Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010
Posted 7:02 PM
By Chuck Garfien
ORLANDO, Fla - From the home of Splash Mountain - Disney's water ride - the White Sox have made quite a splash themselves; stepping onto the edge of the diving board, leaping high into the air, and plunging deep in the free agent pool with one giant cannonball.
Their competitors? Now drenched.
Yep, the captain is coming back to the South Side for three more years, at a cost of 37.5 million, or slighly less than what they charge for a cup of coffee here at the "Land of Make Believe."
Paul Konerko and the Sox: That's for real. And considering what it took to get here, a relief.
"To come back was always 1-A as far as what was in my mind. I wanted it to happen," Konerko said. "Not only this off-season, but years ago on how you want things to play out."
But last week, while Konerko was sitting on a beach in Mexico, looking out over the ocean, he received a text which he thought might have sealed his fate, ending his legendary career with the White Sox.
"Someone texts me and says they just signed Adam Dunn, and my first thought was 'That was a fun 12 years. That's it. It was a him or me situation,'" Konerko recalled. "Then I remembered Kenny (Williams) at the end of the year telling me, 'Listen, if we go after this next year and we want to win, I don't want you or Adam, I want both of you. So that was in my mind as well going, Okay, maybe that's the case. Maybe they're going to make a push to get both of us.'"
But it wasn't easy.
Unable to come to an agreement on Tuesday, Williams' patience ran thin, so he delivered a loud warning shot that evening saying, "We have other meetings with other guys representatives tonight and it's with the mindset to try and get a deal done."
Safe to say that Konerko's agent, Craig Landis, got the message.
Pretty soon, dialogue between both sides started heating up. Around 7 p.m., Williams and assistant GM Rick Hahn ventured out to a sushi restaurant, and in between the sashimi, there were plenty of texts and e-mails going back and forth. Finally after an hour, Hahn received a text from Landis.
The money was right. And apparently so was the sake.
Joked Williams, "Had Craig probably waited a little while longer, he might have gotten a little bit more (money) because Rick and I started to tip a few back after a while."
Following dinner, Hahn had one final phone conversation with Landis, and the deal was done.
When the news reached Konerko, he was soon on the phone with one of his longtime teammates to share the good news.
"I was so happy for him and for his family," A.J. Pierzynski told Comcast SportsNet. "And Paul doesn't look right in another uniform. I can't see him in another uniform so I was ecstatic when he told me the news."
And considering Pierzynski backloaded his own contract (along with Dunn) to make room for Konerko, did he put any pressure on him to sign?
"No, I told him he has to make the decision. The only thing I told him was that if he left, I would have his locker and I would have a 'C' (for captain) on my jersey next year. So apparently the White Sox are doing anything in their power to keep me from the captaincy," said Pierzynski with a laugh.
If the White Sox didn't work out, Konerko did have other options. One of them was the Arizona Diamondbacks, who reportedly offered him a 3-year, 30 million contract (7.5 million less than the White Sox offer), which would have allowed Paul to play near his off-season home in Arizona.
"It definitely was a possibility and definitely something that was intriguing to me, not only because of the things that would come along with playing with a team close to where I live, but because I think that team is going to get a lot better and are on their way up," Konerko said. "It was a great option to have. But it didn't work out going that way. But I was thrilled that they were interested in me."
So with Konerko, Dunn, and Pierzynski aboard, what's next?
Said Williams, "Figuring out a way to pay for all of this."
Signing Konerko? That's money in the bank.
Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox sluggers Frank Thomas and Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.