This much is certain about the 2014 White Sox: Robin Ventura will be the manager of a team that will look considerably different than the one that crumbled this season.
But whether it will include longtime team captain Paul Konerko and members of Ventura’s coaching staff at this point remains uncertain.
The decision on whether the 37-year-old Konerko returns for a 16th season with the Sox almost certainly lies with him and if he has the desire to play another year. Though he said he doesn’t know what `options’’ might be open to him with the Sox, general manger Rick Hahn all but said the team would never turn away the player he called “the face of the franchise for this era’’ if Konerko chooses to return.
But even a conflicted Konerko admitted Friday if he does return, 2014 will be his last season.
“Every season I’ve played before this, and when I say every season I mean since I was like 7, I knew I would play the next year,’’ he said. “I feel like if I do play, the one thing I can give you of any substance today probably would be that if I do play next year, that will probably be it. So that’s really what it boils down to. I know the answer to that.’’
Konerko intends to wait a month before meeting with Hahn, who will tell him he has a place on the team if he wants it.
“We’ll sit down with Paulie and have a direct conversation with him face-to-face about what he wants and how he’s feeling and what he hopes to accomplish next year, as well as what the team’s going to look like and how he could potentially fit and what the plan would be going forward,’’ Hahn said.
Would Konerko be comfortable coming back in a reserve role?
“The only thing I can say on that would be the only place I could do that would be here because my family likes it here, my kids love I there, it’s a great place to be in the summer,’’ he said.
He knows it would mean changing the production demands he puts on himself and becoming more of a mentor.
“ I’m always holding myself to the standard that I’ve set, as far as the production I’ve had and what I’ve done. Other people are going to hold me to that, and I get that, but it’s probably not fair to myself to do that as much. I’m going to have to come to grips that if I do play, I’ve got to kind of relax on that a little bit and know if I come back here, production can be done in a lot of different ways. It’s not always just driving in runs and hitting home runs. I’ve got to be better, if I’m going to come back, at working with the young guys and be better to them and be not so much consumed [with his approach] like I was 10 years ago.
“I think I could do it, but I would definitely have to change some of my ways.’’
The younger players say Konerko already has carved that niche.
“He has that captain label for a reason,’’ closer Addison Reed said. ““Just to have his presence in the locker room is awesome. Every team could learn from a guy like him and would benefit from having a guy like him in the clubhouse.’’