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.
On Sunday, we learned that while the Nationals would continue to pay their minor leaguers throughout the month of June, their weekly stipend would be lowered by 25 percent, from $400 to $300. In an incredible act of solidarity, Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle and his teammates put out a statement, saying they would be covering the missing $100 from the stipends.
After receiving some criticism, the Nationals reversed course, agreeing to pay their minor leaguers their full $400 weekly stipend.
Doolittle and co. have not withdrawn their generosity. On Wednesday, Doolittle released another statement, saying that he and his major league teammates would continue to offer financial assistance to Nationals minor leaguers through the non-profit organization More Than Baseball.
The full statement:
Washington Nationals players were excited to learn that our minor leaguers will continue receiving their full stipends. We are grateful that efforts have been made to restore their pay during these challenging times.
We remain committed to supporting them. Nationals players are partnering with More Than Baseball to contribute funds that will offer further assistance and financial support to any minor leaguers who were in the Nationals organization as of March 1.
We’ll continue to stand with them as we look forward to resuming our 2020 MLB season.
Kudos to Doolittle and the other Nationals continuing to offer a helping hand in a trying time. The players shouldn’t have to subsidize their employers’ labor expenses, but that is the world we live in today.