The trouble of Konerko’s rest


May 12, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko breaks his bat as he grounds out against the Los Angeles Angels during the first inning at US Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Robin Ventura has enough problems to deal without his quotes being sifted through as if they had some secret treasure buried within. Yet while downplaying his decision to sit team captain Paul Konerko for back-to-back days–an action that would have been a stunning act of self-sabotage in any of the previous three seasons–Ventura cited his time in New York as precedent.

"On Monday evening, the White Sox manager relayed to his veteran slugger how later in his playing career he benefitted from Joe Torre’s practice of giving him multiple days off to recharge.“The way he’s been feeling there’s nothing wrong with giving him two days off just to kind of reboot and feel better,” Ventura said. “It’s happened to other guys and when you feel that way, and you’re a little bit older, sometimes it’s better to kind of take a step back, get back in there tomorrow.”"

Obviously, it’s impossible to really assess the effect of such a strategy. The benefit would theoretically be cumulative and there’s no way to know how bad an aging player would be without rest being offered. The only evidence available is anecdotal from the player, and Robin’s word is as good as anyone’s. Only he’s not drawing from a lot of evidence.

Former Yankees manager Joe Torre did give Robin a couple of multi-game sits during his 1 2/3 seasons in the Bronx. He gave him four, to be exact, and none of these breaks extended more than two games.

In 2002, Robin’s last truly superb season, he didn’t get one of these breaks until August, and each of the two breaks also had an ‘older player has nagging pain’ explanation running alongside of it. Ventura was good in 2002, made an All-Star team and never had to entertain any notions of pacing himself unless he or the trainer pushed for them.

It was only the next season when a massive June swoon hit Ventura (.202/.280/.298 for the month after starting the season with an .868 OPS) did his age suddenly become a consideration. And as much as Robin might have found multiple days off a revitalizing force, the Yankees sure didn’t. They traded him at the deadline and picked up Aaron Boone on the same day in a separate deal to replace him. It’s odd that Robin Ventura has fond memories of what could have been construed as the process of phasing him out, but his recollection of his playing career these days is long on perspective and very short on grudges.

If you have the opportunity, try to ask him about leaving Chicago in free agency, or the “leftovers” t-shirts.

Obviously Konerko being rested is the product of struggles, but the rest is a bit stronger statement than that. This goes beyond the notion of preserving an aging player to displaying that it’s not worth it to play him in this state, and he might as well rest until something changes. Plenty of other players have reached this sort of breaking point in their performance, but only Konerko can nod to age-related fatigue as a resolvable issue.

Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan