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Insufferable White Sox plight could push Paul Konerko to retire

David Brown
Big League Stew

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White Sox slugger Paul Konerko might wave good-bye to baseball after 2013. (AP)

The end is near, as far as a playing career goes, for Chicago White Sox slugger Paul Konerko. He said as much over the weekend at his team's fan fest.

Konerko, who turns 36 in March, has amassed 396 career home runs, an .858 OPS, five All-Star appearances and one World Series ring in parts of 15 seasons. He is signed through 2013 and told reporter Chuck Garfien of CSN Chicago that two more seasons might be enough:

"No doubt it could be," Konerko said in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. "Yeah, in all reality I would see it ending after next year or maybe another year. I mean, at some point you got to go home and be around your kids and have other things to do."

Unless you know Konerko a little, it's a strange thing to hear from a guy coming off the best two individual seasons of his career. But there are only so many home runs you can hit, and only so much money you can make, before enough becomes enough. Of course, some play baseball for additional reasons. Guys like Konerko, who derive something from playing for championship contenders.

Ever since the White Sox won the Series in 2005 with Konerko's help, they've been drifting away from winning it again. The 2011 season — from the awful play in the field to the destructive relationship between ex-manager Ozzie Guillen and GM Ken Williams — was particularly brutal.

"I don't think there was a moment last year from the word go where at anytime did we feel like, 'This is kind of special' or 'This is inspiring baseball.' "

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Paul Konerko needs four home runs to reach 400 for his career, but has team goals on his mind. (AP)

The franchise's lack of progress is noticeable in the stands at U.S. Cellular Field. Konerko knows the fans are frustrated. Via a Joe Cowley column in the Chicago Sun-Times, it's easy to tell that Konerko feels worse:

''Truth be told, there was that little glimmer at the end of '08 where we got hot, the Twins got kind of cold and .  .  . we found ourselves in the playoffs. But the honest truth is since '05, we've kind of slowly but surely just kind of given back everything we earned steadily. We're kind of at this spot now where it's like, 'Here we are, back at square one again.'  ''

That goes for fan interest in watching the Sox, and it goes for Konerko's interest in playing for them. Couple the franchise's slide with Konerko's advancing age and a hesitancy to start fresh with a new team and it might mean no more Paulie, and soon.

That would be a shame, considering he still has more to give.

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