Konerko plans month away before decision on future
First baseman, organization on same page as White Sox slugger enters free agency
CHICAGO -- Paul Konerko probably will retire after the 2014 campaign, which would mark his 18th year in Major League Baseball.
The White Sox captain also couldn't see playing a part-time role in that potential final season for any team but the one with which he has been a fixture for the past 15 years.
Those morsels of information were the only items considered close to definitive during Konerko's 23-minute meeting with the press prior to Friday's contest against the Royals. This press conference never was designed for Konerko to make an announcement about his future.
Anyone who has listened to Konerko over the past month or understands the well-thought-out, well-researched road he usually takes in the decision-making process realized that Konerko's Friday chat simply set the stage for what's ahead. Konerko and general manager Rick Hahn, who addressed the media 45 minutes before the first baseman, seem to be on the same page.
Both sides will take some time away from the decision in October, then revisit where they stand. Konerko had that scenario in his mind even before this 2013 season began and subsequently spiraled into a White Sox disaster.
"Coming into the season, I had a lot of goals in mind of how you want the season to unfold. Every player does," Konerko said. "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 how 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."
With or without another season as part of the White Sox, Konerko's 15-year-run on the South Side has left him as one of the organization's all-time greatest players. He entered Friday with 427 homers as a member of the White Sox, sitting just 21 behind Frank Thomas' franchise record.
His 3,944 total bases falls five behind Thomas for the club's all-time mark. It has not been a perfect year for the 37-year-old Konerko, battling a back problem and a brief neck issue to hit .248 with 12 homers and 54 RBIs.
The individual struggles haven't left Konerko wondering if he can still be a productive hitter at this level. It was 2003 when Konerko hit .234 and fought through doubts of whether he'd ever hit again, only to have some of his greatest seasons over the past decade.
"I still think he has three or four more years left in him, if you ask my opinion," said White Sox closer Addison Reed. "It would be awesome to see him play for a few more years, but that's up to him. I think he's having a little bit of a down year, but everything is still there. He looks good on the field and he looks good at the plate."
"You have to be able to absorb all of that work," Konerko said. "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."
Many factors will come into play when Konerko makes his decision.
He talked about having his wife, Jennifer, and three children travel with him more next year to lessen the time away from his family. He also refuses to assume there even will be a spot for him on the White Sox, and if there is not, he would have to weigh whether it was important enough for him to keep playing baseball if it was somewhere else.
Then geographic concerns could come into play for the Arizona resident.
In hindsight, Konerko would have preferred to make a more definitive decision in Spring Training as to whether this was going be his last year or if he would play another. These three final games could be his last with the White Sox, and he might not even realize it until November.
That call wasn't made in February, although it sounds as if he's getting a jump on the 2014 announcement. His value to a younger White Sox team would be immeasurable, both on and off the field, but the only thing truly known of his future with the White Sox is that it might take a month or so to decide.
"We're going to let everyone get away for a few weeks and exhale," said Hahn, following the same process of Konerko's last two free agencies in 2005 and after '10. "We'll sit down with Paulie and have a direct conversation with him face to face about what he wants and how he's feeling and what he hopes to accomplish next year, as well as what the team's going to look like and how he could potentially fit and what the plan would be going forward."
"You give me a minute, and I could give you 20 reasons why I should play and 20 reasons why I shouldn't," Konerko said. "You go back and forth on these things all day."