Paul Konerko pregame interview
First baseman discusses team mentality prior to Game 5
Paul, has Ozzie said anything to you guys about not letting up, finishing this thing off, considering when he was on the staff with the Marlins and they were down 3-1 to the Cubs a couple years ago?
PAUL KONERKO: He hasn't said anything in particular yet. It's still kind of early in the day. There are guys still showing up. I'm sure the message will get sent at some point or another, whether it be before BP or after BP or right before the game. I just don't think that's a problem with our team. We're going to come to play. Letting up is not going to be, I don't think, an issue. It's going to be a matter of just executing and the right things happening, but I don't think anybody is complacent or that we've done anything yet because our major goal is to win the whole thing, so it's not like winning this series is going to accomplish everything we set out to do.
We've talked a little bit but about your days as a Dodger, and of course you were a highly touted prospect coming through the organization. Do you have any regrets or misgivings about not being able to be a Dodger for a long time and how they handled your situation when you came up that year? Any thoughts about that at all?
KONERKO: No. I mean, I have nothing but good thoughts about the Dodgers. When I was there, I can't speak for it now, I'm not there, but the Minor League system and the way you got treated there was first class all the way. I still know that I'm a better player now because I came up through their system because I feel like you were at an advantage, you were at the advantage coming up through their system because you were surrounded by all the coaches, all the managers that they had were all guys that were big league guys and you don't get that in every organization.
No question it helped me. As far as the big league side of it, I don't think it was anybody's fault, I think I just came up at the wrong time. If I would have come up a couple years earlier it probably would have worked out and if I came up a couple years later it probably would have worked out. It was just bad timing. That happens with players in all organizations. It was really no big deal. You're going to see players get traded every year, and that's part of the game.
KONERKO: Well, it takes the crowd out. They have a big crowd here, they're into it. You know, it gets you off on the right foot. But I think with us, we focus more on the pitching side of it. When we see our starting pitcher, if we scored five or six in the first and then gave up three in the bottom of the first we'd still have a three run lead but I think we'd be more uneasy with that than a three run lead and then our pitcher throws up a zero. Some teams feed off the offense, the pitchers kind of dial in. I think it's the other way around with our team. When we see our starting pitcher with his stuff, you can see he's throwing the ball well, he has velocity, throwing the ball hard and he's getting results, then I think the hitters feed off of that, then you start seeing good swings and it kind of takes off from there.
So it all kinds of starts and ends with the pitching. Even though we're up first in the first inning we're kind of waiting to see how the pitcher does.
Is it possible, Paul, that this is a better club because of the very fact that it struggled some in the second half?
KONERKO: Yeah, I think so. I think there's no question about that, the way it all came down at the end. We felt that it was going to be two stories that were going to happen, one or the other. It was either going to be we got overtaken by Cleveland and it was a nightmare ending and we all go home and we'll never forget that; it would be the worst thing ever. Or we hold on and play well enough just to clinch the division, and if we could do that, I think everybody knew in the clubhouse, as soon as we could get that done or as soon as we got that done, it was going to be a big weight off everybody's shoulders. We just had like a second boost of energy and that's how I explained it.
So there's no question we're a better team, I think, having gone through all the struggles. But it certainly wasn't fun when we were going through it.
Paul, what's harder for you, finding that successful run that you seem to be on or maintaining that run, or is it the same thing?
KONERKO: What are we talking about, pitching?
KONERKO: The thing that's nice about the playoffs is no one talks about individual accomplishments and all that. I mean, they'll talk about you if you don't come up and do the job individually, but as far as having success, you can give me an 0-for-6 and tell me we win the game today and I'll take it.
So I think everybody in our clubhouse and myself is just focused on competing every day regardless of what happened the day before. I don't bring into the game today anything I did yesterday or that, "Hey, if I don't get any hits today, it's okay, I still had a good series out here in Anaheim." I think that's the wrong way to go about it. I think every day is new.
And it should be like that during the season, but sometimes during the season with the amount of games you play and the way they add up, you kind of get caught sometimes in the middle of a bad thing that can kind of carry on for a day or two more than it should, or maybe you're not busting it after having some good days or something along those lines. But when it comes to the playoffs, every day, it's on every day and you come with it with whatever you have every day, and whether you did good the day before or bad, it's all just meaningless, it's all about today, and it's been fun.
I guess this is the flip side of the Dodger question. What is it about the environment in Chicago with the White Sox that has allowed you to flourish over the past years you've been there?
KONERKO: Just at-bats. That's it.
Paul, as a hitter, would you dread facing your pitching staff, and do you understand what the Angels' hitters must be going through?
KONERKO: Well, it's a good question because I've heard some of the comments about their hitters. I'm a hitter and I kind of can look at it with some sort of knowledge about what's going on. Believe me, I think more than half the credit, if not all of it, at least 90 percent of it, has got to go to our pitching. These guys are not giving them anything to hit. It's just tough. They're up there, I see them doing what hitters should be doing, going up there to hit first pitch but when it's painted low and a way in the black or a nasty change up or a slider for a first pitch strike, it just gets tough to hit that way when you're getting behind.
We've all been there as hitters, and the hardest thing to do for a hitter is to tip your hat to the pitcher because you'd like to blame yourself and you'd like to come up with a reason that you did something wrong that may have made the difference. But sometimes when the guys are throwing well and doing what they should be doing, it's tough to swallow but that's just the way it is, and it happens a lot during the season but it's tough in the playoffs and can get magnified one way or the other.
They have great hitters over there and I'm hoping they can keep them quiet one more day because anything can happen where they win one game today and they're going to be having some momentum. You don't want them to go there, you just want to try to shut it out today.
Paul, this is kind of playing off that one day at a time type thing. You've been playing baseball your whole life. Last night was the first time you ever went to bed one win away from the World Series. This morning the first day you ever woke up like that. Feel any different?
KONERKO: Surprisingly, no. I would have thought if you had asked me at the beginning of the season, I would have said, geez, everybody would be amped up, it would be a different feeling. But everybody is in the clubhouse talking about fantasy football like a normal Sunday (laughter). But I think it really starts with our coaching staff and Ozzie. When it comes to the way this team's attitude is as far as, I mean, everybody as individuals has got their own way they go about their business, but as far as the team and the way it comes to the field every day, or at least an hour before the game, how we get ready, it's really the staff and it's Ozzie and how we prepare every day. We could be on a seven or eight game losing streak, which we have been, it's really not much more different than when we were on eight game winning streaks or now. You might not believe it but it's the case. Anybody that's followed our team all year or been in the clubhouse knows what I'm talking about.
It's what Ozzie said from day one of spring training, "You come to play every day. Whatever it is you do, do it the same way every day. I don't care what you did the day before, good or bad or what the team did the day before, good or bad. You do the same every day," and guys latched on to it and it's worked.
You've been there for so long and this team relied on power for so many years. Did you question the changes when guys like Carlos (Lee) and Magglio (Ordonez), the changes that were made?
KONERKO: Not really. I think I was on the same page with everybody else. I think going back to last year, we knew kind of heading into September that there was going to be a lot of changes and they were talking about, I think, Ozzie wanted to try to put his stamp on the team with some speed and more defense, and I think the overall attitude, and everyone was on board. I don't know if we're going to win next year but we're not going to lose the same way.
We're going to change this up and if we get beat going in a different direction, so be it, but there was no question we needed to make changes, and I think I said it at the end of last year, we need to make changes around here, and that could be me going out the door, but that's best for the team. We need to change the formula here because it's not working. There was no guarantees that was going to work, but we needed to break the mold what we had going at that time. We had to. It just wasn't working.
Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.