White Sox

Moment finally arrives for Paul Konerko as White Sox retire No. 14

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Moment finally arrives for Paul Konerko as White Sox retire No. 14

Chaos ensued at U.S. Cellular Field on Saturday when the White Sox retired Paul Konerko’s No. 14.

His microphone cut out during his speech and in the middle of one of the most important parts: his address to the fans. And who was the coolest, calmest and most collected person in the building?

Captain Paul Konerko, of course.

He brushed it off like a fastball to the face from Jeff Samardzija — a memory that the crowd, Konerko and, of course, Samardzija had a good laugh about during the ceremony — and displayed the lovable character that had everyone chanting “Paulie.”

“And that's how I learned about meaning of life,” Konerko said laughing when the microphone turned back on.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Paul Konerko on future: 'Maybe I'm good at something else']

On a picture-perfect day, the beloved former first baseman was overcome by an emotional ceremony as the the White Sox retired his number in front of a sold out crowd on the South Side.

Konerko admitted that speeches aren’t exactly within the realm of his comfort zone. Even White Sox manager Robin Ventura was intrigued to see how his former player’s speech would go. But in the only way he knows how, Konerko thanked everyone that showed up to his ceremony from first baseman Jim Thome to former manager Ozzie Guillen to the fans.

Guillen, who received a huge ovation from the fans, lauded Konerko’s well-known work ethic and said had an impact on everyone he was around.

“I think one to be here, the reason I am who I am is because of No. 14,” Guillen said. “That guy he was outstanding, he make everybody around him play better. He makes everybody around him be better. As long as I don’t have to work, I be here and this is a special day: not just for him but for me and my family also. This guy, he makes our life very happy.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: Paul Konerko supports Guillen: 'I'm an Ozzie guy']

Two of the people Konerko thanked the most were his hitting coaches, Greg Walker and Mike Gellinger. Both made note of the slugger’s tremendous attitude, and Walker, who was with the White Sox from 2003 to 2011, said Konerko was a rare specimen in baseball because of his mental approach.

“He’s a perfectionist in a tough game to be a perfectionist,” Walker said. “He’s brilliant. I’ve been a hitting coach for a long time up until this year, and I never ran around anybody that could process information at game speed the way he could. If anybody else tried to copy, they had no chance.”

One element of the ceremony Konerko enjoyed the most was how soon this event took place from when he retired. The former first baseman discussed after the ceremony how often he sees successful players not get recognized for their achievements until years have passed.

“It’s just another class move by (White Sox chariman) Jerry (Reinsdorf) to say we know what it is and let’s just do it and get it over with,” Konerko said. “I hope that’s a trend to start with some other teams like what’s there to wait for?”

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get a Paul Konerko jersey right here]

Reinsdorf said Konerko’s number being retired is “one of baseball’s highest honors” and that Konerko “deservedly belongs with all of the other White Sox greats who have starred over the many decades.”

Konerko had ample time to prepare for this moment, but the cool, calm and collected darling of the South Side confessed the sight of his name next to the likes of Harold Baines, Frank Thomas and Minnie Minoso, to name a few, got him emotional.

“You know it's going up there, and I had known it's been going up there for a while," he said. "But when you actually see it, a lot of things flash across your mind, a lot of work, a lot of things back when you're young in high school, in the minor leagues, you have those thoughts about stuff, a lot of the struggles to get to that. It was meaningful.”

Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka

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GOOGLE IMAGES

Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka

Daniel Palka was a phenomenon in 2018. But before there was Daniel Palka, there was Dan Pasqua. You might have heard the Palka/Pasqua comparisons on White Sox game broadcasts or within White Sox fan circles. Both are lefty sluggers with a similar build: Palka listed at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Pasqua at 6-foot-0 and 203 ppounds. Both led the White Sox in home runs in their age-26 seasons: Pasqua with 20 in 1988, Palka with 27 in 2018. And hey, they have the same first name and last initial!

Pasqua, nicknamed “The Hammer,” turned 57 years old Wednesday. Let’s learn a few more things about him.

— He was a teammate of John Elway (for four games with Oneonta of the New York-Pennsylvania League in 1982), Bo Jackson (with the White Sox from 1991 to 1993) and Michael Jordan (for four games with Birmingham of the Southern League in 1994).

— He was the 1985 International League MVP with the Columbus Clippers.

— He homered in his MLB debut on May 30, 1985, with the Yankees

— He was Sports Illustrated’s 1987 preseason pick to lead the American League in home runs. He finished with 17, only 32 behind Mark McGwire.

— He hit a Comiskey Park roof shot on May 30, 1989.

— He hit the last triple (and had the last RBI) in Comiskey Park history on Sept. 30, 1990.

— He hit a 484-foot home run, the third-longest by a White Sox player in Guaranteed Rate Field history, on April 27, 1991.

— He finished his MLB career with 117 home runs, tied with all-time great outfielders Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker and Ichiro Suzuki.

And finally, let’s compare Pasqua to Palka statistically. Since Palka had 449 career plate appearances through the end of the 2018 season, here's the duo's numbers through their first 449 career MLB plate appearances.

