February 2010

The Big Hurt = Greatest Hitter in Sox History

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As Frank Thomas broke into the big leagues in 1990 and emerged as one of the game’s great hitters, I observed on more than one occasion that we Sox fans had been waiting our whole lives for a offensive force like The Big Hurt.

We never had a Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron or Roberto Clemente, but Frank came as close as we’ve ever come to such a hitter and each time he stepped to the plate it became a must-see event.

Now, two decades after his big league debut in Chicago and short stints with the A’s and Blue Jays as well, Hurt is retiring. Retiring, I might add, as the greatest hitter in White Sox history (with apologies to Shoeless Joe Jackson). He is the franchise leader in home runs, runs batted in, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs, total bases, doubles, walks, intentional walks, sacrifice flies and extra base hits.

In this particular case career stats don’t lie–and, as you can see, virtually all of his major accomplishments in 19 major league seasons were, of course, achieved in his 16 years with the Sox.

* .301 lifetime batting average
*  521 home runs (9 seasons with 30 or more, 5 seasons with 40 or more)
*  1704 runs batted in
*  .419 on-base percentage
*  .555 slugging percentage
*  1667 walks
*  2,468 hits
*  1 AL batting title (.347)
*  2 AL MVPs
*  4 Silver Slugger awards
*  5 All-Star selections
*  A 2005 White Sox World Series ring

Furthermore, Thomas is one of only four major leaguers–Hall of Famers Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Mel Ott are the others–to end their careers with at least a .300 BA, 500 home runs, 1500 RBI, 1000 runs scored and 1500 walks. And not only has he not been mentioned in regard to using steroids, he has been an outspoken critic of performance-enhancing drugs.

It’s been well known that Thomas’s relationship with the White Sox has been rocky. However, it’s heartening to see that he’s being welcomed back into the family. On August 29, his No. 35 will be retired on “Frank Thomas Day” and my guess is that it won’t be long until there’s a statue in his honor at The Cell along with the other Sox elite. And five years from now there’s no doubt in my mind he’ll enter the stratosphere that is Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Sox-wise and Otherwise

My weekly offseason musings about the White Sox and more…

Random thoughts:

* Considering how much they contributed to the White Sox, I’m disappointed that Jermaine Dye and Joe Crede are still without homes. And I’m hoping the rumors aren’t true that Jermaine will wind up in Cleveland.

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*Two B’s–budget and Boras (agent Scott)–have seemingly been major obstacles to the White Sox seriously considering the signing of Johnny Damon. And until today the Braves and Tigers appeared to be the teams most likely to acquire the two-time World Champion. However, multiple sources are now saying that the Sox are serious players in the Damon derby. Boy, would he look good in our lineup.

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* Did any of you Sox fans identify with the Saints and their long-suffering fans as they finally won it all? I did.

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* Seems like the Twins’ acquisition of Orlando Hudson has convinced the so-called
experts that the Twinkies are the odds-on favorite in the AL Central. I think folks are forgetting that they’ll be playing in a normal ballpark this year. Big difference.

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* I’ve been to and enjoyed eight Olympics including three Winter Games–Sarajevo,
Calgary and Salt Lake City. But I have to admit I won’t watch very much of the Games
from Vancouver. I guess I’ve lost my Olympic spirit.

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* I finally saw the movie, Couples Retreat. Part of the film, which stars Vince Vaughn
and Jon Favreau among others, is set in Chicago. I’m happy to say that the Sox logo was more prominent than that of the North Siders. Unfortunately, it’s usually the other way around.

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* I’m engrossed in the new biography about the great Willie Mays. It reminds me that I’m on record (granted, I was about 11 when I said it) as saying that former White Sox star Jim Landis (pictured below) was a better centerfielder than Mays. No, I’m not nuts. Just a big Sox fan.

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* Just a reminder, as I write this pitchers and catchers are 10 days, three hours and three days away.

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Counting Down to Pitchers and Catchers…

When I began this edition of the blog, the annual rite of spring that is “pitchers and catchers” was only 11 days, 23 hours and 55 minutes away.

And if you need further proof that the final leg of the countdown is upon us, all you need to do is watch the Sox staff pack up and get ready to head down to Glendale to mobilize the operation at Camelback Ranch.

020910eq1_cst_feed_20100208_23_05_39_1068-250-400.jpegThe next milestone, of course, is the first spring training game–on Friday, March 5 when the Sox will host the Dodgers at Camelback–and then there’s the full slate of games before the Monday, April 5 regular season opener at the Cell vs. the Tribe. Below is the home schedule for both the Sox and Dodgers in Glendale.

