OK Sox fans, you can let out that deep breath you?ve been holding for the past month: Paul Konerko is coming back to the White Sox. Declining lucrative offers from the Angels and Orioles, the All Star first baseman agreed to a 5-year, $60 million contract today to lead the Sox in their world championship defense.
Konerko is coming off a very productive 2005 season in which he hit .283 with 40 HRs and 100 RBIs during the regular season, then had a Carlos Beltran-like postseason, escalating his value just in time for free agency. (What a coincidence.) Resigning Konerko was always priority number one for Ken Williams, even as he pursued and eventually acquired slugger Jim Thome as a hedge. Now the Sox will have both Thome and Konerko mashing in the middle of their line up, which is all but finalized for 2006. If both players stay healthy, (which is now more likely with Thome playing the less physically-demanding DH) they could combine for 80 HRs and give the Sox an intimidating middle of the order presence that rivals Big Papi and Manny Ramirez in Boston (minus the dreadlocks and daily soap opera drama).
Though the Angels and Orioles promised him more moola, Konerko decided to return to Chicago, where he is comfortable and revered as World Series hero. His loyalty, integrity and class will not be lost on Sox fans, who only last year watched hero Magglio Ordonez turn into a greedy super villain right before their eyes. This is huge for this city. And it?s not like Paulie will be making chump change either- $12 million a year is not too shabby. Whether Konerko?s performance on the field will live up to that salary for the next five years, considering his slump-prone history and mysterious hip condition, remains to be seen. But what is known is that, for now, Chicago is overjoyed to have him back.