|EDITOR’S CORNER: Konerko: MLB’s most undervalued athlete|
|Written by Tawni Ricketts, Daily Vidette Sports Editor|
|Monday, 02 July 2012 17:18|
In theory, the older an athlete gets, the poorer they perform (unless of course you consider chess a sport).
But the 36-year-old first baseman for the Chicago White Sox is performing just as well as he was when he first started his professional baseball career 15 years ago. In fact, he is out-performing many of his earlier statistics in multiple areas.
As the White Sox team captain, Paul Konerko has a World Series championship under his belt, has a .335 batting average, yields an on-base-percentage of .411, and boasts a .551 slugging percentage (as of Monday, July 2). He’s hit 410 home runs, and claims 1301 RBIs in his MLB career.
Konerko not only leads the first-place Chicago White Sox with his on-base-percentage and batting average, but as of Monday, he fronts the American League in batting average at second place as well.
But his solidity doesn’t stop at the plate.
Konerko sports a .995 career-fielding percentage as a first baseman. While this statistic might have a more prestigious connotation with it if he were a second baseman or a shortstop, a 15-year-long career with only a .005 chance of committing a fielding error isn’t too shabby at any position.
Pauly will also make a showing in the 2012 All-Star game in Kansas City, marking his sixth appearance ever in the American League jersey.
So his stats look pretty good, and he obviously already earned the title of “All-Star.” But what separates an All-Star from a Hall-of-Famer?
Oops, did I say Hall-of-Famer?
So it’s a little premature, but it’s not a far-fetched prediction by any means.
Konerko is the complete package — he has the stats, the leadership skills, and the role model persona. He does what he is paid to do, and he does it well — without striving for extra attention by making, say, eccentric and absurd remarks (cough cough, Ozzie Guillen). He has obtained all of his stats without any convictions or accusations of using performance-enhancing drugs, and he doesn’t have the temper of White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
He even surpasses stats acquired by some current Hall-of-Famers.
Former Chicago White Sox catcher Carlton Fisk hit only .269 for his career and had 376 home runs, compared to Pauly’s current .284 career batting average and 410 home runs.
However, as Sean Peick wrote, “Konerko’s blessing — that he’s well-rounded — is also his curse. He’s a jack of all trades, but a master of none.”
Because of this, Konerko often slips under the radar. He hits well, but he’s not Barry Bonds. He fields with little error, but so do many other first basemen. He’s not speedy along the base paths, but he hits for power so he doesn’t necessarily have to be.
So is being a well-rounded player enough? If you ask me, yes.
Pauly isn’t done yet — he has a couple more years left. If he can continue to post solid, consistent stats, then the only reason I see him sliding under the radar of Hall of Fame electors would be because of his lack of “flash” — the fact that he doesn’t strive for attention. Konerko doesn’t need that, and he doesn’t want that.
While I think Konerko deserves more credit and recognition for what he does on and off the field, maybe the lack of praise he gets is what makes him so great.
In a world where athletics have increasing controversies and scandals arising, from bad tempers, to DUIs and steroid use, to dog fighting, Paul Konerko is a breath of fresh air. He plays ball because he loves the game; being a great player is just an added perk.
He’s the team captain of the Sox and a captain of the league. So on behalf of all MLB fans, not just White Sox followers, here’s to you Paul Konerko — thanks for 15 years of greatness, with the hope of many more.