White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko took questions from the media for over 20 minutes Friday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field, addressing his future and his decision-making process for whether he'll return to baseball in 2014 or not. CSN White Sox Insider Dan Hayes was there and provided a transcript of Konerko's remarks, seen below in its entirety:
Question: You said you’d take time after the season to decide...
Paul Konerko: For me, and it’s not something I came up with now or the last couple weeks, but coming into the season I had a lot of goals in mind of how you want the season to unfold. Every player does. You come in, you have a way you want to work and you just have a vision of how the season is going to go. Pretty much all of that was destroyed as the season went piece by piece. But one of the things I did want to do no matter the season was going to turn out was to go home after and take a month off and get away from it. Didn’t know what I’d be getting away from, but that was definitely something I wanted to do. And going through the season, talking to people through the season, some in sports, baseball, hockey, just friends and a consensus I came up with that it was something to do. So that was there before the season and I want to succeed at one thing I set out to do.
Q: Is it how you feel physically and mentally?
PK: It’s always that … First I want to say I appreciate everyone letting me be, for the most part everyone was good on your guys part. I didn’t have to deal with much there. So appreciate that.
I’m going to answer questions here but I just want to say it’s all under the premise that there’s a choice and an option that they want me back, that it’s all on the basis and set to the backdrop that there’s a choice here. I don’t know that. I haven’t talked to the White Sox formally. We haven’t spoken about anything. Under normal circumstances I hate to answer questions and speculate on things. I don’t even know are questions yet. But I guess for the next 10 minutes I guess we will. But I want everyone knows that, that I’m not sitting here knowing … everything could be made up for me. I don’t know what my choices are. I don’t know what my options are. I know none of that, so speculating on it seems kind of weird to me, but I understand the timing of these things, so I’m going to answer questions set to that that there is that choice.
I think a lot of players you guys deal with have that sense of entitlement that they’re always going to have that. That’s not the way I go.
Q: Can you handle another year physically?
PK: You never know. You never totally know. I can’t say yes. I feel like there are some things that you go through during a season that are kind of isolated things that you feel like, ‘OK, well that will never bother me again.’ There are other things that you just know, ‘Hey, that’s never going away. That’s going to hang around. Can I get through with it?’ But it’s one of those I’ll have to (consider) over the next month or so. Again it’s not just the playing of the games. It’s the travel. It’s the spring training. It’s the offseason. It’s all that stuff. You have to be able to absorb all of that work. I go back and forth on that kind of stuff because I’ve done this for almost 20 years professionally. It does get tough. At the same time if you frame it like what’s another 180 days, 200 days or whatever it is. If you sit there and say, after all you’ve done, can you just bust it for that much longer? Then it seems like, yeah, you can do that. You always can do a little more than you think, but it is a commitment, and at least for me, you want to be able to go out there. It’s one thing if you’re a utility infielder that’s kind of lost the ability to swing the bat (from) when you were a starting player, but you’re still defensively good or this or that, you can kind of get through easier. It’s not as big of a deal. Someone like me, I need to go out there and swing the bat every day, and to have to be able to do that, you have to think about those things.
Q: Has the decision weighed on you?
PK: Definitely. There are so many layers to the season that are bad, unfortunately. This is really the only season when you think about it, for me anyway, every season I’ve played before this, and when I say every season I mean since I was like 7, that I knew I would play the next year. I feel like if I do play, the one thing I can give you of any substance today probably would be that if I do play next year, that will probably be it. So that’s really what it boils down to. I would know the answer to that. This is the only one that would wind up being that I didn’t know the answer the whole way, and I don’t know if I handled that well, don’t know if I liked it. It’s not just the game. It’s not just the playing. When your whole entire year, everywhere you go, whether it’s to this city or that, there are so many relationships with people. Am I going to see this person again? Am I going to be back here? All of those little things that you guys can probably imagine, but there’s even more of them. (I was) in between on all of those, and I didn’t like that. Looking back on it, that was probably, I don’t want to say a mistake, but I don’t know if I was sure enough in spring training or before to say one way or the other, and maybe I should have figured things out more to say, ‘Listen, I plan on definitely playing beyond this year,’ or ‘This is it.’ It probably would have been a better year personally for me either way. But again that still doesn’t get around the fact that what’s happened with the rest of it. Some of this stuff, there’s a lot in your control, but there’s a lot out of your control. And this has just been a real rough year for everybody. I don’t know any guy on our team right now that hasn’t been eaten up by this team and what’s gone on here for three weeks or a month at one point during the season. It’s been a struggle. It’s been rough, and that can happen to anybody at any age.
Q: Does a rough season play into your decision?
