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May 14, 2008

Does anyone REALLY care? If not...why?!?

Living just outside of the Windy City…I get inundated with news about the White Sox and Cubs whether I want to hear it or not. Problem is, unlike most of the people I associate with…I DON’T want to hear about them.


That was until, once again, Sox manager Ozzie Guillen opened his mouth for his semi-annual attempt to “distract the sports writers from noticing how terrible my team is with the promise that I’ll say something more stupid than I did the last time.” You see…it’s almost like Daylight Saving Time. Like clockwork, it happens twice a year, but it feels like much more than that.

I mean, you ever have those days where it feels like you got an hour less of sleep? You never quite recover…do ya?

I digress.

Last week, in the wake of the much ballyhooed sex doll debacle at US Cellular Field, Guillen opened his mouth, did his best Lee Elia impersonation and out came this little gem…“we’re the Chicago bitch”.

He figures that on the Chicago landscape, his team plays second fiddle to the “Lovable Losers”. According to Guillen, a team that hasn’t won squat in 100 years is better off than one that took home the trophy in 2005.

And he’s right.

People are absolutely stupid for the Cubs…not so much for the White Sox. Not only are they the Rodney Dangerfield of the Chicago sports scene…but, as it seems, Major League Baseball as well. Think about it, unless they are playing some of the primetime regulars (Yankees, Red Sox or Indians), you’d be hard pressed to find the Second City’s second favorite team get much play on either FOX, ESPN or TBS.

Hell…I don’t even know if White Sox even respect THEMSELVES or their own history!

One player that more than exemplifies this notion is Frank Thomas. And as a friend recently pointed out to me…“Thomas is the best player to ever play for the Sox and they probably won’t even retire his number.”

But why?

Before the “Pale Hose” envoked the horseshit “diminished skills” clause following their Championship run in 2005…the “Big Hurt” was already one of a very, very elite group of players.

Currently, Thomas is one of FOUR players to have a .300 average, 500 home runs, 1500 RBIs, 1000 runs and 1500 walks during their career. Who are the other three? Mel Ott, Ted Williams and Babe Ruth…not too shabby.

Matter of fact, Thomas has a handful of goofball records like that…records that no one REALLY knows how to put into context.

  • Thomas is the ONLY player in baseball history to have seven consecutive seasons of a .300 average, 100 runs, 100 RBI, 20 home runs and at least 100 walks.

  • He was the seventh member of the .300 average and 500 home run club.

  • There are only six players with more home runs and a higher career average than Thomas.

  • Thomas is one of six players to have amassed 1600 walks and 500 home runs.

  • Thomas was the first player to win two silver slugger awards each at two different positions.

  • My favorite…Thomas is the ONLY player to hit more than 90 sacrifice flies (he has 120) and not collect a single sacrifice hit.

The kicker (and perhaps the biggest knock AGAINST Frank Thomas)…Thomas is the all-time record holder for home runs by a designated hitter. Coincidently, it is former teammate Harold Baines who, while he has more than 2800 hits…gets SLAMMED for having been a DH for most of his career.

Okay, so we know (or at least we’ve been told) how good Frank Thomas WAS. His stats stack up favorably to some old school Hall of Famers that we’ve all heard of…but frankly, they are merely footnotes in history.

Who here actually saw Mel Ott play? How about Jimmie Foxx?!? Case rested.

So, let’s talk about how good the “Big Hurt” IS.

You know that “Thomas is the ONLY player in baseball history to have seven consecutive seasons of a .300 average, 100 runs, 100 RBI, 20 home runs and at least 100 walks” I referenced earlier? Well, Thomas did this to START his career AND it includes the strike shortened season of 1994. Surely SOMEONE has had to come close to this feat, right?

Actually…yes, and his name is Albert Pujols.

Yes, THAT Albert Pujols who is seemingly EVERYWHERE right now. Minus the walks (Pujols doesn’t have the knack to frustrate pitchers like Thomas does) and one season where he had 99 runs scored…we’ve got virtually identical players at the plate.

That is…for their first seven seasons, which is all Pujols has on the books.

Both finished in the top ten in MVP voting each of those seven seasons. Thomas brought home two awards…Pujols one. All in all…Thomas has nine top ten finishes.

Let’s get back to the numbers.

Going into this season, Pujols had 4054 at bats. At the same point in HIS career, Thomas had 3821…but remember the walks, people. Pujols does have the edge in runs (847 to 785), hits (1344 to 1261), home runs (282 to 257), RBI (861 to 854) and average (.332 to .330), but one could argue that we’re in more of a power era that 1991 to 1997 when Thomas was in his heyday.

As an aside (and I am not insinuating in the least that Pujols touched “the juice”), look at Thomas when he broke in and look at him now…he’s pretty much the same size…a far cry from Barry Bonds or Jason Giambi. Here’s a guy was the ONLY active baseball player interviewed for the Mitchell Report.

He was so sure of his cleanliness…he did so voluntarily.

Why is Frank Thomas so forgotten? Is it because he was mostly used as a DH?


But the idea is to help your team win ballgames, right? Thomas did just that…and did it better than a LARGE percentage of the players ever to put on the cleats.

So again…why is Thomas forgotten?

Fifteen years ago, I would have said that Thomas got lost in the fanfare surrounding Bo Jackson, Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. Simply put…he just didn’t have “it”. Fast forward to today…David Ortiz has a hard time stringing together more than a few words of broken English, yet he has more endorsement deals than I can count.

