White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko isn’t getting a city-by-city farewell tour like Derek Jeter, but the 38-year-old six-time All-Star is retiring after 18 seasons in the majors.
Konerko has struggled in his final season, hitting .236 with five homers and a .650 OPS in 64 games as a part-timer after 15 years as an everyday player, so he’ll finish just short of reaching 450 homers and 2,500 hits for his career.
Konerko spoke to Scott Merkin of MLB.com about how he feels with things winding down:
I can say this statement: I will be an ex-baseball player next month. It’s the truth. Since the All-Star break, it’s becoming more real. It’s there, you know. You can feel it coming. But like everything, I’m trying to spin it to where it’s not a bad thing.
It’s just part of the life cycle of the player. I’ve been lucky to play for a long time. I’m trying not to look at it as a sad occasion. I hope nobody else is. I’m graduating on to other things and there’s a time for this. Every player has to go through this stuff. I’m lucky because mine came a lot later than most. I feel lucky for that.
Konerko had a helluva career, especially considering he was once written off as a prospect bust after struggling in his first few cracks at the big leagues with the Dodgers. He’s played more games in a White Sox uniform than everyone except Hall of Famer Luke Appling, hit more home runs in a White Sox uniform than everyone except Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, and ranks 10th in franchise history in Wins Above Replacement.
The Dodgers are NL West champions for the fifth time in a row. They clinched with a 4-2 win over the Giants on Friday night, taking their first and only lead on a mammoth record-breaking home run from Cody Bellinger in the third inning.
Rich Hill turned in another quality start, going six innings with five hits, a run and nine strikeouts to keep the Giants at bay. He tacked on an RBI hit of his own, too, lashing a double to left field for his first extra-base hit since 2007.
The Giants, meanwhile, deployed Jeff Samardzija and his 4.42 ERA for 4 1/3 innings. Samardzija was on the hook for the Dodgers’ four-run spread in the third and took his 15th loss of the season. Pablo Sandoval came through with a solo home run in the ninth, but the rest of San Francisco’s offense wasn’t so lucky against Kenley Jansen, who struck out the side to clinch the game — and the division.
After Friday’s showstopper, the Dodgers are just two wins away from their first 100-win season since 1974. If they win the remaining eight games of the season, they’ll beat out the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers for the most wins in franchise history.
Cody Bellinger helped the Dodgers to their first lead on Friday night, going deep for his 39th home run of the season and setting a new National League rookie home run record in the process. With two on and two out in the third inning, the Dodgers’ slugger launched a 2-1 pitch from the Giants’ Jeff Samardzija, skimming the right field fence to give the team a three-run cushion:
The three-run bomb was Bellinger’s sixth of the season. In what is undoubtedly a Rookie of the Year award-worthy campaign, he’s logged 21 solo shots, 11 two-run blasts and a single grand slam. His historic home run topped former NL rookie leaders Frank Robinson and Wally Berger, at 38 homers apiece.
The Dodgers need to stay on top of the Giants to clinch the NL West or, barring that, have the Marlins pull off a win over the Diamondbacks. They currently lead the Giants 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Marlins, meanwhile, are staying just ahead of the D-backs with a 9-7 lead in the top of the sixth.