Paul Konerko. Paulie. The Captain. No player better represents the White Sox of the 2000s. He probably wasn’t the best player, but he was very good most of the time, and he maintained a workmanlike persona that well represents the South Side of Chicago.
Paulie had a bit of a rollercoaster of a career. His first couple of seasons with the Dodgers and Reds were pretty terrible. Then we traded Mike Cameron to get him. Advanced statistics say that Cameron had the much better career. According to BR, Cameron had 46.7 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) and 21.0 WAA (Wins Above Average) for his career, while Paulie only had 28.1 WAR and actually had negative WAA at -5.6. Most of that comes from the fact that Cameron was a center fielder, and a very good one, while Konerko was considered a below average first baseman.
I don’t think Konerko was a liability at first. He was very sure-handed, and had one of the best first baseman arms I’ve ever seen. He seemed to be pretty average over there to me.
Cameron also had a pretty big advantage in baserunning and double play avoidance. Cameron added nearly 5 wins of value from those categories, while Paulie lost about more than 7 wins. I can’t really dispute either of those numbers.
With all that said, while I am a big believer in advanced statistics, I don’t think I would trade Konerko’s career for Cameron’s. I’d say that this was the rare trade that worked out well for both teams. Except the Reds didn’t keep Cameron either. They traded him for some guy named Ken Griffey Jr.
Once Konerko got to the Sox, he settled in for a few years of solid but unspectacular performance. He did have one dreadful year in there. 2003 was pretty rough. But other than that, from 1999-2004 he was a useful player.
Then in 2005 he took it took another level. We don’t win the World Series without Paulie’s contributions at the plate. He kept it up in 2006, but then seemed to be on the downslope of his career from 2007-2009.
And then in 2010, at the age of 34, he had the best season of his career. And he was really good in 2011 and 2012 as well. That was almost certainly the best 3 year stretch of his career offensively.
Then the real downslope came, and it came pretty quickly. He was bad in 2013, and very bad in 2014. Then he hung up the cleats. I’m so happy he finished his career with the Sox. After we almost lost him to the Angels after 2005, I didn’t expect him to spend so many more years in Chicago. But I’m glad he did!
Paulie was somewhere in the middle on the fan-friendliness spectrum. He was never a particularly hard autograph, but he wasn’t an easy one either. He never seemed to be rude to fans and autograph collectors, but he didn’t get overly personable with them either. I met him several times, and he was always polite and somewhat friendly, but I could never get him to engage in any meaningful way.
Still, Paulie is Paulie, and I’ve collected quite a bit of his stuff over the years. My totals are below. I’ve included one item that isn’t autographed… yet. It’s a game used bat that I intend to get signed soon.
Mini Helmets: 1