Sox Drawer: What rhymes with MVP? Paulie!

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Sox Drawer: What rhymes with MVP? Paulie!

Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2010
6:33 PM

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

Somewhere in the state of Ohio lies a baseball tuckered out after traveling a far distance. It started the day buried anonymously in a sack with a dozen other balls, all set to be used, all with different fates.

Some would stay fair. Others would go foul. But this one had another destination in mind: Lake Erie.

Unfortunately, it didnt make it that far. A few fans got in the way. But if the man who tried to put it there keeps it up, the ball might end up representing something bigger.

The start of an MVP campaign.

For the last few weeks, Paul Konerkos name has casually been mentioned as a candidate for the American League Most Valuable Player Award, up there with Josh Hamilton and Miguel Cabrera. But lets be honest, he was a country mile away from getting enough votes to actually win it.

Not anymore.

With the national media tuned in to watch Manny Ramirez make his White Sox debut on Wednesday, there was Konerko doing what hes done all season, blasting a massive three-run bomb in the eighth inning, giving the Sox a thrilling come-from-behind, 6-4 win over the Indians.

Its a captain whos been driving a car with his clutch stuck on clutch all season, and its time the rest of the country knew about it.

Youre excused if you happened to ignore Paulies red-hot April, when he quietly belted 11 home runs to lead the majors. At 34 years old, and in the twilight of his career, who actually thought he was on the verge of an MVP season?

I didnt.You didnt. Konerko probably didnt either.

But game-after-game, week-after-week, the prolonged slumps that have traditionally dogged Konerko in his career have yet to arrive. He just keeps raking, and considering hes in a contract year, hell soon be raking in something else. Tons and tons of dough. But thats a subject for another day.

This is about a mans quest for an MVP award, and here are some numbers to back it up.

Lets start with his home runs which are starting to reach Roy Hobbs Hollywood-type proportions. Of his 33 homers, which is currently second in the American League, 12 have been hit in the eighth inning or later. Three have tied the game. NINE have given the White Sox the lead. Konerko has also helped the Sox breathe a little easier, as four of his home runs have occurred with his team ahead by one.

But its not just when Konerko has been hitting, its who hes been hitting against. Here are the top teams on the White Sox schedule. Has Konerko been there for his team? You bet.

vs. the Twins .390 4 HRs 12 RBIs
vs. the Yankees .400 3 HRs 10 RBIs
vs. the Rangers .344 4 HRs 11 RBIs
vs. the Rays .308 1 HR 3 RBIs
vs. the Braves .417 1 HR 3 RBIs

Throw in the Crosstown Series against the Cubs, which is a playoff-type atmosphere no matter how bad one of the teams might be, Konerko batted .333 with 2 HRs and 6 RBIs.

Have you heard about the dog days of August in baseball? Konerko hasnt this year. He just completed the month batting .387. Thats number-one in the major leagues.

And how did he start September? See the top of this very page.

A couple weeks ago, Konerkos season numbers paled in comparison to his toughest competitors, but hes quickly closing the gap:

Konerko .319 33 HR 98 RBI
Hamilton .361 31 HR 97 RBI
Cabrera .340 33 HR 107 RBI
Cano .325 26 HR 90 RBI

In the end, itll come down to those in contention at the end. So you can take Cabreras name off the list. The Tigers are going nowhere. Robinson Cano has had a great season with the Yankees, but lets see if someone from New York can build a case for him thats stronger than Konerkos. You can try, but you'll inevitably fail.

That leaves Hamilton, who has put the Texas Rangers on his back and has kept them in first for weeks. Hes currently in the lead. But if this was a golf tournament, he and Konerko still have a few holes to play. A lot can happen, and watching Paulie all season, you can bet that something will.

My job is a sportscaster. I write with my ABCs. Konerko plays baseball. He's my MVP.

Fast Break Morning Update: White Sox, Cubs both drop series openers

Fast Break Morning Update: White Sox, Cubs both drop series openers

Here are some of Monday's top stories in Chicago sports:

Preview: Cubs look to bounce back vs. Giants tonight on CSN

White Sox fall to Diamondbacks in series opener

Cubs can't complete another miracle comeback against Giants bullpen

Should Blackhawks' next assistant coach be Joel Quenneville's choice?

How Bears are using veteran videos to school rookies on NFL way

Luis Robert the latest high-end acquisition for White Sox

For Joe Maddon, Cubs winning World Series came down to Giant comeback in SF and avoiding Johnny Cueto in elimination game

Carlos Rodon 'getting closer' but still without time frame for return

Have the Cubs found their new leadoff hitter in Ben Zobrist?

MMQB's Peter King's thoughts on Trubisky, Howard, White and the Bears offense

White Sox fall to Diamondbacks in series opener

White Sox fall to Diamondbacks in series opener

PHOENIX -- The red-hot White Sox ran into Zack Greinke on Monday night.

He cooled them off in a hurry.

Greinke struck out 12 hitters and Daniel Descalso blasted a three-run home run off Miguel Gonzalez as the Arizona Diamondbacks sent the White Sox to a 5-1 loss in front of 18,333 at Chase Field. The loss snapped a three-game win streak for the White Sox, who had scored 24 runs in their final two games against the Seattle Mariners.

“(Greinke) keeps the ball down out of the zone a lot,” manager Rick Renteria said. “It’s kind of enticing. He keeps the ball in the hitter’s area and it ends up falling out. It’s one of those things that you’ve got to try to get him up. Our approach was to try to make him throw a lot of strikes. He ended up hammering the strike zone early and then finally he just came into a groove.”

Descalso’s three-run shot off Gonzalez was one of two pitches the White Sox right-hander would have liked back. After Gonzalez walked Chris Owings with two outs in the fourth inning, his only free pass of the night, he left the curveball over the middle and Descalso deposited it in the right-center field stands to break a scoreless tie.

He also left a pitch up to Paul Goldschmidt in the sixth inning and the All-Star first baseman ripped it for a solo shot.

But overall Gonzalez rebounded from his previous two starts when he walked nine batters. He was sharp for three innings as he faced one over the minimum. He just missed to Owings in the fourth, which brought up Descalso.

Gonzalez allowed five runs (four earned) and seven hits in five innings.

“You see what happens when you walk guys,” Gonzalez said. “That wasn’t in a good situation to walk the guy. You have to keep grinding, keep making my pitches. Really two pitches were the ones that hurt me tonight. A lot of positives. Nothing to worry about. Keep working hard and things are going to go my way.

“Sometimes things don’t go your way. Those two pitches, if I take those back, you never know. It’s a different ballgame.”

Not only did Greinke strike out a dozen hitters, he limited the White Sox to four hits in 8 2/3 innings.

Omar Narvaez had two hits, the first coming after Greinke opened the game by retiring seven straight batters. Leury Garcia homered off Greinke with one out in the fifth inning to break up his bid for a shutout.

It was quite the turnaround from when the White Sox bashed Yovani Gallardo and Chris Heston on consecutive days in Seattle. The White Sox scored a combined nine first-inning runs in winning three of four against the Mariners.