19 on, Abreu is hitting .347/.404/.677 with 10 home runs and 22 RBIs in 136 plate appearances. He’s currently on pace for 36 home runs, which would tie the career high he established in 2014.