Sox Swan Songs for Paulie, A.J. and Bobby?
The White Sox closed the book on a 2010 season that essentially ended many weeks ago. Next comes an offseason that's rife with crucial questions.
In saying goodbye to the 2010 White Sox on Sunday, did Sox fans say goodbye for good to Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski and Bobby Jenks?
My guess — and my hope — is no, no and yes, respectively.
Before the Sox beat Cleveland 6-5 to finish the season 88-74 and give Ozzie Guillen his 600th victory as manager, Kenny Williams praised Konerko for being "the classiest player that has put on a uniform."
The Sox made a classy move of their own by sending Konerko out to the field alone before the first pitch, allowing the crowd to give him one of several ovations he would receive on this melancholy day.
There will, of course, be eager bidders for the services of Konerko, who hit .319 with 39 home runs and 111 RBI this season. And there's no doubt the Sox want to bring him back — both as the face of the franchise and as the most productive hitter in a lineup that was so desperate for production that Williams rolled the dice on Manny Ramirez.
So the question becomes: Can the Sox, considering their budgetary restraints, meet the salary demands Konerko will bring to the open market?
I believe they'll make a tremendous effort to satisfy Konerko's needs. The guy is just too valuable to the team, and there's no one ready to take his place. Dayan Viciedo shows promise as a power hitter, but he's still too raw at the plate and at first base to get the everyday job.
The Sox are in a similar position with A.J. — he's a fan favorite and not easily replaced. His power numbers (9 homers, 56 RBI) were disappointing this season, but he remains a valuable asset behind the plate. Tyler Flowers, your table is not ready.
Kenny Williams hinted Sunday that Bobby Jenks has thrown his last pitch in a Sox uniform, and I'm among the Sox fans who won't lose any sleep over that.
Jenks deserves a lot of credit for what he did here — 173 saves in six seasons; a huge role in the World Series season; serving as the poster boy for just how wrong facial hair can go. But his history of injuries and his diminishing reliability are enough to make the Sox want to move on. And to read between Kenny's lines, there may be some behind-the-scenes reasons as well. And, yes, there are options for the closer role … so bye-bye, Bad Bobby.
This is all to say that Sox fans can expect one of the more interesting, more nerve-wracking offseasons in recent memory.
Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself with the 2010 season so recently put in the books, but come on — the season's been over since mid-September. Maybe some fans would have been happy, heading into this season, knowing the Sox would win 88 games. But finishing second to a Twins team that had to win without former MVP Justin Morneau and star closer Joe Nathan is a failure.
Yeah, I'm glad the Sox gave us two-and-a-half months of good fun after appearing buried in early June. Sure, there were encouraging signs for the future: the growth of Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham as defensive partners; the lightning-quick emergence of Chris Sale and Sergio Santos; the performance of Edwin Jackson after he was acquired to step in for Jake Peavy; Juan Pierre's grittiness as a leadoff hitter, base-stealing king and solid left fielder.
But the disappointments were just too great to overcome: The wildly inconsistent starting rotation; Beckham's jaw-dropping struggles with the bat for almost half the season; Carlos Quentin's hot-and-cold hitting; Mark Teahen's disasters at third base; and, not least of all, the failure of the DH-by-committee (we're looking at you, Andruw Jones and Mark Kotsay). Let's not even rehash the whole Manny thing.
So, let's ask Nancy Faust to play us out with some music that's mournful but not without hope for what's to come next.
Looks like she's already left the building.