Notes: Konerko top offseason priority
Buehrle soreness not unusual; Games 4, 5 at United Center
HOUSTON -- As if Ken Williams needed to put the concept into words or officially have it written down on paper, the White Sox general manager made it clear Tuesday that the process to re-sign free agent Paul Konerko begins as soon as the World Series comes to a close.
"Absolutely," was Williams' response when asked if he planned on starting an open line of communication with Craig Landis, Konerko's agent, shortly after the conclusion of this competition. Williams could not bracket a time frame, though, on whether he thought the Konerko negotiations would move quickly or go through at least December's Winter Meetings in Dallas.
"Who knows? Who knows who the suitors are and what their finances are?" said Williams of Konerko, a topic he also spoke about during the American League Championship Series. "All I told [Konerko] was I respect him either way.
"If he has some quick numbers that will make it work for us, great. If he feels he really needs to explore what's out there, I respect him for that as well."
Konerko has produced a Carlos Beltran sort of postseason, following the Houston center fielder who earned top dollars from the Mets after his spectacular 2004 playoff showing. He already had proven himself a high quality player, with back-to-back 40 home run seasons, but the first baseman might have moved himself into that elusive category known as superstar money with five home runs and 15 RBIs during 50 postseason at-bats.
His biggest at-bat came during Sunday's second game of the World Series, when Konerko launched a seventh-inning grand slam off Houston reliever Chad Qualls, erasing a 4-2 Astros advantage. Konerko earned a team-high $8.75 million this season, the final year of a three-year, $23 million deal. But he could be in line for a deal somewhat similar to Seattle's Richie Sexson, who received $50 million over four years during the last free agent period.
Teams such as Boston, the Yankees and the Angels have been reported as possible fits for Konerko, although one Chicago newspaper reported Tuesday that Konerko privately has told his teammates he wouldn't play in Boston. Wherever he ends up, Williams believes the first baseman's most impressive attribute has nothing to do with hitting the baseball.
"This is a quality guy. This is the sort of guy you want your daughter to make a life with," Williams said. "He's one of a kind. However this plays out, it will be handled with all the respect possible. Even if he comes to me for advice in this process, I'm there for him first as a friend."
Playing with pain: The arm soreness spoken of by Mark Buehrle in a Chicago daily newspaper Tuesday was nothing out of the ordinary, according to pitching coach Don Cooper and White Sox athletic trainer Herm Schneider. The left-hander has far surpassed his season high for innings pitched at 259 2/3, and his 36 starts are one more than he made in 2003 and 2004, respectively.
But Buehrle is scheduled to throw a side session on Wednesday and start Game 6 at U.S. Cellular Field, if necessary.
Much to do about nothing: There seemed to be very little concern among the White Sox, from Williams to Timo Perez, in regard to the roof at Minute Maid Park being open for Tuesday's third game of the World Series. The only benefit coming from the decision, according to a smiling Williams, is that the move seemed to temporarily divert the Astros' attention from the job at hand.
"I wouldn't have lodged any protests or made any big deal about it if it was closed," Williams said. "I don't know if there's some kind of special force involved up there. But why would you want to close it? It's a beautiful night."
The Astros apparently wanted the roof closed to make an incredibly noisy place even noisier. Having played numerous games in a stadium such as the Metrodome, the White Sox didn't seem too bothered by a few extra decibels.
"Noise? Woo-hoo," said Williams, with a playful tone. "Our guys have played in noisy environments. Whatever they want to do, it's not a big deal to us."
New terminology: As the White Sox sit two wins away from clinching their first World Series title since 1917, the truth can now be told about "small ball" on the South Side of Chicago. This team's offensive success encompasses more than just bunting, stealing bases, hitting behind the runners and manufacturing runs.
"We've been labeled a small ball club from Day 1," said White Sox left fielder Scott Podsednik, the hero of Sunday's Game 2 thriller. "What people don't understand is that if you can manufacture a run here and there, OK, that's two runs you've picked up.
"Then, if you get big home runs from [Jermaine] Dye and Konerko, that's four runs. So, we have the ability to hit the ball out of the park, along with our ability to manufacture runs when we need them. That's a big reason we are here, aside from our pitchers."
A championship community: Although countless White Sox fans took vacation days from work and school, or simply didn't show up, in order to make the trip to Houston for the middle three games of the World Series, the organization wanted to give the fans back in Chicago a centralized chance to share in the excitement. In conjunction with the Blackhawks and the Bulls, Games 4 and 5 of the World Series will be shown at the United Center on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.
A cost of $15 will be charged per person, with proceeds split evenly between the charitable arms of the three teams. Gates will open at 6:30 p.m. CT. Brooks Boyer, the White Sox vice president of marketing, believes this is a better alternative then showing the game on the Jumbotron at U.S. Cellular Field.
"We can staff for 20,000 people if we open U.S. Cellular Field, but October weather is very unpredictable," Boyer said. "We might have 1,000 people show up. We also will have a lot of our staff in Houston, which makes for another challenge.
"The United Center has a new scoreboard over there and the screens are fantastic. It is temperature controlled and you have a staff over there who can help us run it. Between the Bulls, the Blackhawks, the Sox and the United Center, we can put the event together. Hopefully, Sox fans will use it as a place to gather."
Boyer added that when this opportunity was presented during the Bulls' six title runs, the crowd grew to 17,000 at one point.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.