Sox Drawer: Konerko close to retirement?

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Sox Drawer: Konerko close to retirement?

Every baseball player has his own shelf life in this game. Some know when their time is up. Others stick around long past their prime.

For Paul Konerko, his mind and body will know exactly when it's time to retire, and it might come sooner than you think.

Konerko has two years remaining on his contract, and while he's focused on having another big season for the White Sox, he gave his first hint that 2013 might be his last in a big league uniform.

"No doubt it could be," Konerko said in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. "Yeah, in all reality I would see it ending after next year or maybe another year. I mean, at some point you got to go home and be around your kids and have other things to do."

At a time when most players see their hitting numbers decline, Konerko has been exactly the opposite. The 13-year veteran has had a career renaissance in his mid-30s, especially in the last two seasons in which he has averaged 35 home runs and 108 RBIs. Can he keep up that pace at age 36 and 37? That's a mystery. Will he continue playing the moment he sees his skills diminish? That isn't.

"There's obviously this year and I have another year left on the contract, and I would not have signed up for that if I didn't think I could pull it off," Konerko said. "But at that point I'll be 38 years old going into the following year. If someone wants me, and I'm willing to do the work it takes through the offseason, and through spring training and through the year, then I would be willing to play.

"But if any of those things don't exist, I would never just play to say, 'Well, this team wants me and I can kind of hang on for another year and kind of go through the motions here,'" Konerko explained. "I have to be doing what I know it takes for me to play. Otherwise, it's not for me. I have to do the crazy amounts of preparation. It has to be there. If I'm not willing to do all the grind, then I've got some other things I'd like to do."

When Konerko does retire, he will be sorely missed. Not just for his play and leadership, but for his keen perspective on the game. Few people see things the way he does. Even fewer can actually articulate them.

Let's start with the lost season of 2011:

"I don't think there was a moment last year from the word go where at anytime did we feel like, 'This is kind of special' or 'This is inspiring baseball.' There's always going to be a couple teams every year that has that happen to them, and unfortunately we were one of them," Konerko said. "You'd be hard-pressed to find four or five days in a row where it felt like things were starting to go. We'd have two or three maybe. That was the most we ever had. It was a grind. It was not what you're looking for."

If the 2011 regular season was bad, the current offseason appears to be worse. The Sox have lost Mark Buehrle, Sergio Santos and Carlos Quentin, and have question marks replacing all three of them. Fans and media sense utter doom. What does Konerko think?
"If I was one of the options, then Robin was a heck of a hire!-- Paul Konerko.
"The only time I have won a World Series, the offseason leading up to it was kind of similar to this where there were a lot people not happy with the moves that were made. A lot of people saying, 'What did we do this for?' And then we went out had a great year and won a World Series. I'm not saying that's going to happen again, but I always keep that in the back of my mind. Anytime you think on paper something is supposed to happen the next year."

Many thought the playoffs would happen for the Sox last year. Clearly that didn't happen. They got off to that terrible 11-22 start and finished 16 games behind the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central. Excitement and attendance nose-dived, leaving the franchise stumbling to get back on its feet. For the fans to return, Konerko knows exactly what the White Sox need to do: Win.

"It's kind of like we're starting fresh. We're really like at zero, and we have to build it back up and earn people's, the fans' trust to come back out and see us. The whole thing," Konerko said. "We're kind of just starting out at square one again, but that doesn't mean that you're conceding anything. I just think it means you're looking to get a fresh change, and just start everything all over again."

That means taking baby steps forward, starting with Opening Day in Texas on April 6. For the White Sox to make it back, Konerko believes it will have to be a slow, methodical climb throughout the season.

"I think for us, I think we should focus more on small goals. We're going to start off playing meaningful games Opening Day and let's just see how long we can be playing meaningful games. Not say that we're going to make the playoffs, not say we're going to do this or that. Let's just see how long we can play the game right, and stay in the mix, and if it gets to September or August, and we're in the mix, then great. Just start off with more smaller thoughts about how we're going to do everything is my opinion."