PK: That’s huge. It’s maybe the hugest thing. You only get to go through these kinds of things once, a career once, so you try to rely on advice from other people. You try to talk to the people who have been through it. The majority of them are always, ‘If you can play, play. Do it the way you want to do it. Go back to the drawing board. Go get ‘em.’ And I get all of that. The other side of it is, this is how careers are supposed to end. Not everybody gets to do it exactly how they want to do it. It’s supposed to kind of be not the best because that’s what closes you out. When you say, ‘OK, I’ve had enough of that, and they’ve had enough of me.’ So I can see it both directions. I can tell you more of me is the first one. And the advice I get is more the first scenario, but that doesn’t mean it’s right either. Going back to what I said, when that choice is put in front of me, if it is, that’s probably when I’ll have to think harder about it. We’re kind of talking now like it is.
Q: Is it more about the physical aspect or the mental aspect?
PK: More physical is a bigger chunk of it. Mentally I think you can always rebound. This isn’t the first season I’ve had that’s been rough. There have been other ones. Part of that, the older you get, you can kind of let it go quicker and know that I could turn. I remember when I was younger, 10 years ago, I had a rough one, and really just thought it was the end of my career. I didn’t know how I was going to respond to that. I think you get better at that. You do get beat up more every year mentally, but I think ultimately, you get a little better at it. But physically, that’s the thing you have to know. It’s not just the season. If you could snap your fingers and know it was next opening day, and just knew you had the season, that’s tough. The seasons are tough, but when you talk about the offseason and spring training, those are big things, big things that you have to want to do. The season doesn’t start on April 1. It doesn’t start on Feb. 15. For me, it starts on Nov. 10, Nov. 15, somewhere right around then. So you have to know you’re willing to go from right then all the way until now. That’s a long year. So physically you have to know if you’re up for it.
Q: Would you prefer to finish as a Sox player?
PK: Yeah, I don’t think there’s any doubt of that. I don’t know the options that are going to be made available to me, but I think that’s always been my goal. Certainly when I signed back here after ’05, I felt like that was it, and then after 2010, that just kind of locked it in. That’s definitely what I envision, yeah.
You're just always taught to fight. Since I've been certainly a drafted player, you've come up and you've had a million fights in your career. Minor leagues, you've had all these little bumps in the road all the way and you're always taught to fight. Whatever happens, you get up and you fight again, and that's where this is at. So it's a matter of, am I still in that mode to where I want to get up and fight and do it the right way. Not the right way, because I think I’ve done it the right way. Just sometimes you get away from yourself if it doesn’t go right. But to go out and fight again and see how it goes and don’t back down from the fight. The flip side is it’s not backing down, it’s more like you don’t feel like doing it anymore and that’s OK, too. I’m as confused as anybody else. You can tell. I don’t really have answers, I just know what’s happening. I think taking a month off, a month away from this, which I know if I do that, the more you don’t play, the needle will always move toward wanting to play. That’s what I feel would happen, that’s what people tell me. I just have to make sure I know what’s real and what isn’t. I could go fish out 20 guys in that clubhouse that don’t feel like playing a baseball game right now, and I’m probably right there with them. But how much of that is real, because I guarantee you as November clicks in, December, they’re going to want to play again and so will I. But I’m in a different situation. I have to figure out of it’s really real, if that’s something I want to do. I don’t know that answer right now.
Q: Would you come back as a part-time player?
PK: The only thing I can say on that would be the only place I could do that would be here because my family likes it here, my kids love I there, it’s a great place to be in the summer. I’ve been here. If I do come back in any capacity, even if I come back as, again, I don’t know the choices and all that, I think it’s going to be looked on, more importantly by myself, is that, I’m always holding myself to the standard that I’ve set, as far as the production I’ve had and what I’ve done. Other people are going to hold me to that, and I get that, but it’s probably not fair to myself to do that as much, and I’m going to have to come to grips that if I do play, I’ve got to kind of relax on that a little bit and know if I come back here, production can be done in a lot of different ways. It’s not always just driving in runs and hitting home runs. I’ve got to be better, if I’m going to come back, at working with the young guys and be better to them and be not so much consumed like I was 10 years ago. I’ve just been so, my head’s down and I just do what I do and I’m probably going to have to make adjustments on that kind of stuff to enjoy if I do come back. I think I could do it but I would definitely have to change some of my ways of the way I do things.
Q: Don’t those guys -- Mark Kotsay and Jason Giambi -- have value?
