Paul Konerko is going to be back at U.S. Cellular Field after the White Sox wrap up the 2013 season with a four-game series against the Kansas City Royals that opens Thursday night.
Konerko is going to come back when his uniform No. 14 is retired. He's going to come back when his statue is unveiled on the outfield concourse. He's going to come back every time the Sox' 2005 World Series championship team is feted.
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End of an era?The White Sox close out the regular season with a four-game homestand against the Kansas City Royals starting Thursday night. Paul Konerko is a free agent at the end of the season, so this might be the end of his 15-year run with the Sox. A look at some highlights:
•Tied for 44th place all time (with Juan Gonzalez and Andruw Jones) with 433 career home runs.
•Is White Sox' all-time leader with 12 seasons hitting 20 or more homers.
•Ranks second in White Sox history in home runs, RBI (1,360), total bases (3,940) and games played (2,183).
•Ranks third in Sox history in hits (2,248) and doubles (398).
•In 19 postseason games, batting .243 with 7 home runs and 17 RBI, the latter two franchise records.
•Presented chairman Jerry Reinsdorf with the baseball from the final out of the 2005 World Series sweep of Houston at the downtown victory parade.
•Batting .500 (4-for-8) with 2 doubles and 2 RBI in six All-Star Game appearances.
•Consistently delivered Hall of Fame quotes like this one from July 13, when he was asked if all the trade rumors were to blame for the White Sox' poor play.
"Not really. We were (bleep) before the rumors."
-- Scot Gregor
At some point Konerko might even come back as White Sox manager, hitting coach, general manager or broadcaster.
As far as taking the field as a player, the four games against the Royals look to be it for Konerko. His contract is up at the end of the season and, at 37, his game is in predictable decline.
In his first 14 years in a Sox uniform, Konerko batted .285 and averaged 30 home runs and 93 RBI a season. This year he's batting .253, and the 11 homers and 53 RBI are career lows.
Of course, Konerko has only played 122 games, which matches his career low from 2008. He sat out Wednesday's game at Cleveland after fouling a pitch off his right kneecap the night before and was shelved for a month with a sore back earlier in the season.
Konerko told reporters the knee injury is nothing serious.
"We only have a few games left anyways," he said. "It will be fine. I'll get back out there I'm sure. It's not something I'm going to have to attend to or anything after we are done."
The big question is still in play: Is Konerko done with the White Sox after Sunday, even if he decides not to retire?
Maybe the longtime captain will address his future over the weekend, but if he does talk in a formal setting, Konerko is more likely to reflect on his fabulous run with the Sox.
I've known Konerko since the day he reported to the White Sox' spring-training camp in Tucson, Ariz., in 1999 after coming over in a trade from the Cincinnati Reds for outfielder Mike Cameron.
He has been a great player, leader and the best quote in the clubhouse for 15 years, but Konerko does not like talking about himself.
I gave it a shot anyway on the Sox' last homestand, asking Konerko if the miserable season would, A. Motivate him to come back for at least another year so he could go out with a better feel, or, B. Drive him straight to the golf course.
"When the time comes to go over it all, everything's in play," he said.
That was the expected answer, but Konerko proceeded to say he has talked to former major-league players and other retired pro athletes. They all advised him to take plenty of time before making a decision, so don't expect any news on Konerko's future until after the World Series.
Instead, enjoy the White Sox' final four games of the season, if that's possible. More specifically, enjoy Konerko.
We'll leave you with two Konerko quotes that -- I believe -- indicate retirement is a very real possibility.
The day after hitting his 400th career home run on April 25 of last season, Konerko was asked if he'd like to reach the 500 milestone.
"I certainly would not play a season, or agree to play a season if I didn't want to do everything else I always wanted to do," Konerko said. "I always wanted to come out and play and do it right from the beginning of spring training.
"I would never come back just to chase a number. That's something I can definitely say. Chasing a number, it's not fair to your teammates and it's not fair to the game."
After a game Aug. 24 of this season, I walked past Konerko in the postgame clubhouse and noticed he was packed in ice.
"You OK?" I asked.
"To what degree?" Konerko said.