Paul Konerko was very candid about the uncertainty of his future when he addressed the media on Friday afternoon.
The White Sox captain plans to take several weeks to decide whether or not he wants to play again in 2014. A free agent this offseason, Konerko doesn’t assume a job with the White Sox awaits him -- if he chooses to return.
But as unsure as Konerko is about what he’ll decide, the veteran first baseman has left the door open for a possible return. He clearly prefers to finish his career with the White Sox if the possibility is there. Konerko also made this much cetain: if he comes back, next season would be the final one.
“I’m as confused as anybody else,” Konerko said. “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 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.”
[More: Ventura returning, but what about other Sox coaches?]
Konerko has said since January he needs time to weigh it all.
One chief concern is whether or not he wants to commit to another full season. Konerko’s season doesn’t start in February with spring training but rather with offseason training in November. Whether or not he can handle that, Konerko isn’t sure.
“You never totally know,” Konerko said. “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?’ … 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.”
Konerko said he’d consider a part-time role, but only with the White Sox.
That could open the door for his return as one of Hahn’s biggest tasks this offseason is reshaping the roster and repairing an offense that slipped from fourth in the American League in runs scored last season to 29th in the majors in 2013.
[More: Konerko hopes to avoid 100 losses]
Manager Robin Ventura believes Konerko -- who has career lows with 12 homers and 54 RBIs -- can be a productive player, even if he’s no longer a 30-home run threat. Konerko sounds as if one of the keys would be for him to back off his own expectations and make himself productive in other ways, including working with younger teammates.
“I’m going to have to come to grips that if I do play, I’ve got to kind of relax on that (expectation) a little bit and know if I come back here, production can be done in a lot of different ways,” Konerko said. “It’s not always just driving in runs and hitting home runs.”
While Konerko wonders if he should have thought about his future prior to 2013 more thoroughly and known definitively this weekend would be it, he knows “the bells and whistles” aren’t for him. Whereas Mariano Rivera had a farewell tour and Todd Helton’s final home game at Coors Field was celebrated, that has never been Konerko’s way.
So while the thought has crossed his mind this could be the end, Konerko doesn’t want the pomp and circumstance.
“It’s all great, but it’s not something I need,” Konerko said. “I do like to play and get ready for games and do all that. So, it has crossed my mind. 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. … It’s not the way I do things.”