W Sox try to measure success in Ventura’s 1st year

Paul Konerko figures the Chicago White Sox can be successful
this season, even if they fall short of the playoffs.

Before the White Sox’s first full-squad workout of spring
training Tuesday, Konerko said he wasn’t conceding the season. But
he noted that the White Sox have several young players and a new
staff led by first-time manager Robin Ventura.

”Cleveland last year, not that they won the division, but all
in all I think it was a very successful season.” said Konerko, who
is entering his 16th major league season and will turn 36 next
Monday. ”But this year this (White Sox) team is different from a
lot of teams we had recently. I hope I don’t throw anybody off with
this — this can be a very successful year without making the
playoffs.”

Konerko tempered his comments by saying the Sox could compete,
and there’s ”a fine line” between first-place division teams and
those that finish second and third. If young players such as third
baseman Brent Morel, second baseman Gordon Beckham and reliever
Addison Reed produce good seasons, that can be a success, Konerko
said.

”Those are all good signs it’s moving in the right direction,”
said Konerko, who was a candidate for player-manager before the
White Sox hired Ventura last October.

The White Sox finished 79-83 and third in the AL Central last
season, missing the playoffs for the third consecutive season.
Manager Ozzie Guillen and ace Mark Buehrle headed to the Miami
Marlins, and the White Sox were left to rebuild.

Ventura said he understood Konerko’s perspective.

”If we play well and play good team baseball, it can be (a
success), but we’re obviously looking for more than just that,”
Ventura said.

Off-the-field issues distracted the team last season, Konerko
said. After managing the team for eight seasons, a stint that
included a World Series championship, Guillen was let go in
September before the end of the season.

”There were definitely some times late in the year last year
there were probably games and days given away because of people
worrying about things that were not related to the game of
baseball,” Konerko said. ”(This year) I don’t see that being an
issue. I have a good feeling no matter what happens, whatever our
record winds up being, you can look at that record and say, `That’s
what this team did.”’

Konerko is one of the team’s few remaining veterans. He
acknowledged the absence of Buehrle, who spent all 12 of his
major-league seasons with the Sox.

”Not seeing Mark’s locker, I don’t know what to say other than
it’s not right,” Konerko said.

Konerko said he believes that teammates who struggled last
season – including Beckham, Alex Rios and Adam Dunn, who batted
.159 last season – can bounce back. He especially sees promise in
the 25-year-old Beckham.

”Knowing where he’s at in his head, I think it’s a good
place,” he said. ”I think he’s going to have a big year.”

Last season, Konerko produced his fifth All-Star season. He hit
.300 with 31 home runs and 105 RBIs. He and catcher A.J. Pierzynski
are the last remaining members of the 2005 World Series team.

”I’m happy I won a World Series, and I’ll always have that in
my pocket. I’d love to get another one, but if I don’t, that’s cool
too,” Konerko said. ”I look at it this stage in my career, if it
means I have to play two or three years, whatever it is, so I can
hopefully leave here and help people and try to get this
organization back on track, and I leave and those guys do the job,
then that’s fine. I think that’s what I owe the team.”

Notes: In his first address to the whole team, Ventura said he
emphasized having fun but also taking camp seriously. ”We’re here
to win games, but it’s important for me and the staff they show up
every day and give good effort,” he said.