PK: If I could allow it anywhere, it would be. Like what you said about going out the right way, if I did come back it’s not about that means I come back and I want to drive in 100 runs and I want to make an all-star team. It’s not like that. It’s more just the vibe of how you want to feel when you go. And if that meant the plan from the beginning of the year was this, and Plan A, and you succeeded in that plan, that means that’s going out right. The guys you mentioned (Kotsay, Giambi), the role has to exist. I don’t know the roster, the way that’s going to shape up. That’s on Rick and all that. I’m very conscious of, I feel like I’ve always, since I’ve been a little kid, earned my way on to the playing field. No one did a favor for me. I always feel like I earned my way on. I’m not quite sure I can say that right now for next year. So that’s a problem with me, that’s a concern with me. The argument can be made that, well, OK, everything you’ve done up until now, regardless of this year, you have earned that. I don’t know the answer to that, but it definitely crosses my mind because I don’t want to put anybody in a tough spot that for other reasons that’s why I’m back here. If I’m back here, I want it to actually make sense. Assuming that I come to that conclusion that I want to play, that has to make sense for the other side because the White Sox have always been honest with me and treated me well. I’m not looking to power play somebody into a job. That’s just not who I am.
Q: Do you allow yourself to think this could be it?
PK: Well, I mean that’s the thing. Going back to the other question, part of what I don’t like is probably that I’m not looking for all the bells and whistles. I think it’s all great, but it’s not something I need. I do like to play and get ready for games and do all that. So, it has crossed my mind.
I just don’t know, you know, if it is, I don’t know how else I would go about it anyways. I’m going to come in here, hit off the tee, take batting practice, get ready and go play. I don’t know how much more I would do or what else I would do. I’m not one to go and change out into seven different uniforms and say I wore each one each inning of this. It’s not the way I do things.
It’s great for the guys who want to do it. You guys know me. It’s not my personality to be that caught up in all those things. I know inside my head what’s what. I don’t know how much would change. I could play Sunday and get 2 or 3 at-bats or play the whole game and then find out one month from now that was it and look back and say, ‘Maybe I wish I would have done that.’ That’s possible. But I don’t know what other way to do it right now.
It’s where we are at right now.
Q: Would you want a career in baseball after you’re done as a player?
PK: I think it would be quite a long time if I ever get back in baseball. Just because of where my kids are at and all that. I don’t see, that’s not to say if someone calls up and says, ‘Hey we have a question about this or just want to talk’ or whatever talk about a player, I would never hang up on a guy. I would never not want to help somebody. But I can’t see myself doing anything for a while where I had to do something with my kids and I couldn’t do it because of baseball.
If you take a job back in the game, inevitably that’s going to happen. It would be a while, I would say. I have some other interests in some other things I can do from home and around home that would probably keep me busy for a while if it goes that way. Those same things would exist one year from now. You give me a minute and I could 20 reasons why I should play and 20 reasons why I shouldn’t.
You go back and forth on these things all day.
Q: Is family a big part of the decision?
PK: That’s another thing about next year. I’m going to have to look at going back to what I said. I’ve kind of always done things the same way. If I do play, I have to change the way like when I travel, I have to have the family come more with me to lessen the time away. Sometimes it’s tough with the school situations but that’s something that maybe the year or two I’ve dropped the ball on. I could have been a little bit more of ahead. I didn’t enjoy as much this, because as your kids get older, you are missing stuff. But it wasn’t the way I do things. I’m going to have to be a little different. I’m going to have make adjustments how the way I do things because I’m a little set in my ways.
That will be something I’ll have to address if I do play again. I have to go less time without seeing my kids, wife, all that kind of stuff.
Q: Has going from contender to 100 losses affected your decision?
PK: You know it’s possible in a sense that you see other organizations that turned. The Red Sox last year lost 90-something games. So, I’m sure that wasn’t what they had in mind. You know there are a lot of good teams now. So if you don’t get off right and these guys don’t play right or this guy gets hurt, anything is in play. I’m happy that in my 15 years it’s really the only one that was like this.
The ‘07 year I just don’t count along these lines because there were so many injuries it wasn’t even the real team that was playing most of that year. This year wasn’t quite, I can’t say that. We had our team a lot of the team and we just were bad.
But I’m pretty lucky. 15 years in one spot. We had teams, I’ve been to the playoffs three times, which isn’t a ton. But we’ve had, you are into September every year being in it at least, maybe into the last week. That’s what you are looking for. There’s no guarantees you are ever going to make it to the playoffs. It’s always been pretty competitive.
Definitely shocked. It was pretty much the same group of guys as last year. So I don’t think anybody saw this coming. I know there are a lot of people who thought we overachieved last year, but I don’t think they would have even said it was going to go this bad this year.
Q: Would you want to play again if the White Sox moved in a different direction?
PK: That’s a good question. I would have to weigh that out. It would be tough to go somewhere just for a year to play. I guess it would just be how much do I really want to play the game of baseball. I’m just not ready to stop playing yet. That will broaden, if there are more teams. Who knows what’s going to be there and what isn’t, and what role and what location they are at. Where they are?
All that stuff will factor into it. But you know, I would say that’s the least best scenario.