Konerko taking no time to reflect on stats
Slugger the epitome of a consistent approach, demeanor
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- With exactly 60 home runs, Paul Konerko will surpass future Hall of Famer Frank Thomas' White Sox franchise mark of 448.
Konerko needs 234 RBIs to top Thomas in that particular category and already holds the team record for most 20-homer seasons at 12.
None of those statistics really mean anything to the White Sox first baseman and captain, at least not while he's preparing to play his 14th season in Chicago.
"Like I've said many times, a lot of stuff when it comes to the statistics side of it, you'll enjoy it more and be more proud of it when you are done playing," Konerko told MLB.com on Wednesday morning at the Camelback Ranch clubhouse, prior to Cactus League action with the Mariners in Peoria.
Going by Konerko's White Sox average of a shade under 30 homers per season, he will need the two years remaining on his three-year, $37.5-million extension to surpass Thomas. In terms of more immediate milestones, Konerko needs just four homers to reach 400 for his career and two games played to reach 2,000.
They are two of the many eye-catching numbers Konerko has put together over the course of an All-Star career, bordering on Hall of Fame, depending on where some of these statistics eventually plateau. Three more solid seasons could put Konerko near 500 homers, supplemented by his .282 career average, more than 2,000 hits and a 2005 American League Championship Series Most Valuable Player honor during the club's World Series championship run.
Yet, this is not a man who touts his accomplishments. In fact, Konerko rarely, if ever, talks about personal statistics once the regular season begins. So, that praise is left to deliver for those around him.
"Iconic, right? That would be appropriate," said White Sox general manager Ken Williams of Konerko. "I envision his picture out there on that [U.S. Cellular Field outfield] wall one day [as a retired number]. He has represented the organization with class, and that's something I appreciate."
"I'm excited to learn from him," said White Sox hitting coach Jeff Manto of working alongside Konerko.
The approach and the work for Konerko is what take precedence over the raw output. It's a plan Konerko sets out at the start of Spring Training, and the only thing he checks on when the season is complete is whether he executed and accomplished how he wanted to go about it.
There was no time in early October to look back at his second straight season of at least hitting .300 with 30 homers and 100 RBIs and revel for a brief moment in the accomplishment. Konerko believes if the approach and execution are there, then the numbers are there with it.
"You gain perspective that you can't chase results. You just can't," Konerko said. "Sometimes as a younger player, you can get away with it a little bit more because when you chase a result, it's mentally an up-and-down type of thing. It's a roller-coaster ride. As a younger player, you can deal with that more. As you get older, you just get tired of it. So you have to be really approach driven.
"Have a way you want to do things and not be so focused in on your game. You can't judge good games and bad games by 3-for-4 and 0-for-4, Sometimes it's the exact same approach. We've all been guilty as a young player of solely judging how you are doing on the result. That can work at times but for the long run, I think it's tough to keep that up."
Perspective offered up by Konerko would fit well into a hitting coach or broadcasting position after the 36-year-old hangs up his spikes. Konerko doesn't foresee either of those positions on his post-playing days resume.
In regard to being mentioned in the same sentence as Thomas' 10 franchise records, Konerko points to playing more years with the White Sox than the Big Hurt as evening out those numbers. In reality, Konerko will have played 15 years with the White Sox after 2013 and Thomas played 16, although Thomas took part in just 11 full seasons.
"I don't think there's any dispute that he was not only the best hitter this organization has ever seen," said Konerko of Thomas. "But for about a 10-year period, he was probably the best in the game or right around there."
These milestones are not what Konerko's "sun is rising and setting with" presently, saving those moments of appreciation for when he's sitting around with family or friends 10 years from now. Right now, Konerko is all about getting ready for another successful season.
"I've gotten better in coming up with some rational solutions to, you know, when you are not feeling good," said Konerko of his plate approach. "Instead of just making a bunch of decisions emotionally about how I want to go about it that day because of what happened the game before. ... You just kind of fly off the handle, but I've had good people around me and learned how they've talked and wanted to attack problems.
"So, I've gotten better at kind of identifying what's wrong and going about the way to fix it. But you are always learning. You'll never have it down. Even when you do have it down for maybe those couple of weeks a year combined where you really feel like you have everything clicking, you are working [hard] to keep it. You are always working hard to get something or keep something."