Outside of a 1995 Super Nintendo game, I couldn’t tell you one other time that I saw Frank Thomas being celebrated and as I referenced in the first line of this diatribe, I do live near the belly of the beast…the city that gave us the Rodney Dangerfield of Major League Baseball.

So what is it?

If it isn’t the accolades, the plethora of numbers or odd assortment of accomplishments, it can only be one thing…nobody cares about the White Sox.

***Note: Based on the "Is Frank Thomas a Hall of Famer" poll that was on the page...87% of you think "first ballot all the way". I agree.***

BallHype: hype it up!


Rusty Shackleford said...

First, I have thought about the Cubs VS Sox and why it exists. Back before Ryno was in Chicago, the Cubs couldn't draw a crowd to save their lives. But Ryne Sandberg changed that.

After Sandberg, Sosa was eased in as the fan favorite. The rest is history.

Sox fans are lying through their teeth if they tell you that the Sox have always struggled to draw fans. The days of Frank Thomas and Bo Jackson saw Sox fans come in heavy numbers to the ballpark.

The dropoff coincided with the diminished skills of the Big Hurt. Nobody cared about Joey Belle. Nobody cares about Mark Buehrle either. What really drives people to ballparks is the marketable name, not necessarily wins.

Back to Frank...

The reason he is being forgotten is that he was friendly to Congress, George Mitchell and his report and that's about all. He is known for being awful with the media, even as bad as Mr Bonds is/was. When you are loved by the media for being available and good at answering questions, then you get praised far more often.

Remember how open Sosa was to the media? Then 2004 happened and I have seen one whole story on that dude since.

Just my two cents.

Jesus said...

The Sox attendance figures were GARBAGE at old Comiskey...picked up when they moved to the new yard (which is typical), hit a peak, then began to drop once again. So, you're right to an extent...the attendance dropped as Thomas did, but I don't think that it was BECAUSE of Thomas.

As far as Sandberg...I'm not sure HE brought them to Wrigley. in 1983, they averaged 18,268 a ballgame. The next year...26,182. Sure, they had Ryno, Smith, Sutcliffe, etc. but they also went from 71 wins to 96.

For the next 14 years, they hovered around 2 million per season...then came the summer of 1998.

Baseball boomed!

Sosa versus McGwire and the thoughts of a pennant race brought the crowds to Wrigley in droves. Of course this continued to 2003 when Bartman stepped in and somehow "cursed" the Cubbies over the three million mark.

All because of marketable names...perhaps. But, winning helps too!

Wait, nevermind...I forget we're talking about Wrigley where people come for the party and not always the game.

I digress.

boeke said...

First off, Thomas will still be a HOF'er when he is eligible. They won't put the steroid guys in without putting Thomas in with them. If they don't put the steroid guys in, then Thomas has even less competition.

Second, there is no doubt that the White Sox are the lesser team in Chicago. So what? Their ballpark is located on the less attractive side of town. Their fans don't have as much disposable income to waste as the Chads and Trixies on the North Side. It's a blue-collar team, nothing glamorous or cool about the south side. This isn't exactly news. I like to think of the White Sox fans as an exclusive club that's not for everybody, especially alcoholic bleacher bums.

Finally, what you need to understand is that White Sox fans pay to see winning baseball. If you don't win, they'll watch the game on TV and save the $100 you spend going to a game. You could always tell by the full park on every "Half-Price Monday". Cub fans park the park every game, whether the team sucks or not, but it's for the EXPERIENCE (bars). If the Sox suck, the park's half empty. It was the same way at Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, and Wrigley Field when they were all bad in parts of the 80s.

There are more Cub fans in Chicago, and nationwide, than Sox fans. It will probably always be that way, whether it's the WGN superstation, the Chicago Tribune ownership, the Wrigley shrine, or the lovable loser lifestyle.

That's ok, I am a White Sox fan for baseball reasons, and probably because I wanted to be different from all the other losers walking around Northern Illinois. I will always be a White Sox fan, because they are my team. Some people are Royals fans when they are good, and Red Sox fans when they are good, and there's nothing wrong with that either.

E said...

"Some people are Royals fans when they are good, and Red Sox fans when they are good, and there's nothing wrong with that either."

Wow. What a jerk.

And way to make it seem that White Sox fandom is some exclusive club for awesome people. I'm a Nationals fan, because they only accept super badasses as fans.

boeke said...

A jerk? Well, mister, you're a name caller, that's what you are. Brewers fans have a lot in common with White Sox fans, since Cubs fans try to take over their stadium whenever they play. The badass Nationals fans went to RFK, new parks are for sissies. Get back on your meds, E!

Jesus said... guys are adorable.

E said...

I'm still waiting for the Nats to move back to Montreal. Stade Olympique is still vacant!

Rusty Shackleford said...

I'm late to reply, but the above comments are such wonderful displays of how marketing can work effectively for your product. Most of it is so stereotypical, but if you hear something enough, it's bound to be true!

Sox fans aren't blue collar. That's bogus. We all act like it's dollar a holler to enter their stadium. It's not. Oh, and the UC is on the south side too, is it not? Why do they not struggle to sell out Bulls games then? Haven't they sucked for a decade now?

THere are dumbn Sox fans and dumb Cubs fans. Dumb Cub fans show up drunk, don't care about the outcome and like Dave Matthews. Dumb Sox fans attack first base coaches. This is NOT typical.
But with enough people saying it is, it might be true!

Pssssst- Iraq caused 911, pass it on.

Rusty Shackleford said...

dumb, not dumbn.