Just a few scant months ago, the White Sox were seriously contemplating naming Paul Konerko a player-manager. It would have been an honor, but an honor usually bestowed on well-respected baseball minds in the twilight of their careers. (Never mind that Konerko's 2011 "twilight" was yet another .300, 30-HR season.)
Chicago's just a half-game out of first, and while everybody loves and respects Robin Ventura, we can't help but feel cheated out of a unique dual campaign: Konerko going for manager of the year and MVP at the same time.
A 14-game hitting streak has Konerko up to .395, and not so coincidentally, the Sox have won six in a row and 10 out of 11, and are knocking on the division's door in what was supposed to be a lost season. He's among the league leaders in home runs and RBIs, but that's par for the course for the most consistently excellent slugger of the overlapped steroids/post-steroids generation. It's .400 everyone wants to talk about, everyone except Konerko himself, who says if Ichiro couldn't do it, it's not going to be done. More self-effacement from the workmanlike Konerko, but in trying to be humble, he accidentally gives us another reason to be impressed. Perhaps the slowest athlete on earth even before he turned 36, Konerko acknowledges that he's not beating out any infield singles to up his average. Those 66 hits through two months of this season? Not a squeaker or a dribbler or Baltimore chop among them. Dude's laying legit lumber.
In a weekend sweep of first-place Cleveland, the White Sox scored 35 runs. After Sunday's game, a 12-6 laugher in which Konerko homered and drove in four men, the man-who-could-be-coach tried to temper his team's offensive expectations.
"It's going to end," he said. "I hate to break the news to everybody, but you just can't keep that up over a bunch of games. We just have to prepare that we show up tomorrow and it could be a 2-1 game, so be ready to play that kind of game."
On Monday, the White Sox didn't score a ton of runs but stil beat the first-place Rays with pitching and defense. The score was 2-1.
Maybe the player-manager thing wasn't meant to be this year. Konerko's the type of guy who'd balk at writing his own name in the cleanup spot every night. But perhaps there's some consolation for the nationally unsung local hero, in the forms of an unexpected playoff run, and a long-coming MVP campaign. Or, you know, just another .300-30-100 year at the office.