I loved the Konerko send-off. Was there any doubt? For anyone?
Konerko's contemplative, accounting-for-everything manner always played better for retrospectives than mid-season rallying cries. Sending him off wasn't just rewarding an above-average first baseman for being above-average, but quickly became an homage to White Sox-dom, 1999-2014, with the unexpected and grand flourish of trainers Herm Schnieder and Brian Ball getting acknowledged for keeping Konerko and the roster upright for the last decade and a half. Konerko is the rare star that allows Chicagoans to celebrate championships and true greatness while lauding noble, tragic try-hards who are loyal to the city just for the hell of it at the same time. There was a cheer for a pre-recorded video clip of Jon Garland with a fuzzy drifter beard, a massive Jose Abreu home run and World Series highlights in a four-hour span. It was a rad affair, all things being equal.
It was the promised reward that was always waiting at the end. Announcing the full-season farewell tour allowed time for everyone to get it right and do what they wanted to do for the White Sox. If we knew Mark Buehrle was leaving after 2011, you probably would have pilgrimaged out to that wet, September start instead of just kvetched about it. We probably would have treated that whole season different. We might be strangely tolerant of a borderline awful 2016 season of Buerhrle on the White Sox just for the sense of completion that this season of Konerko added.
The season is over, anything that we were still hoping to get done has gone by the boards, and the warm memories and dreams of free agency will provide plenty of warmth as we wait for the off-season. I cannot imagine wanting to dredge up arguments about whether he deserved a spot on the team during this warm and fuzzy time.
"This justifies the whole season!" talk is natural and expected. The year was about sending the man off right, so the actual send-off is the moneymaker in it all. What I don't understand, or even get the impetus for, is hindsight strawman arguments of "Paul Konerko didn't keep the 73-89 White Sox from the playoffs." Well, yeah. Konerko's stats weren't pretty, but 2011 Adam Dunn couldn't have singlehandedly kept the 2014 Sox from the playoffs. That wasn't the point, even if people who brushed off the marginal disadvantage of Konerko and crowed about what could have been if the Sox had a real bullpen deserve Double Secret Probation.
2014 was a developmental year, and Konerko on the roster took up a spot that could have been used for development. Andy Wilkins being mostly about as terrible as I can imagine a call-up being probably reduces the response I'll get by mentioning he could have gotten more of a try-out, but Marcus Semien likely could have spent all year with the big club without Konerko, and could have provided a more full picture of his abilities rather than a horrible start, a quietly solid campaign in the minors, and a brief flourish in September, while manning and struggling at around 73 different defensive positions.
Whatever. He'll live. We're done with it. The argument only continues to be interesting in that no one arguing in favor of Konerko seems actually willing to address these points in good faith.
"Screw it, I just like the guy," is an argument. A clear and direct one, and a sympathetic one, too. I like the guy, too. This weekend was a fantastic opportunity to celebrate how we all like the guy--because he's been around for so long that we can all think of different ways--and I think I'd rather root for the team that cost themselves wins to show they care about the human beings who forged memories and bled for the company than the one that would skin their discarded players alive if they read a study that told them the skin could be used to fortify the UCLs of their pitching prospects, then hire the guy who wrote the study. That's a good note to end on, especially with Konerko departing; let us be thankful now as we were thankful then in his greatest moment, that we are not Astros fans.
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