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Konerko Knocks Their Sox Off

July 10, 2002|Ross Newhan

MILWAUKEE — It didn't happen in Los Angeles, but Paul Konerko has rebounded from the frustrations he experienced with the Dodgers to fulfill expectations with the Chicago White Sox. His All-Star selection in the midst of a monster season--.328 average, 20 homers, 71 RBIs--served as another measure of how far he has come since leaving the Dodgers in a 1998 trade for Jeff Shaw.

"I don't know if it validates my career," Konerko said of the All-Star selection. "A lot of guys have played their whole career and never made an All-Star game. Personally, winning the division and World Series, that's making it to me.

"I mean, going to the All-Star game is cool and definitely an honor, but I hope people look at what you do on the field and I hope they look at what you do as a teammate. That's what it's about, not winning awards and going to the All-Star game."

As a teammate and leader, Konerko has also stepped up in an All-Star manner. On Sunday, when a slumping Frank Thomas, pouting over a weekend of benchings, arrived late at Comiskey Park, Konerko laid a big hurt on the Big Hurt, branding him a failure as a teammate.

"It's not like Frank is a lost cause," Konerko said before Tuesday's game. "He's basically a good guy with a big heart, but it was an incident I felt strongly about. I would hope teammates would jump on me in the same way if there was a reason. It shows they care."

Konerko was the minor league player of the year at Albuquerque in 1997, hitting 37 homers and driving in 127 runs, but an inability to find a regular position in Los Angeles compounded the pressure of high expectations.

With a contending team, interim general manager Tom Lasorda dealt him to Cincinnati for the needed closer in Shaw, and it wasn't until the Reds traded him to Chicago (for Mike Cameron) at the end of that season that he found a home.

"I never doubted my ability to produce at this level," Konerko said of his time with the Dodgers. "I just wondered if I'd ever get the chance, the opportunity to settle into a regular situation. A lot of guys get caught up in a numbers game, but it's worked out great."

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