10/03/10 7:09 PM ET
Ozzie wins 600th as Sox wrap eventful season
Konerko, Pierzynski sent off with standing ovations, win over Tribe
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
Edwin Jackson, an important Trade Deadline acquisition for White Sox general manager Ken Williams, worked 5 2/3 innings to pick up his fourth win in six decisions since returning to the American League. Alexei Ramirez strengthened his case for both a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger honor by playing his usual strong defense at shortstop and launching his 18th home run to give the White Sox (88-74) a 2-0 first-inning lead.
And then there was the milestone victory for Ozzie Guillen. With nine wins in their last 11 games, the White Sox pushed their manager to 600 for his career.
None of these accomplishments seemed to matter much in comparison to what was being treated like the end of a White Sox era.
Free agents Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski made what some perceive as their last start in a White Sox uniform. Konerko was allowed to run out to his first base position by himself before the game started, taking in a standing ovation, followed to the field by Pierzynski, who received a similar ovation.
By the time the game came to a close, both players had been taken out by Guillen to the adoration of the 24,539 in attendance. Pierzynski was replaced by Tyler Flowers in the fourth, a scenario that could repeat itself for the 2011 campaign, and Konerko exited with one out in the seventh.
There was yet another standing ovation and even a curtain call, with chants of "Paulie, Paulie" bringing him out from the dugout. After knocking out two hits in this victory, Konerko seemed almost embarrassed by all the attention -- especially since the White Sox remain firmly on his radar for future employment.
"It's kind of one of those things where the door is not shut here by any means," said Konerko, speaking to the media in the U.S. Cellular Conference and Learning Center after taking the series from the Indians. "I just want to get that across.
"I feel almost guilty now. If I was to come back and this happened a couple of years from now, I feel like no man should get what I got today twice. I felt like, 'Should I buy into it all the way? It's possible, very possible, I could be back.' It's possible I go somewhere else, who knows? I don't walk out of here today going, 'God, I'm done with that city.'
"I'm totally open to anything, but it has to be right on all accounts. It felt kind of weird because I'm going, 'This is something a baseball player should only get once, and I could get it twice.' I felt a little guilty at times, especially with the way my teammates treated me all day and the last couple of weeks."
As for the game itself, the White Sox wasted little time getting to Cleveland spot-starter Justin Germano (0-3).
Juan Pierre, who was the top AL basestealer with 68, singled to left. He scored on the next pitch when Ramirez lined a homer off the left-field foul pole.
"In the last game of the year, those guys came out hacking," Germano said. "It was not a good day to be missing up in the zone. I tried to be just as aggressive as they were."
"To conclude the season with a win is always big," said Jackson, who fanned six and walked two. "It's good to end on a happy note and get ready to prepare for next year and take it much further."
Matt Thornton and Chris Sale provided Jackson valuable relief, with Sale picking up his fourth save despite giving up Drew Sutton's ninth-inning home run. Sale's 1.93 ERA stands as a sign of great things to come for the White Sox, who wound up six games behind the Twins in the AL Central.
Sunday was more about two players who have contributed so much to the White Sox in the past and the present. Their future remains unknown.
The plan for Konerko was to take one more at-bat in this closing affair, allowing the captain a final attempt at reaching 40 home runs. In true Konerko fashion, he deferred to teammate Mark Kotsay, who could have played his last game on Sunday.
"What PK did today, it shows what kind of human being he is," Guillen said. "I liked to give him another shot, hopefully hit his 40th home run.
"He said, 'No, give it to Kotsay, because I don't know what Kotsay is going to do next year.' That's not a selfish person. That's a guy who worries about his teammates, cares about the people, a very high-class way to still show people what kind of player and teammate he is."
Konerko joked after the game how he's hit 40 in two previous seasons, and the "world didn't change."
"So I just felt like at that moment, I could tell he wanted to get an at-bat, and I just wanted to give it to him," Konerko said. "But he didn't want to let me give it to him. That's him."
Before the day concluded, Pierzynski and Konerko addressed the crowd over an on-field microphone, as prompted by Mark Buehrle. Konerko thanked the fans for letting him hang out in the city for a few years, while Pierzynski expressed what everyone was thinking about Konerko.
"He's the best teammate I've ever played with," Pierzynski said.
Whether they remain teammates will be decided over the upcoming few months.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.