Could Manny Machado's NLCS shenanigans impact White Sox potential free-agent pursuit?

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USA TODAY

Could Manny Machado's NLCS shenanigans impact White Sox potential free-agent pursuit?

"It's a dirty play by a dirty player."

That was Christian Yelich, the all-but-sure-to-be NL MVP, describing Manny Machado, who's about to become one of the best-paid players in baseball history, after Game 4 of the NLCS, a game in which Machado once again grabbed headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Machado's Los Angeles Dodgers and Yelich's Milwaukee Brewers have played four games in this NLCS, and after three of them, the focus has been on Machado. Not because of his bat or his glove but because of lack of hustle and certain methods on the base paths that weren't exactly on the up and up.

After Game 2, he was criticized for not hustling on a ground ball to shortstop. In something straight out of a public-relations person's nightmare, he defended himself by saying that hustling really isn't his cup of tea. During Game 3, he twice attempted to break up double plays by interfering at second base and was, upon review, busted for it the second time. In extra innings in Game 4, he appeared to intentionally drag his leg across Jesus Aguilar's at first base. That play cleared the benches, got Machado called "dirty" in the Brewers' clubhouse and earned him the reputation of postseason villain.

And so Machado's impending free agency gets to be discussed in a brand new light. There's now more baggage attached to the 26-year-old superstar with a fantastic bat and a stellar glove.

The question is: Will the White Sox, one of many teams that could be mulling a contract offer worth hundreds of millions of dollars, care?

As much as it’s talked about building a perennial contender of the future by developing the on-field skills of their fleet of highly touted prospects, the White Sox brain trust has discussed developing a culture, a way of doing things, to go along with all that talent and all that skill. Unsurprisingly that conversation has focused on the oft-used phrase of “doing things the right way.”

Does what Machado has been doing count as “doing things the right way”? It seems easy to assess that it doesn't. It's far more difficult to determine whether it will end up making a difference or not.

Not hustling is one of Rick Renteria's biggest bugaboos. He sat down multiple players on multiple occasions throughout the 2018 season — starting with Avisail Garcia in a spring training game and including a veteran like Welington Castillo as well as a young star like Tim Anderson — for not running to first base on pop ups and line outs and ground outs. Would Renteria's tune suddenly change if Machado and his preference for not hustling arrived on the South Side in what would surely be the biggest free-agent deal in club history?

Renteria got fired up over the issue at the end of July, when he benched Anderson for not hustling on what the shortstop believed was a line out.

“We tell these guys, don’t assume anything. ... It’s as simple as that, and he understands it. He knows it. We’ve talked about it. He comes out of the box, he doesn’t stand there. But we just reiterated to make sure that you allow the umpires to make the calls and you allow the other clubs to go ahead and ask for reviews. We run.”

But asked about not running out his ground ball in Game 2, Machado shared pretty much the opposite philosophy.

"Obviously I'm not going to change, I'm not the type of player that's going to be 'Johnny Hustle,' and run down the line and slide to first base and … you know, whatever can happen," Machado told The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal. "That's just not my personality, that's not my cup of tea, that's not who I am."

What about Machado's interferences at second base? It was that exact play that sent Anderson into an on-field tiff with umpire Joe West during the second Crosstown series of the season just last month. Javy Baez slid into second base, and Anderson thought Baez did something he shouldn't have, raising his arm to interfere with a double-play turn, that sequence of events ending with Anderson screaming at West on the field. Would Anderson be cool with playing alongside — and potentially vacating his position at shortstop for — an infamous interferer?

And what about being a "dirty player," a villain? The White Sox always seemed fine — heck, they loved it — having one of baseball's greatest irritants in A.J. Pierzynski on the roster. Perhaps no player wore the "villain" title as a badge of honor more than the catcher on the 2005 World Series team. But remember that Pierzynski took the punch, he didn't throw it. Being baseball's version of a "villain" and being a guy who makes dangerous plays that could hurt somebody are two different things.

The point being: Do Machado's actions in this postseason series make him anathema to the "Ricky's boys don't quit" mantra? If the White Sox were to turn a blind eye to the events of this NLCS, would it qualify as a betrayal of their quest to establish a high-effort, high-character culture?

Or do they value that culture so much that they stay away from Machado this offseason?

Here's Rick Hahn from September of last year.

"It’s the culture that Ricky and his coaching staff have been able to create in that clubhouse. I cannot tell you how many various fans have stopped me, or emailed me or mentioned to me that they’ve never been this excited over a 60-win team. Or they’ve never been excited about a team that isn’t going to the playoffs. And I think so much of that is based on how Ricky and the coaches have them playing day in and day out. You see them fighting for 27 outs, you see them prepared every night. Sure, we’re going to get out-manned at portions during this process, but the fight and competitiveness and the style of play is the kind of thing that is going to endure year in and year out. And that is extremely important for us to establish at the big league level for all of us."

Machado's talent would make any team he's a part of more competitive. But for the White Sox, who talk an awful lot about hustling and refusing to quit, perhaps all these postseason shenanigans make it so Machado just isn't their cup of tea.