You wonder why Kenny Williams actually considered making Konerko the White Sox player-manager this season? This is why.

So what did Konerko think when he heard that idea? He chose to take the humorous, sarcastic route.

"I know that when they hired Robin Ventura everybody was like, 'Robin was a great big league player,' and what I'm hearing about his experience is that he coached his son's high school team for a while. That's his experience at managing or coaching. And then it comes out that they were considering hiring me as playermanager. Then you look at Robin and you say, 'That was a great choice,' because if I was one of the options, then Robin was a heck of a hire!"

But would Konerko ever consider managing?

"I'm probably going to be like Robin 10 years ago and say I'll never manage," Konerko said.

And then you'll manage?

"I don't know about that."

What we do know is that Konerko's playing time is running out. Knowing Paul, he's going to make the best of what's left and walk proudly into the sunset.

Few players leave the game just before their expiration date. Konerko seems poised to be one of them.

Mark Buehrle confirms 'that' rumor from Game 3 of the 2005 World Series

Mark Buehrle confirms 'that' rumor from Game 3 of the 2005 World Series

A few years ago, White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said on CSN's SportsTalk Live that Mark Buehrle had a beer -- or a few beers -- before saving Game 3 of the 2005 World Series. Cooper, with a bit of a grin, told David Kaplan that "there's no telling how many beers he had before that save."

Buehrle, in a story for the Players' Tribune, cleared that up:

The thing a lot of people talk about with that one is this rumor that I drank a few beers before I got the save in our Game 3 victory.

There’s been some stuff that’s come out on that topic, but I feel like you all should really hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. So, here goes….

In short: Yeah, sure, O.K. fine, so I had a few. I can admit to that.

Buehrle explained in his first-person article that he only had three beers, max, which wasn't unusual given he had just started the second game of the series against the Houston Astros. More from Buehrle:

First off, no one on the planet would’ve ever guessed that I was going to see the field in Game 3. I had started the previous game of the series and threw 100 pitches in that one. I would’ve bet my house that I wasn’t going to pitch a day and a half later. Anyone would have.

So, that being the case, you better believe that I was gonna do what came natural to me — grab a few beers during the early innings, kick back and enjoy the game like everyone else.

How can you blame him? Cooper told him there was no way the White Sox would be using him that night in Houston unless the game went to 13 or 14 innings. Every time Buehrle went for another cold one, he checked in with his coaches -- hey, you still don't need me, right? 

Of course, the White Sox unexpectedly needed Buehrle after Brad Ausmus reached on an error on what was Damaso Marte's 39th pitch of the game. With the winning run at the plate and Marte over his season high in pitches (35) the call went to Buehrle. 

Buehrle retired Adam Everett to end the game, recording the only save of his career. That he had a few beers earlier that night only added No. 56's legendary status on the South Side. 

More: Chris Kamka's 56 reasons why White Sox fans love Mark Buehrle

56 reasons why White Sox fans love Mark Buehrle

56 reasons why White Sox fans love Mark Buehrle

1. Mark Buehrle was born March 23, 1979 — the day after Juan Uribe.

2. Just this past March, 536 days after pitching in his final MLB game, Buehrle reached the age that matches his draft round (38).

3. Buehrle provided comparable value from the 38th round to a 1st rounder from the same draft.

- 1998 MLB Draft

- Mark Buehrle | 1,139th  overall (38th round) | 58.5 WAR | 214 Wins | 3,283.1 IP

- CC Sabathia | 20th overall (1st round) | 60.2 WAR | 230 Wins | 3,243.2 IP

- Of the 1,138 players selected ahead of Buehrle in the 1998 MLB Draft, 961 of them never made the majors.

