Growing up listening to Chicago radio and TV…I have been inundated with Cubs and White Sox talk all my life. And it made me sick to my stomach.
Maybe it was because of that I’ve never had much of an affinity for either team.
You see, because of other influences (family, vacations, etc.), I have always been more of an East Coast fan. And that’s why it is bittersweet that, finally, the division that always bored/bothered me is finally getting some national attention.
It doesn’t matter what side of the Ozzie Guillen Twitter war you’re on or whether or not you think Joe Mauer’s new contract is a good deal for the Twins (it is)…Minnesota and Chicago have made the baseball world stand up and take notice.
So with that…here comes the AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
The White Sox are a little difficult to get a handle on lately. A few years back, they win the World Series…and let go of the best player to pull up the palehose since the Eisenhower administration all in the name of “diminished skills” and getting younger.
And who do they bring in…35 year-old Jim Thome.
Last season, four years following their supposed youth movement, they trade Thome to whoever will take him. They get rid of the equally ancient Jose Contreras and look to get younger again.
And who do they bring in? An over-the-hill designated hitter (Andruw Jones), an equally as seasoned left fielder (Juan Pierre) and one of the few players in the Majors who could tell you where he was when man landed on the moon (Omar Vizquel).
Jones is seemingly a lifetime (and a few pants sizes) away from the wide grinned 19 year-old who, in 1996, became the game’s youngest ever to go deep in a World Series game. But all kidding aside, he is 12 home runs away from reaching 400 for his career and still has the pop to, if healthy, accomplish the feat by the All-Star break.
While the acquisition of Jones is a little bit of a puzzler, Vizquel actually makes some sense considering his 11 Gold Gloves fits nicely on Chicago’s bench as a mentor to some of their younger players.
Unfortunately that’s about all he can do. Well…that and pad his Cooperstown caliber stats.
The all-time leader among Venezuelan born players in a number of categories, the Sox actually issued Vizquel the retired number of countrymate (and Hall of Famer) Luis Aparicio.
And speaking of retired numbers (note the shameless segue), the Southsiders are planning on retiring Thomas’ number on August 29. It’s the least they can do for their team leader in runs scored, total bases, doubles, home runs and RBI.
Now that Kerry Wood is already in mid-season form (out at least two months with a back injury)…enter new closer Chris Perez. Perez, if you’re keeping track, is one save away from TEN for his career.
You guessed it Tribe fans…not many milestones to choose from in 2010.
Raise your hand if you knew that new Tiger Johnny Damon is the active triples leader with 95.
Give yourself another pat on the back if you knew that he is sitting ninth among active players…75 hits shy of 2500 for his career.
On the other side of the outfield, rightfielder Magglio Ordonez is quietly putting up, yes I’ll say it, a terrific career. Mags is 26 hits away from 2000 for his career and 23 home runs away from 300.
And I know it isn’t really a “milestone” per se, but Detroit reliever Fu-Te Ni has the shortest last name in the Majors this season. At six letters, he is one of a slew of players to have the second shortest full name ever.
The shortest…former Pittsburgh Pirate catcher Ed Ott.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
And from one of the game’s shortest names…to one of the league’s longest. Royals shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt is only two letters (18) behind Texas catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (20).
Unfortunately, that’s about all Kansas City has going for it outside of Jason Kendall climbing up the all-time hit by pitch list.
Kendall is sitting at fifth all-time with 248…just 39 behind all-time leader, Hall of Famer Hughie Jennings.
Let’s all make each other a promise. When Joe Mauer’s contract is up following the 2018 season…we’ll meet back up and talk about how the American League’s best hitter is a steal at just $23 million a season.
As it is, the Twins will open their new stadium with future Hall of Famer Jim Thome on the bench. While he isn’t likely to hit the milestone, Thome is 36 home runs away from 600 for his storied career.
Also within shouting distance for Thome (provided he plays another two seasons), is the all-time strikeout record. With 2313 to his credit(?), the five-time All-Star is 284 shy of Reggie Jackson’s record 2597 whiffs.
The American League West is next. In the meantime, feel free to check out Milestone Previews of the American League East, National League East and National League Central.