By Scot Gregor
Paul Konerko could have left the White Sox as a free agent after helping them win the 2005 World Series. He came back with a five-year contract.
A free agent again after the '10 season, Konerko could have pursued other opportunities, but he returned to the Sox with a three-year deal.
That brings us to the present.
After the White Sox wrap up the season Sunday afternoon against the Royals at U.S. Cellular Field, Konerko is a free agent once more.
I've been speculating the 37-year-old captain is going to retire, but Konerko changed my mind while addressing the media Friday afternoon.
He still has a lot to think about, and Konerko reiterated he's going to spend the month of October weighing future options.
But for the first time, he opened the door for a 2014 return.
"I feel like if I do play, the one thing I can give you of any substance today probably would be that if I do play next year, that will probably be it," Konerko said.
So ... Konerko playing again is definitely in play.
As we first reported last week, Konerko has been getting plenty of advice from former major-league players and other retired pro athletes. He's been listening closely.
"You only get to go through these kinds of things once, a career once, so you try to rely on advice from other people," said Konerko, who has played for the White Sox since 1999. "You try to talk to the people who have been through it. The majority of them are always, 'If you can play, play. Do it the way you want to do it. Go back to the drawing board. Go get 'em.' And I get all of that.
"The other side of it is, this is how careers are supposed to end. Not everybody gets to do it exactly how they want to do it. It (final season) is supposed to kind of be not the best because that's what closes you out. When you say, 'OK, I've had enough of that, and they've had enough of me.' So I can see it in both directions.
"I can tell you more of me is the first one. But that doesn't mean it's right either. Going back to what I said, when that choice is put in front of me, if it is, that's probably when I'll have to think harder about it. We're kind of talking now like it is."
Confused? So is Konerko.
"You give me a minute and I could give 20 reasons why I should play and 20 reasons why I shouldn't," said Konerko, who ranks second in Sox history in home runs (434), RBI (1,361), total bases (3,949) and games played (2,185). "I don't really have answers, I just know what's happening. I think taking a month off, a month away from this, which I know if I do that, the more you don't play the needle will always move toward wanting to play. That's what I feel would happen, that's what people tell me. I just have to make sure I know what's real and what isn't.
"I could go fish out 20 guys in that clubhouse that don't feel like playing a baseball game right now, and I'm probably right there with them. But how much of that is real, because I guarantee you as November clicks in, December, they're going to want to play again and so will I. But I'm in a different situation. I have to figure out of it's really real, if that's something I want to do. I don't know that answer right now."
At some point in the earlier stages of the off-season, Konerko will sit down with general manager Rick Hahn, and likely chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.
"We're going to let everyone get away for a few weeks and exhale, and we'll sit down with Paulie and have a direct conversation with him face-to-face about what he wants and how he's feeling and what he hopes to accomplish next year, as well as what the team's going to look like and how he could potentially fit and what the plan would be going forward," Hahn said.
Konerko is apparently open to coming back on a one-year deal and playing a more limited role.
"It's not always just driving in runs and hitting home runs," Konerko said. "I've got to be better, if I'm going to come back, at working with the young guys and be better to them and be not so much consumed like I was 10 years ago."