White Sox

Captain Konerko returns to the fold

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Captain Konerko returns to the fold

Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010
Posted 9:54 AM Updated 3:53 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA. - Even downspirited Tuesday after a long day of talking loud and saying nothing, Chicago White Sox general manager Ken Williams was clear with one goal: "I want the man back."

'The man' in question was 12-year Pale Hose first sacker Paul Konerko, and indeed the fan favorite did end up coming back, inking a three-year, 37.5 million dollar deal that will stretch his storied White Sox tenure to 15 seasons.

"When I talk about Paul Konerko, I first have to talk about the first-class person that he is," a beaming Williams said from the main podium at the Winter Meetings. "Believe me, that factors into our equation. It's one of the things that Craig Landis, his agent and representative, and I talk about all the time, the type of person this guy is, not just on the field but in the clubhouse, on the team bus and the hotel."

"Definitely, to come back was always first in my mind," Konerko said. "Having said that, I began a yearlong preparation for the fact that it might not happen that way. It was my goal at the end of the last contract to come back and get 10 years-plus with one team, and I thought that was really cool - not to mention having a chance to win while you're doing it. Now to sit here and say it's going to be 15, that's a nice round number."

It wasn't always looking like Konerko would stay in Chicago long enough to see 15 on the South Side.

"We were very, very close to going in a different direction, and I'm sure they were, as well," Williams said. "We had a consistent dialogue throughout the meetings, but I wouldn't say things really started to come together until after I left our press conference at 5 p.m. yesterday - and things just finished up over dinner.

"But Craig probably should have waited a little longer. He might have gotten a little bit more money because assistant GM Rick Hahn and I started to tip a few back after a while," Williams continued, laughing.

On the other hand, Konerko was openly courted by several teams, including his hometown Arizona Diamondbacks.

"Arizona definitely was a possibility, something that was intriguing to me," Konerko admitted. "It was a great option to have, but it didn't work out going that way. But I was thrilled that they were interested in me."

We knew of Arizona's interest," Williams said. "When you hit .300 and 39 home runs and drive in how many, I would anticipate there is going to be some interest in you. And if that were ultimately his choice and he decided to stay home, and took even less money to stay home, I would not have begrudged him one bit. I would be saying the same positive things about who he is and what he's all about that I am today."

Konerko hadn't intended on stretching the Chisox over a barrel, but the strange nature of his second shot at a significant free agent contract caught him off-guard.

"This whole free agent process was a lot different than the last time I went through this," he said. "Last time 2005, we were in contact with the White Sox from early November, and other teams as well. This time, in the last four or five days, that's where everything came in. It became more of a mad rush. It heated up much later but much faster, and it's one of those things that if yesterday was a bad day as far as the White Sox were concerned, I'm probably not wearing the uniform this season."

Konerko recounted being on a beach in Mexico last week and getting word that the White Sox had signed slugger Adam Dunn and immediately thinking, "OK, that was a fun 12 years. It's either me or him."

But GM Ken Williams had stated consistently over the past two months that getting Konerko back on the South Side was his top priority, something that wasn't lost on Konerko.

"I remembered Kenny telling me at the end of the year, "If we go after this next year, we want to win it. I don't want you or Adam. I want both of you.'"

Williams not only bagged both big sticks, but at a nice price, 26 million next season and up from there. Konerko gets 12 million in both 2011 and 2012, 6.5 million in 2013, and 1 million per season after that, until 2020.

Despite buzzing after a flurry of activity in the space of a week - the rush of the Dunn signing, A.J Pierzynski's quick, accommodating re-up, and Konerko's return - Williams was not altogether surprised at how perfectly the Winter Meetings concluded for his team.

In spite of his weary eyes and clearly a desperate need for sleep, Williams will immediately tackle what little is left on the board for his club in terms of personnel, as well as the elephant in the room - the prohibitive pricetag of the franchise's biggest payroll of all time.

"Next on the agenda is figuring out a way to pay for all of this," Williams said, laughing. "We certainly ramped it up here recently and have been very aggressive. We've got some work cut out for us, and we are at a point where we have to get a little creative, because we are about tapped out right now. So we either need to get creative or we need to get a flood at the ticket counter pretty quickly."

Those are concerns for the pencil-pushers, true. For now, and once again: In the end, Williams has succeeded in turning his dreams into action: "You set your sights on your targets and what you want to do, develop your plans, and go full steam ahead toward them."

And part of those plans, for another three years, is the White Sox's folk hero of a first baseman.

"We are just thrilled to have not only the player, but the person," Williams said. "Hopefully, we can one day have him retire as a White Sox."
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.

In Astros' dominance, White Sox fans might catch a glimpse of their team's future

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USA TODAY

In Astros' dominance, White Sox fans might catch a glimpse of their team's future

It might end up an ugly week for the White Sox in Houston. But try to find some beauty in what this Astros team looks like. Because it's what the White Sox hope to look like, eventually.

