It was a bittersweet SoxFest for team captain Paul Konerko the last weekend of January. He was proud of the fact that he was the last holdover from the 2005 World Series team, but he knew his time with the Chicago White Sox could be ending as he enters free agency after this season.
"I'm not naive," Konerko said. "Here's what I know. Mark (Buehrle) and A.J. (Pierzynski) had good years and were front-line guys at what they do, and both had a great desire to come back here. They didn't come back. So there are things that obviously are not in your control. I'm not naive to know that teams have agendas and plans, and I understand that part of the game. I say that with no edge."
Konerko, who turns 37 in March, saw his production decline in the second half after a torrid first half and finished with 26 homers and 75 RBI. That's a big reason manager Robin Ventura will give Adam Dunn more playing time at first base this season, with Konerko seeing DH time, possibly a couple times a week.
The veteran is also coming back from offseason left wrist surgery, but he said he was 100 percent for spring training.
Entering the final year of a deal is nothing new for Konerko, who has gone through it two previous times. He almost didn't come back the last time his deal was up, but chairman Jerry Reinsdorf stepped up and re-signed Konerko and Pierzynski as part of the "All-in" campaign that fizzled out in 2011.
"I've been through this three times," Konerko said. "This time and the last time are a little similar. I was prepared two years ago that this could be the last time I play. I've kind of gone through the whole exercise of the preparation for that, so it's just a matter of kind of rekindling that.
"You know at some point your career is going to end. I don't know right now. My thing is just have a solid season and do my job. That's all it boils down to. I signed a contract to do a job, and I want to make sure I do what I signed up for. That has nothing to do with the other distractions of, 'What are you going to do?' If I spend time thinking and talking about that stuff, I'm not doing what I'm supposed to be doing for this team."
And as strange as it sounded, Pierzynski was the player Konerko might miss the most.
"It already is weird being here without A.J.," Konerko said. "Usually by now, he's wearing you out about something. I talked to him (recently), and he was at Rangers Fan Fest. It doesn't have the same ring. It will be odd not having him. But you kind of get used to (it). It's how the game is."