4. Most career WAR (baseball-reference) by left-handed pitchers not in the Hall of Fame.

Tommy John - 62.0

Andy Pettitte - 60.8

CC Sabathia - 60.2

Mark Buehrle - 58.5

Chuck Finley - 58.4

5. Buehrle made his MLB Debut 7/16/2000.

- It was the 10-year anniversary of the infamous Steve Lyons incident (pulled down his pants after sliding headfirst into first base).

6. Buehrle is one of three White Sox pitchers during the DH era to hit a home run.

- Jon Garland (6/18/2006)

- Mark Buehrle (6/14/2009)

- Anthony Ranaudo (7/27/2016)

- He’s the only White Sox lefty (lefty pitcher, that is) to homer since Gary Peters (8/2/1969).

7. Buehrle (2009) is one of four pitchers in American League history to hit a home run and toss a perfect game in the same season.

- 1904 Cy Young

- 1956 Don Larsen (perfect game in the World Series)

- 1968 Catfish Hunter

8. Buehrle retired 45 consecutive batters in July 2009 (then a MLB record).

- 1 on July 18

- 27 on July 23 (perfect game)

- 17 on July 28

9. Last four lefties with multiple career no-hitters.

- Mark Buehrle (2007, 2009), Randy Johnson (1990, 2004), Ken Holtzman (1969, 1971), Sandy Koufax (1962, 1963, 1964, 1965)

10. Buehrle is one of two pitchers in White Sox history with multiple no-hitters

Buehrle – 4/18/2007 and 7/23/2009

Frank Smith – 9/6/1905 and 9/20/1908

11. Buehrle (2009) & Smith (1905) are also the only pitchers in White Sox history with a no-hitter and a home run in the same season.

12. Both of Buehrle’s no-hitters were with Eric Cooper as home plate umpire.  Both games were 2:03 in length.

13. Buehrle has the 16th most starts (493) by a lefty in Major League history.

14. Buehrle could hold runners on base. Compare him to fellow lefty Randy Johnson.

MLB career                  (H+BB+HBP)       SB Allowed

Mark Buehrle                 4,285                 59

Randy Johnson             5,033                456

15. 136 pitchers in MLB history have at least 3,000 career innings.

16. Buehrle’s 27 career wild-pitches have him tied for third fewest (Luis Tiant), behind only Charlie Root (22) and Lew Burdette (23).

17. Buehrle was incredibly durable.

- 14+ straight seasons of 200+ innings (MLB history)

- Cy Young (19), Warren Spahn (17), Gaylord Perry (15), Don Sutton (15), Mark Buehrle (14), Greg Maddux (14), Phil Niekro (14), Christy Mathewson (14)

18. Buehrle is one of 15 pitchers with 15 or more seasons of 30+ starts.

- Don Sutton (20). Greg Maddux (19), Cy Young (19), Phil Niekro (18), Warren Spahn (18), Tom Glavine (17), Steve Carlton (17), Gaylord Perry (17), Roger Clemens (16), Frank Tanana (16), Nolan Ryan (16), Bert Blyleven (16), Tom Seaver (16), Buehrle (15) and Walter Johnson (15).

19. Buehrle had no regular season saves, but he did have one in the postseason – 2005 World Series Game 3 in Houston.

20. Buehrle led the American League in WHIP in 2001 (1.066) — despite only 5.1 strikeouts per 9 innings.

21. Buehrle is one of five pitchers (1950-present) to lead his league in WHIP in his age 22 or younger season.

Mark Buehrle                    White Sox           22           2001       1.066

Bret Saberhagen              Royals                   21           1985       1.058

Dwight Gooden                Mets                     19           1984       1.073    

Frank Tanana                     Angels                  22           1976       0.988

Vida Blue                             Athletics              21           1971       0.952

22. Buehrle had 1,870 career strikeouts.

- Career strikeout #488: Julio Franco (born 8/23/1958)

- Career strikeout #1,858: Rougned Odor (born 2/3/1994)

23. Buehrle is the last pitcher to throw at least 200 innings and record fewer than 100 strikeouts (210.1 IP, 99 K in 2010).

- It’s possible he will be the last ever to do it.