While White Sox fans were likely staring with a frown at Brad Peacock mowing down their team's lineup and at a couple home runs absolutely blasted out of Minute Maid Park in the first of this four-game series Monday night, know that the inverse of that feeling is what the White Sox front office is hoping to deliver in the coming seasons.

The Astros, along with the Cubs on the North Side of Chicago, are the template for what the White Sox are trying to do with their ongoing rebuilding process. Houston experienced some hideous seasons on the way to becoming a perennial contender and a World Series champion in 2017, losing a combined 416 games in four seasons from 2011 to 2014. In 2015, the Astros made their first postseason appearance in a decade. Two years later, they were the world champs, and they remain an annual title contender and are currently the best team in baseball two years after that.

The first part of that should sound familiar, as the White Sox have lost a combined 195 games in the two seasons since this rebuild officially began. Things are better now than they were during last year's 100-loss campaign, but it's expected to be another season of more losses than wins and another season without a playoff berth on the South Side, which would be the franchise's 11th straight to end without a trip to the postseason.

The second half of the Astros rags-to-riches story is yet to come for the White Sox, who are still waiting for young players to develop at both the major league and minor league levels, still waiting for the entire core to assemble in the big leagues. That includes, right now, waiting for certain players to recover from serious injuries. That includes watching growing pains up and down the organization. It's not unexpected for such things to happen in the middle of a rebuild. But when mired in the losing years, they become constant sources of frustration for fans.

Just like no one in Houston looks back fondly on the 100-loss seasons of 2011, 2012 and 2013, it's unlikely South Side baseball fans will look back fondly on these loss-heavy campaigns. But it's part of the process, as maddening as that might be to keep hearing.

Fortunately, there are examples of what the end of the tunnel looks like, and the White Sox are up against one of those examples this week. The Astros are dominating the competition so far this season, their young core of sluggers and a few overpowering starting pitchers fueling the best team in baseball. George Springer and Jose Altuve might have been out of the lineup Monday night, but Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman were still on display. And none of those guys were the ones to blast home runs halfway to Oklahoma off the White Sox on Rick Renteria's otherwise successful bullpen day. Peacock was traded a few times before landing in Houston, and Justin Verlander and Geritt Cole were trade acquisitions, as well. All of those guys have made the Astros a formidable force once again.

The White Sox are likely going to have to make a few outside acquisitions, too, before they can finally reach baseball's mountaintop. General manager Rick Hahn says that's the plan. But the homegrown portion of those rosters of the future could resemble what the Astros have put together in recent seasons. Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Nick Madrigal, Zack Collins. That's the planned core on the South Side. And Hahn has a number of young pitchers who could make up a fearsome rotation, too, in Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease, Dane Dunning, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito. There are more names White Sox fans are familiar with who could play big roles, too.

That's a lot of talent, and while White Sox fans might remain skeptical until the wins start coming at an increased rate, the blueprint is there for those pieces to come together and create something special. The blueprint is what's across the field from the White Sox this week in Houston.

The Astros might cause some bad feelings for the White Sox and their fans over the next few nights. But if they look closely, they might catch a glimpse of the White Sox future if this rebuild goes where Hahn & Co. envision it going.

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Eloy Jimenez returns to White Sox a little more than three weeks after spraining ankle

Eloy Jimenez returns to White Sox a little more than three weeks after spraining ankle

Things looked grim when Eloy Jimenez, the White Sox top-ranked prospect and a centerpiece of the South Side rebuilding plans, was down in pain on the warning track.

But a little more than three weeks later, Jimenez is back in the lineup, returned from his stay on the injured list for the start of a four-game series against the Houston Astros.

Jimenez made a leaping attempt to catch a home-run ball in the April 26 game against the Detroit Tigers. In the process, his foot got stuck in the padding of the left-field wall, and the 22-year-old suffered a high ankle sprain. He limped off the field and needed help getting into the dugout and clubhouse. Thoughts of "here we go again" flashed through a fan base that's watched top prospects suffer one significant injury after another in recent seasons.

The White Sox said Jimenez would be reevaluated in a couple weeks, while cursory Google searches revealed recovery times of more than a month for this type of injury.

But Jimenez seems to have healed quickly. He went on a minor league rehab assignment last week, playing in five games with Triple-A Charlotte before being deemed ready to return Monday.

This is phenomenal news for the White Sox and their fans, of course, who in the time Jimenez has been sidelined have seen another key piece go down with Carlos Rodon's Tommy John surgery. Jimenez hasn't got off to the rip-roaring start some predicted — he's slashed .241/.294/.380 with a trio of home runs in his first 21 major league games — but all playing time for the youngster is good playing time as he continues his development in his first big league season. Throw in Jimenez's four-game stay on the bereavement list prior to that game against Detroit, and he's had just one at-bat since April 21.

So maybe expect some rust, and manager Rick Renteria said Jimenez could perhaps be eased back with a game at DH here and there as he continues to work on improving his defense in left field.

Jimenez did go 7-for-22 (a .318 batting average) with a homer and a double in his rehab stint in Charlotte. Now he's back in the major league outfield, a good thing for everyone following along with this rebuild.

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