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By Brian Madsen (White Sox Correspondent): Follow @brianm731
The South Side of Chicago. U.S. Cellular Field. You’re likely to have heard chants of “Let’s go White Sox!!”, “Ozzie!! Ozzie!!, and maybe even “Oh-E-Oh, Magglio!!”, over the years at this beautiful, yet underrated ball park. But, for the last 14 seasons, you probably would have heard “Paulie!! Paulie!!”, more than any other. No, not Paulie from Rocky fame. Paul Konerko, the 6 time ALL-Star and 2005 World Series Champion First Baseman of the Chicago White Sox. Some would say he’s underrated, much like the stadium he’s called home since 1999. Acquired via trade from the Cincinnati Reds in late 1998 by the White Sox for Mike Cameron, Konerko has been a consistent producer for them for 14 seasons.
He’s averaged more than 32 HRs and 101 RBI in that time frame for the Sox – and has combined for a few quality 1-2 punches over the years with some big hitters. Frank Thomas, Carlos Lee, Magglio Ordonez, and now Adam Dunn, to name a few. He is said to be one of White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf’s favorite players of ALL-time. He should be, as he helped guide the White Sox to their first World Series Championship in 88 years back in 2005. Konerko even presented the “3rd and final out ball” to Reinsdorf at the victory parade, bringing the owner to tears in front of thousands of screaming Sox fans.
Paul Konerko 2012 Highlights: Mature Lyrics – Parental Guidance is Advised:
Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Writer and @chuckbooth3024 on twitter)- As the world of Twitter and Facebook has invaded the internet these days, I am brainstorming about all sorts of stats I have had in my head for years. This stat came to my head because of Gary Sheffield. A few years back, I watched a game on my birthday at Safeco Field. It was the New York Yankees and Sheffield visiting. There are players that you are sure to watch live in person. Gary Sheffield was one of these hitters. Not only is he one of 25 player in history to hit 500 HRs, but he had one of the fiercest swings ever. The man would wiggle that bat back and forth like a toothpick before striding and swinging with daunting ferocity. It was an unorthodox style that must have made Little League coaches cringe, yet it was effective. Sheffield was a bit of a hot head though, this may have led to him being traded or not re-signed by several teams. Hitting 40 HRs for 6 different teams is definitely impressive and may never be duplicated. I knew he had played on several teams already so the seed of today’s article was planted back in 2005.
Fred McGriff was the exact opposite of Gary Sheffield when it came to temperament. This man was traded several times in his career because he could flat-out hit. Jose Canseco is the only other player besides McGriff and Sheffield to hit 40 HRs with 5 different teams. The reason many older players are not on this list is because free agency never arrived in the MLB until the early 70′s when Curt Flood challenged a trade and the Players Union saw it through. Now player movement has enabled more players switching teams each season than ever before. Rusty Staub was the 1st to make this list and Alfonso Soriano is the last player to make this list and the only current player left. I have a feeling we will see more players arrive on this list in the next 25 years.
Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Writer and @chuckbooth3024 on twitter)- Paul Konerko is a professional hitter. One day he will have his number retired from the Chicago White Sox at US Cellular Field. Drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers 13th overall in the Amateur 1994 Draft, the 6 foot 2 slugger had lofty expectations by the time he made the Major Leagues. For the Albuquerque Isotopes in 1997, he hit .323 with 37 HRs and 127 RBI. The Dodgers ended up trading Konerko to Cincinnati for Jeff Shaw in 1998. The Reds then turned around and traded the man from Rhode Island to the Chicago White Sox for Mike Cameron.
There may be no more underrated player in the MLB over the last 14 years. All that Konerko has done is hit 402 HRs with the Chicago White Sox in that span and plated 1270 RBI. He currently sits 2nd all time in both categories on the club for the all time list, trailing only Frank Thomas . At age 36, Konerko seems to become better at the plate each year. He has hit .300 and clubbed 30 HRs and 100 RBI in both 2010 and 2011. If he keeps up this years pace, he will do it again, but this time he may challenge for an average title and possibly an AL MVP.
Paul Konerko enters today’s action with an AL Best .357 AVG and a .431 OBP-in leading the team to a 35-33 start, which trails the Cleveland Indians by just a half game. The team had started off slow before Konerko went absolutely beserk in May and had raised his average to .399 at one point during his torrid streak. To date this year, he has hit 13 HRs and added 38 RBI. In my opinion, he will be selected to his 6th all-time ALL-star game in Kansas City next month when they unveil the roster. Now Konerko still has a chance to catch Prince Fielder with the fan voting with only being a few hundred thousand votes behind the Tigers 1st baseman.