With Paul Konerko’s future beyond this season in doubt, the hypothetical questions have begun to mount.
Since January, the White Sox captain, a free agent after this season, has made it clear he won’t make a decision public about 2014 until after the 2013 campaign ends. But with the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline having passed and the White Sox looking as if they’re headed for a mini-youth movement, questions about Konerko’s place in the team’s future plans have continued to sprout.
One critical aspect of Konerko’s presence is the leadership he brings through his work ethic and preparation for games. Such an example could be significant force in a young clubhouse.
Were Konerko not to return next season, which player could fill such a large void? Second baseman Gordon Beckham would be a strong candidate to take over. But Beckham said Monday he doesn’t want to envision such a scenario nor does he believe Konerko’s done.
“If Paul wants to play, he’ll play,” Beckham said. “Obviously that’s a decision for him after the season. He’s got a lot more left in the tank, so I wouldn’t rule him out of playing next year. If he doesn’t, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. But I think he’s got a while yet.”
Konerko was asked about his future after Sunday’s game. He continued the practice he has had in place since January and provided little detail as to where he plans to be once the season ends on Sep. 29.
Konerko has said he wants to wait until after the season to know whether or not he would have interest in returning. He also knows there are a bunch of factors in play to whether or not he’d be back in 2014.
“There’s a million things,” Konerko said on Sunday. “But we’ll just worry about that when the time comes. There’s a lot of moving parts to it.”
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Beckham’s list of the valuable things Konerko provides could run on forever. He has been close with Konerko since he was promoted to the majors in 2009 and feels he knows how to prepare himself after playing close attention to the franchise’s No. 2 all-time home run hitter.
“He does it the right way,” Beckham said. “He works hard, prepares more than probably (anyone) I’ve ever met. He’s definitely a good guy to model yourself after in terms of how he gets ready to play a game. He’s done it for a long time. He’s one of the best players that I think nobody really talks about. He’s been pretty consistent and just does it.”
Manager Robin Ventura loves having Konerko because of the example he sets. He appreciates the big bat Konerko offers when healthy as well. But having the team captain in the mix also lessens Ventura’s workload.
Considering how many young players the White Sox 25-man roster may feature next season, Ventura sounds as if he’s a proponent of Konerko staying around.
“There are a lot of things I don’t necessarily have to deal with because guys are influenced by him, just his work ethic, how he goes about his business,” Ventura said. “That’s good stuff that I get the benefit of from having him on the team. When you lose somebody like that, it becomes different. ... Somebody has to step into the shoes of leading by example, doing things the right way, and you don’t know who that’s going to be until that happens.”
Beckham doesn’t want to talk about whether or not Konerko would return despite everyone else’s curiosity.
Perhaps he’s swayed by the fact Konerko still appears to be enjoying himself. Despite a season in which he was sidelined for a month with a back injury — he made the third trip to the disabled list of his career — Konerko has said he still he likes to put in the work.
He still enjoys the grind.
“There’s just not any reason for me to talk about that,” Beckham said. “He’s the guy. He’s going to be here until he’s not. He’s the guy who everybody’s going to go to for anything.”