MLB Trade Deadline: Questions Surrounding the White Sox Players and the Manager

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Looking at the White Sox, the main thing preventing them from making huge changes at the trading deadline is that, objectively, they don’t have many things that other teams would want. Or at least they don’t have many players that teams are going to give anything worthwhile to get.

Jake Peavy, if he was healthy, would attract interest. He’s not. If Peavy returns from his fractured rib and pitches well, he’ll get through waivers in August due to his $14.5 million contract for 2014, so someone would take him if the White Sox pick up a portion of his contract. It’s unlikely but possible. John Danks is still recovering and finding his groove after shoulder surgery. A potential trade chip, Gavin Floyd, is out for the year with Tommy John surgery. No one’s taking Adam Dunn. Someone would take Alex Rios and they’re going to get an overpay for Jesse Crain. Nothing earth-shattering is coming back for any of these players.

The big question is whether they’ll trade Paul Konerko. They could get something for Konerko, but that opens up another issue: how could they make Konerko the player-manager if they trade him?

No. I’m not kidding.

Ken Williams was willing to do anything when he was the everyday GM and now that he’s been moved up to executive VP of baseball and Rick Hahn has taken over as GM, Hahn will take his cue from Williams and listen to whatever is floated. The problem they have now is that there’s really not much of anything to do to improve their fortunes in the near future. Williams was serious when he said he considered Konerko as player-manager prior to hiring Robin Ventura and Ventura is not going to be the White Sox manager for much longer. It’s not because they’re going to fire him, but because he took the job as a “let’s see if I enjoy this” test endeavor and he certainly didn’t sign up for a team that’s going to lose 95 games in 2013 and has a few years of retooling ahead of them. There was talk earlier this year that Ventura wasn’t planning on managing for very long and he sort of “aw shucksed” it as a brush off without a fervent denial when he turned down the club’s offer of a contract extension. He might enjoy managing, being around the players and the competition, but he doesn’t need it and that attitude can tend to get on the players’ nerves. He’s signed through next year, but I think it’s iffy that he manages in 2014.

If Ventura leaves and with Konerko a free agent at the end of the year, I could easily see them pulling the trigger and making Konerko the manager if he retires or player-manager if he wants to do it. It would distract from the retool/rebuild, give Konerko experience in handling a media circus and managing for when the White Sox are ready to contend again because, by then, he’ll almost definitely be retired. There hasn’t been a player-manager since Pete Rose and it would be a juicy story to watch and distract the masses as to how bad the White Sox promise to be for the next several years as they move on from this group and reload.


Paul Konerko As Player-Manager Could Not Have Worked

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Before hiring Robin Ventura, White Sox GM Kenny Williams said he considered Paul Konerko as player-manager—Chicago Tribune Story.

It would’ve been great theatre for the White Sox and baseball in general, but the chances of it working out well were nearly non-existent.

The last player-manager was Pete Rose and he actually handled it effectively in 1984-1985; but by 1986, he was still writing his own name in the lineup semi-regularly when he shouldn’t have been.

Prior to that, Don Kessinger managed the White Sox in 1979 as an active player, resigned as manager and was replaced by Tony LaRussa in early August and retired as a player the same day. I doubt these were his decisions.

Joe Torre stepped right off the field and into the manager’s seat for the Mets in 1977 while he was still on the roster, but he didn’t play very much after that.

Rose, Kessinger and Torre were at the end of the line in their careers; Konerko is still an MVP-caliber player who’s got $25.5 million remaining on his contract through 2013.

If you combine the pressure Konerko would be under as the star player on a team with onerous contracts and expectations to win, along with the relentless attention from the media and fans and the news cycle being so explosive in today’s atmosphere, there’s no way it would succeed.

If he was slumping, what would he do? Bench himself? Is he supposed to say, “I can’t bench me because I’m one of the highest paid players on the team with a history of massive production”?

Athletes have a very high opinion of themselves. Even the most thoughtful and reasonable have to be told that they’re done before realizing it; this is independent of how respected and mature they are. For Konerko to do both jobs and do them correctly would take a level of objectivity and rationality that no human being could achieve.

Ozzie Guillen was a pal to many of the players, playing cards and socializing with them and it worked for the most part; but for an active player to be an important participant in the group dynamic and their boss? Impossible.

A player-manager can only work if the player is closing in on his final days, and Konerko is still a top-tier player.

It would’ve been entertaining and typical of Williams to do something so far outside the box that it belonged in Doc Brown’s DeLorean and ended up in 1937, but it was a fleeting idea that they—the White Sox, Williams and Konerko—are lucky was only that, an idea.

They may not do much better with Robin Ventura as manager than they would’ve with Konerko, but it’s better this way for Konerko’s sanity as much as anything else.