2010schedule.pngFor the record, we’re now 11 days, 23 hours and 42 minutes from pitchers and catchers, but who’s counting?

Vizquel on Wearing No. 11 for the White Sox: “It’s a Great Honor”

omar2_240.jpgAside from being inducted into the Hall of Fame, there’s probably no greater individual honor a ballplayer can attain than to have his uniform number retired.

The White Sox have retired eight numbers: 2 (Nellie Fox), 3 (Harold Baines), 4 (Luke Appling), 9 (Minnie Minoso), 11 (Luis Aparicio), 16 (Ted Lyons), 19 (Billy Pierce) and 72 (Carlton Fisk). Additionally, Jackie Robinson‘s 42 has been retired throughout all of baseball.

As of today one of these numbers, Aparicio’s No. 11, is coming out of retirement and will be worn by Looie’s fellow Venezuelan shortstop Omar Vizquel (pictured above with Aparicio when Omar was acquired by the Sox during the offseason). Interestingly, this was set in motion when Vizquel couldn’t get his familiar 13 because it’s currently being worn by yet another shortstop from Venezuela–his boss, Ozzie Guillen.

“I feel privileged to have the opportunity to wear the same uniform with the White Sox as the great Luis Aparicio,” said Vizquel, who is wearing the number as a tribute to the Hall of Famer. “It is a great honor for me.”

Aparicio commented that “if there is one player who I would like to see wear my uniform number with the White Sox, it is Omar Vizquel. I have known Omar for a long time. Along with being an outstanding player, he is a good and decent man.”

I know a lot of purists will scoff at this decision, but to me this tribute is just as meaningful as having the number retired forever. In theory unretiring a number isn’t something I would condone, but this is a unique circumstance. It represents the time-honored baseball tradition of connecting generations and in this case provides the opportunity to honor part of the proud history of outstanding Venezuelan shortstops who have worn a Sox uniform–Chico Carrasquel, Aparicio, Guillen and now Vizquel. It’s a nice touch.

Sox-wise and Otherwise

My weekly offseason musings about the White Sox and more…

Twins sign Hudson

I still believe the Sox are the team to beat in the AL Central (remember, pitching, pitching, pitching), but the Twins’ signing of four-time All-Star Orlando Hudson is not the news I wanted to hear. I’m not worried about Jim Thome and how he will impact the divisonal race, but Hudson is a different story. Hitting No. 2 behind Denard Span and in front of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau is a pretty formidable top of the lineup. Oh well, did we really think the Twins weren’t going to pose a threat even without Hudson?

Looking at the bright side, I don’t think any Sox fan would take Hudson over our new second baseman.

Beckham.jpgP.U.

Three loyal Sox fans, my friends Kevin Sullivan, Tim Clodjeaux and Paul Jensen, are pretty perfect except for one thing: they have ties to P.U., Purdue University. And they are all happy this morning after the Boilermakers’ narrow win over my alma mater Indiana last night–their first win in Bloomington since 1999. Congrats guys. Celebrate now, because the Hoosiers are definitely on their way back.

indiana-university-basketball-m-basketball-national-championship-banners-ind-mbk-x-00025lg.jpgSuper Bowl Prediction

I really haven’t been a passionate football fan since rooting for the Bears in the days of 

Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus, but I follow college and pro ball like everyone else. And 
like everyone else, I’ll make a Super Bowl prediction. While I’ll be rooting for the Saints 
for sentimental reasons, here’s my two cents: Indianapolis 38, New Orleans 31.

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Where Have All the Ex-White Sox Gone?

While Sox favorites Jermaine Dye and Joe Crede are still looking for new homes, a number of other former Pale Hosers are with new teams–for example, Jim Thome (Twins), Jose Contreras (Phillies), Scott Podsednik (Royals) and Jon Garland (Padres). The following is a list of the most recent ex-Sox to sign: one fairly significant, the others not so much.

610x.jpg*  The well-traveled, but talented, shortstop Orlando Cabrera is now with the
    Cincinnati Reds. For the record, this is the “fairly significant” signing.

Timo Perez, a reserve outfielder on the 2005 World Champs, signed a minor league
    deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Josh Fogg, a one-time closer candidate for the Sox, inked a minor league
    pact with the New York Mets.

*  Lefty hurler Jimmy Gobble, who had a cup of coffee with the Sox, is now with the
    Colorado Rockies after agreeing to a minor league contract.

*  Catcher Gustavo Molina, not related to Bengie, Jose and Yadier, signed a minor
    league agreement with the Boston Red Sox.

*  Pitcher Horacio Ramirez, who had a short stint with the South Siders, just signed
   with the San Francisco Giants on a minor league deal.

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