24, His anti-three-true-outcome season of 2010 was quite rare: 210.1 IP, 99 K, 49 BB, 17 HR.

- Buehrle is the only American League pitcher since Allan Anderson in 1988 to have 200-plus innings, under 100 K, under 50 walks & under 20 HR in a season. 

25. Buehrle managed to be great despite not having big strikeout stuff.

Chris Sale (148 Starts) - 35 starts with 10+ Strikeouts

Mark Buehrle (365 Starts) - 1start with 10+ Strikeouts

26. Two of Buehrle’s three career 10+ strikeout games (both with Blue Jays) came when he was over 35 years old.

- Buehrle’s 10+ strikeout games

4/16/2005 vs. Mariners (12 K) - age 26 years, 24 days

4/2/2014 at Rays (11 K)  - age 35 years, 10 days

9/24/2014 vs. Mariners (10 K) - age 35 years, 185 days

27. Buehrle allowed seven first inning runs (one earned) in Minnesota on May 14, 200, but hung around to get the win in a White Sox 9-7 comeback.

- He was the first pitcher to allow seven first inning runs and still get a win since the Cardinals’ Jack Powell on September 29, 1900.

28. Buehrle didn’t seem fazed by giving up hits.

- White Sox (1950-present) games allowing at least 14 hits

Buehrle (4)

15 players (1)

29. Buehrle had as many career wins with 11+ hits allowed (2) as he had wins with 0 hits allowed (2).

30. Buehrle tied for the MLB lead with 4 complete games in 2015, his final season.

31. Prior to Buehrle, the last pitcher to lead or tie for the MLB lead in complete games in his final MLB season was Sandy Koufax (27) in 1966.

32. Buehrle had 4 complete game shutouts before turning 25.

33. Since 2000, there have been 8 complete game shutouts by White Sox pitchers under 25 years old.

- Buehrle (4; 2 in 2001, 2 in 2002), and one each by Dan Wright, Jon Garland, Zach Stewart & Chris Sale.

34. Buehrle had a streak of 49 consecutive starts of at least 6 innings from May 11, 2004 to July 26, 2005. 

- It was the longest streak since Steve Carlton’s 69-game streak from 1979-82 (Justin Verlander had a 63-start streak later on from 2010-12).

- Buehrle’s streak ended August 1, 2005 when he was ejected for hitting B.J. Surhoff with a pitch after 5.2 innings of work.

35. Buehrle is the only pitcher in White Sox history to make multiple scoreless Opening Day starts.

- 4/4/2005 – 8.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R

- 4/5/2010 – 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R – including a lovely between the legs toss to Konerko for an unforgettable putout at first base.

36. Buehrle is the last White Sox player to win three consecutive Gold Glove awards (2009-2011).

37. Buehrle had the rare combo of 6 runs allowed and 6 double plays induced on 8/7/2009 vs Indians.

38. It’s rare for a pitcher hold a batter hitless with 20 or more at-bats for his career.

- Don’t tell Lyle Overbay, who was 0-21 with 9 strikeouts (and no walks) against Buehrle.

39. Buehrle is the first pitcher to record 30 regular season interleague wins, and as of now remains the only one with 30 or more.

- Bartolo Colon is second with 29 and Justin Verlander has 28.

40. Buehrle had a win against every team in his career — except the Mets.

41. Buehrle had 33 career complete games.

- 32 of them were 9-inning complete games. The average time of game in those 32 complete games?  2:12.

42. Since 2000, Buehrle has the most 9-inning complete games under two hours (6); a stat I call the “Buehrle.” 

- Brandon Webb & Roy Halladay are next with four each.

43. When Chris Sale had 8 consecutive starts of 10+ strikeouts for the White Sox in 2015 that streak was snapped July 6, 2015 at U.S. Cellular Field...

- with a pitcher’s duel between Sale & Buehrle, who both tossed complete games in a 4-2 White Sox win (all 4 of Buehrle’s runs were unearned).

