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updated: 3/12/2011 7:48 PM

Konerko's stats may rival Big Hurt's before he's done

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  • Paul Konerko is within striking distance of some of Frank Thomas' career numbers with the White Sox.

      Paul Konerko is within striking distance of some of Frank Thomas' career numbers with the White Sox.
    Associated Press

  • Former Chicago White Sox player Frank Thomas' face is unveiled on the outfield wall before a baseball game between the New York Yankees and the White Sox in Chicago, Sunday, Aug. 29, 2010. Thomas is the 10th White Sox player whose number has been retired and whose face appears on the outfield wall. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

      Former Chicago White Sox player Frank Thomas' face is unveiled on the outfield wall before a baseball game between the New York Yankees and the White Sox in Chicago, Sunday, Aug. 29, 2010. Thomas is the 10th White Sox player whose number has been retired and whose face appears on the outfield wall. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

  • soxroyals_16sp041304el photo0308737 lee dupage dupdit04 Paul Konerko is greet by Frank Thomas after his three run Homer > lee photo

      soxroyals_16sp041304el photo0308737 lee dupage dupdit04 Paul Konerko is greet by Frank Thomas after his three run Homer > lee photo

  • Could Paul Konerko one day eclipse Frank Thomas and be known as the best player in White Sox history? Heck, no, he says. And forget about the second-best player as well. "I don't care what I do," Konerko said, "I'm never going to be better than Harold (Baines)."

      Could Paul Konerko one day eclipse Frank Thomas and be known as the best player in White Sox history? Heck, no, he says. And forget about the second-best player as well. "I don't care what I do," Konerko said, "I'm never going to be better than Harold (Baines)."
    Associated Press

 
 

The way White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker sees it, Paul Konerko has a chance to become the greatest player in franchise history.

"Why not?" Walker said during the early days of spring training. "Don't get me wrong about Frank (Thomas), he's a Hall of Famer in my opinion, a first ballot Hall of Famer. But look at the numbers. We've got Paulie for three more years and maybe a little more after that.

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"Check out the numbers. The way he keeps himself in shape, works and approaches the game, he's got a shot."

The big numbers to check are power related, and Konerko is within striking distance of Thomas, who played for the Sox from 1990-2005 and had his uniform No. 35 retired at U.S. Cellular Field last summer.

Thomas is the Sox' all-time leader in home runs (448), RBI (1,465), doubles (447), slugging percentage (.568) and OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage (.995).

Heading into his 13th season with the White Sox, Konerko ranks second all-time in home runs (358) and RBI (1,127), third in doubles (335) and slugging (.505) and fourth in OPS (.863).

Last year, Konerko proved he's still an offensive force with a .312 bating average, 39 home runs and 111 RBI while establishing career highs in OPS (.977) and total bases (320).

The Sox' 35-year-old captain, who signed a three-year, $37.5 million contract during the off-season, also led the American League with 16 game-winning RBI last year and finished fifth in MVP voting.

Konerko has already put up an impressive body of work, and there is more to come.

But when asked about the possibility of overtaking Thomas as the greatest player to ever wear a White Sox uniform, Konerko quickly removed himself from consideration.

"I don't play the game for those kind of things," Konerko said. "But even so, even if everything went right I still think it would be Frank. There are more than just the (power) numbers.

"There are a lot of exterior numbers with Frank that are just off the charts, unbelievable, that no one's going to catch. There was a time period there with what (Thomas) did ... I don't remember anybody mentioning Ted Williams and my name together, let's put it that way. With Frank, that's happened."

Thomas, a two-time AL MVP and four-time Silver Slugger, is one of only four players in major-league history to bat at least .300 and have 500 home runs, 1,500 RBI, 1,000 walks and 1,500 runs scored.

The others? Williams, Babe Ruth and Mel Ott. Yeah, it's pretty safe to say the Big Hurt is off the charts.

Konerko's not too shabby himself with a .280 career average, 358 HRs, 1,127 RBI, 716 walks and 950 runs scored, at least good enough to be a lock for the second-best player in Sox history, right?

"In some of those categories of statistics, I'm ahead of Harold (Baines)," Konerko said. "Well I'm here to tell you, I don't care what I do, I'm never going to be better than Harold. That's the way I view it. I don't care if it says I have more home runs than Harold Baines. Whatever it might be, Harold Baines will always be a better hitter than me in my mind because he's Harold Baines."

Baines, the Sox' first-base coach, played 22 years in the major leagues (14 on the South Side). He finished with a .289 batting average, 384 home runs, 1,628 RBI and an .820 OPS.

Baines had his No. 3 retired by the White Sox in 1989, becoming the only active player in baseball history to receive such an honor. He was also immortalized with a statue at the Cell in 2008.

So Harold, who is the best Sox player of all-time?

"I think Frank is the best, to me," Baines said. "Who knows what Paulie's going to do in the next three years? But Frank has two MVPs, so that's a big part of that. And for 10 years there, he was the best in baseball.

"No knock on Paulie, but I think Frank will always be the best."

No matter what, Konerko is already worthy of having his uniform No. 14 emblazoned on the outfield fence, and don't forget about the statue when his playing days come to an end.

"Of course," Baines said. "I'm not the guy that signs the papers, but he definitely deserves to have his number retired and he deserves a statue. He's there every day and he produces when he's out there."

One day, without a doubt, Konerko is going to be honored for his standout career with the White Sox. Presently, he's got much more important things on his mind.

"I understand that you have to answer questions like this every now and then, but I hope people understand that's the furthest thing from my mind," Konerko said. "If the time ever came way down the road, and if and when something like that happened, yeah, it would be great and you'd enjoy it.

"But any moment I'd spend thinking about that kind of stuff, whether it be Frank's things or something, that to me is a directly being selfish to my teammates now because that would mean I'm not focusing on doing what I should be doing today and winning today's game.

"There will be a time and place when I'm done playing the game ... if some of those things come down the pike, fine. But I'm still active and I don't even want to think about those things."

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