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The Captain Will Go Down With the Ship: Paul Konerko Returns for 2014

Felipe Melecio questions why the White Sox would bring back an aging player who will spend a lot of time riding the bench.

Paul Konerko
Paul Konerko

Sep 27, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Fans hold up signs as Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko (14) gets ready in the batters box against the Kansas City Royals during the ninth inning at U.S Cellular Field. The Royals beat the Chicago White Sox 6-1. Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

As a Chicago White Sox fan, there’s really not much to look forward to for 2014. The farm system is trying to dig itself out of a big hole. The big league roster is filled with questionable pitching and low-skilled hitters that strike out more than the high school science club the week of the Homecoming Dance. The team’s biggest signing, first baseman Jose Dariel Abreu is an enigmatic player because we do not know what to expect from him. Yes, he’s a slugger and seems to have the tools and mechanics to be a successful hitter, but this is Major League Baseball. The competition is just a bit more difficult than in Cuba.

Admittedly, when owner Jerry Reinsdorf declared that the team would keep an open roster spot for long-time franchise player, Paul Konerko, and one of only three captains in the entire MLB universe, I was flummoxed by the idea that the club would not only bring back an aging player (will be 38-years-old by Opening Day of 2014) that just experienced what could be his worst season of his career, but bringing back Konerko meant that the team was willing to add another hybrid first baseman/designated hitter to the team. With Abreu and Adam Dunn already on board for next season, it just didn’t make sense for the team to bring back Konerko.

But looking back, perhaps there’s more to baseball than just constantly working on building a championship-caliber team for the future. Maybe it’s ok to give a roster spot to an aging veteran with declining skills and a one-year, seven-figure contract to just sit on the bench and play very sparingly as opposed to giving a low-cost, younger player a shot to earn his right to a roster spot that can then mature into an everyday player. Even though the White Sox don’t really have a player with the latter characteristics and attributes in their farm system.

After seeing Mariano Rivera get an over-the-top farewell at Yankee Stadium and all year long across baseball, maybe this is a chance for fans, especially for the stubborn White Sox fans, which helped the team finish 24th in home attendance in 2013, to say their proper good-byes to one of the best players to ever wear a White Sox uniform. It might also help the organization break into the top 20 in home attendance in 2014 as well. A feat they haven’t accomplished since 2010.

It’s a bittersweet re-signing to say the least. On the one hand, this move holds back the White Sox from accomplishing anything long-term or short-term. The front office has refused to get involved with trade talks that would include left-handed starter Chris Sale, but it seems that there are more rumors about dealing the young hurler this offseason. Yet Konerko will most likely remain with the team for the duration of the 2014 campaign.

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