- Time of game was 1:54 (it was Buehrle’s last career complete game). It was the last time a “Buehrle” was recorded in the MLB.

44. Buehrle’s 99-minute, 9-inning complete game win on April 16, 2005 (with his career-high 12 strikeouts).

- It was the shortest 9-inning CG win in the Majors since Jim Clancy 9/28/1982 (game 1 of DH; 93 minutes; according to game-length data at baseball-reference.com).

45. Starting lineup for first & last career start with White Sox

7/19/2000                                            9/27/2011

2B  Ray Durham                                LF  Juan Pierre

SS  Tony Graffanino                        CF  Alejandro de Aza

DH  Frank Thomas                            SS  Alexei Ramirez

RF  Magglio Ordonez                      C    A.J. Pierzynski

1B  Paul Konerko                              DH Tyler Flowers

CF  Jeff Abbott                                  1B  Adam Dunn

LF  Carlos Lee                                     RF  Dayan Viciedo

3B  Herbert Perry                             3B  Brent Morel

C   Brook Fordyce                             2B  Gordon Beckham

46. The White Sox pitcher who recorded the last out in Buehrle’s last start with White Sox? Sale (who pitched the final 1.2 IP).

- Buehrle’s last career start (and win) in a White Sox uniform is the only career managerial win for Don Cooper (who went 1-1 to finish 2011).

47. Buehrle’s 90 career wins at Guaranteed Rate Field is more than the next two highest totals combined (Garland 45, Sale 43).

48. He’s also the career leader in strikeouts (776) and innings (1320.0)

- Buehrle struck out 8 of the 27 members of the 500-home run club at least once (Thome, Ortiz, Rodriguez, Palmeiro, Ramirez, Sosa, Sheffield & Thomas)

49. Nobody caught more of Buehrle’s 3,283.1 career innings than A.J. Pierzynski.

- The last two White Sox 1,000+ inning pitcher-catcher combos:

- Mark Buehrle to A.J. Pierzynski (2005-11; 1,049.2 IP)

- Wilbur Wood to Ed Herrmann (1969-74; 1,237.2 IP)

50. Buehrle’s career ERA+ of 117 is the same as Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry, and is better than notable Hall of Famers.

- Steve Carlton (115), Phil Niekro (115),Fergie Jenkins (115), Jim Bunning (115), Robin Roberts (113), Nolan Ryan (112), Don Sutton (108), Early Wynn (107) & Catfish Hunter (104)

51. Complete game in Game 2 of 2005 ALCS was followed with complete games by Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia & Jose Contreras in Game 3-4-5. 

- 4 consecutive complete games within a single postseason series hadn’t been done since the 1956 Yankees pulled it off in Game 3-4-5-6-7 in the World Series (with the Don Larsen perfect game in Game 5).

52. Buehrle started the 2005 All-Star Game

- He’s the only pitcher in White Sox history with an Opening Day start, an All-Star Game start and a World Series start in the same season.

53. Buehrle had two career “Madduxes” which are CG shutouts with fewer than 100 pitches.

- And they came nearly 11 years apart.

- 7/21/2004 with White Sox vs Indians (90 pitches)

- 6/3/2015 with Blue Jays vs Nationals (93 pitches)

54. After running and sliding on the tarp during an April 16, 2006 rain delay, Buehrle was told he’d be fined and was told by GM Kenny Williams not to do it again.

55. Players currently in the Hall of Fame had 82 career combined plate pppearances vs Buehrle (including postseason).

- They hit a collective .211/.256/.263 with one home run (Frank Thomas), 5 BB, 10 K.

- The list of Hall of Famers: Ivan Rodriguez, Frank Thomas, Roberto Alomar, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Cal Ripken, Jeff Bagwell and Rickey Henderson.

56. Buehrle holds a Blue Jays record for most consecutive starts with 6+ innings and rwo or fewer earned runs allowed (9 in a row - June 3 to July 21, 2015).