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.
Bryce Harper, who said he was tired after taking his cuts in the first round, certainly appeared gassed in the final round. So, too, did his dad, who was throwing to him. But Harper caught fire, going on a tear and tying Kyle Schwarber with 18 home runs before time expired in the final round of the 2018 Home Run Derby. Harper unlocked 30 seconds of bonus time by hitting two home runs at least 440 feet. With his second swing in bonus time, Harper homered to straightaway center field for No. 19. He tossed his bat in celebration, grabbed his trophy, then gave it to his dad before he was mobbed on the field by his All-Star teammates.
Harper hit 13 home runs in the first round, eliminating Freddie Freeman and advancing to the semifinals. In the semis, Harper topped Max Muncy 13-12 to advance to the finals. On Schwarber’s side of the bracket, he bested Alex Bregman 16-15, then defeated Rhys Hoskins 21-20.
Harper is the first member of the Nationals (or Expos) to win the Home Run Derby. Harper participated in the 2013 Derby but finished in second place behind Yoenis Céspedes. Harper is also the first left-handed hitter to win the Derby since Prince Fielder in 2012. The only players to win the Derby in their home park are Todd Frazier in 2015 and Ryne Sandberg in 1990.
As a spectator, the 2018 Home Run Derby was tons of fun. The four-minute clock adds a lot of tension and intrigue even to the initial rounds. Seeing teammates cheer and get excited for their teammates in the Derby is really fun. Of course, watching dinger after dinger is cool, too. Can’t wait for next year.