White Sox

Sox Drawer: Big Frank frankly speaking


Sox Drawer: Big Frank frankly speaking

Wednesday, July 28, 20101:19 PM

By Chuck GarfienCSNChicago.com
For the man famously known as the "Big Hurt," Frank Thomas looks back at his legendary White Sox career and remembers the pain he inflicted on so many baseballs.

His 448 home runs, 447 doubles, 1,327 runs and 1,465 RBIs all rank No. 1 in team history.

But for all the damage he did to the White Sox record book, Thomas knows that he left behind wounds that are still being felt in certain quarters of the White Sox franchise and its fan base, lesions that the ultra-competitive Thomas acknowledges were created during his playing career because of his overwhelming will to succeed.

Feelings were hurt. Relationships soured. A giant would be humbled.

Let the healing begin.

"I was overly consumed in my career," Thomas said in an interview with Comcast SportsNet for the program "Inside Look: Frank Thomas", which debuts at 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 14. "I was a focused guy. Most people couldnt understand how I could be so focused, but I was.

Although wildly popular in the 1990s, trailing only Michael Jordan, and arguably tying Sammy Sosa for Chicago sports supremacy at the time, Thomas would build a perception that he wasnt just the face of the franchise, but its arms and legs.

"People just didnt understand me. They felt like I was all about myself and all about my stats, and not worried about the team, and thats totally false."-- Frank Thomas, on the perception of him during his playing days with the White Sox"I was driven. I wanted to be the best," Thomas said. "I wanted to chase the best. People used to make a big deal about me and the stats. For me, stats meant that the team was going to win. It wasnt about me being selfish. I felt like I had to put up a certain amount of stats every day to help this team win and win consistently, day in and day out.

"I took a lot of heat for that in the past. People just didnt understand me. They felt like I was all about myself and all about my stats, and not worried about the team, and thats totally false."

Recently, Thomas has had a moment of truth as it relates to his infamous departure from the White Sox after the 2005 season. The team chose not to bring Thomas back because of a lingering foot injury, a decision delivered by general manager Kenny Williams to Franks voicemail. Thomas felt he deserved more respect than that, and shot some verbal missiles to his second home at 35th and Shields.

Williams fired back with a neutron bomb.

"Hes an idiot, hes selfish. Thats why we dont miss him," Williams said in February 2006. "And weve held it in for far too long ... hes the Oakland As problem right now."

Today, Thomas sees the notorious blow-up from a different perspective, and understands not only why the Sox didnt re-sign him, but why he and Kenny fought World War III in the first place.

"It wasnt pretty, but were both stubborn gentlemen," Thomas said. "Were both competitors. We both think we know it all. Getting myself away from it 3-4 years later, I respect what he did, because it was about this organization moving forward and I wasnt a part of the plan because they thought I was done. And I can look back, the first two months in Oakland ... I thought I was done. I was batting about .105, .110 still trying to heal. The White Sox just didnt have time to wait on that."

Thomas has to wait until 2014 to be officially inducted into baseballs Hall of Fame. His 521 home runs, .301 career batting average, and two MVP awards should get him in on the first ballot, especially considering he played the game clean during the height of the steroid era.

Others chose to take a different path to immortality.

There is still plenty of skepticism surrounding Sosa and the inflated numbers he magically produced from 1998-2001. So I posed the following question to Thomas:

If he had the power, would he vote Sosa into the Hall of Fame?

"Thats a tough one," Thomas said. "I love Sammy to death. I love him like a brother. But at this particular time, no I would not vote him in. Weve never heard anything from him. Hes never confronted the situation. Hes never explained his side. He just basically went back to the Dominican Republic and we havent heard anything from him. I really want to know what went down."

And Mark McGwire?

Tough sell. Hes admitted it, but still," said Thomas. "For me, what I put myself through for the last 18 years, busting my butt day in and day out to keep up, I dont have to dislike these guys, but Im kind of disliking what they did."

Thomas did not take steroids, but he did consume something else during his playing days, which may have been the hidden ingredient to his success. A secret he has chosen to finally reveal after so many years.

Boston Market.

Thats right. It turns out that Thomas could not get enough of this fast-food eatery and he would go to great lengths to gobble up their chicken meals before every game, home and away.

Was he superstitious? That would be a resounding yes.

"I would go to every city and look for a Boston Market," Thomas said. "That was something I held onto for six or seven years. I would go to Boston Market every day and have the same lunch every day, but it was all about consistency. I just felt like if youre consistent with your meals every day, you can be consistent on the field every day.

One afternoon Frank ate a steak before a game. He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. Never again. It was Boston Market or bust.

But did they have one in every major league town?

"No, but I tried to find it," he said

Who didnt?

"Many cities. Seattle didnt have one. Minneapolis didnt have one. So if I couldnt get Boston Market, I would call the hotel and try to have the same meal made up for lunch every day.

Now an official ambassador of the White Sox, as well as a pre and postgame analyst on Comcast SportsNet, Thomas has been welcomed back into the White Sox family. The team will retire his No. 35 jersey on Frank Thomas Day, Aug. 29, a day he expects will shed a few tears.

Baseball is Franks game. The Sox brought it to life. Where in baseball does he plan on spending the rest of his? Here in Chicago with the White Sox.

Where he belongs.

The Big Hurt is home.

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox slugger Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

White Sox name James Shields as Opening Day starter

White Sox name James Shields as Opening Day starter

The White Sox have announced who will toe the rubber when the season begins later this month.

As expected, James Shields will be the team's Opening Day starting pitcher when the White Sox kick off the 2018 campaign against the Kansas City Royals on March 29 at Kauffman Stadium.

The starting rotation's elder statesman at 36, Shields seemed the logical pick for the first start of the season.

It's been a rough go for the one-time All Star since he came to the South Side in a trade with the San Diego Padres in the summer of 2016. In two seasons with the White Sox, he's got a 5.99 ERA with 181 strikeouts and 58 home runs allowed in 231.1 innings. Last season, he made 21 starts, finishing with a 5.23 ERA and 103 strikeouts and 27 home runs allowed in 117 innings.

While that trade still smarts considering the player the White Sox gave up, Fernando Tatis Jr., is currently ranked as the No. 8 prospect in baseball, Shields brings plenty of value to the 2018 rotation as a veteran mentor for young major leaguers like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, as well as pitchers making their way to the big leagues like Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen and Dylan Cease.

If Shields could rediscover some of the magic that made him a great pitcher during his best years with the Tampa Bay Rays and the aforementioned Royals, with whom he made World Series trips in 2008 and 2014, respectively, and have a strong couple months out of the chute, he could provide Rick Hahn's front office with a midseason trade piece, someone who could potentially fetch a prospect or two that could help advance the franchise's rebuilding efforts.

The Royals have announced that it will be Danny Duffy opposing Shields on Opening Day.

White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Houston Astros?


White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Houston Astros?

What’s there to know about the Houston Astros?

They’re the best, that’s what there is to know.

The Astros are the defending world champions for a multitude of reasons, and it’s all those and more that will have them as a favorite to repeat in 2018. Yes, the Cubs and New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers and Cleveland Indians will all have something to say about that. But right now, no team is better on paper than the team the just won the big enchilada not five months ago.

The best 1-2 starting-pitching in combo in baseball? It belongs to the Astros. Justin Verlander was sensational for them after coming over in a late-summer trade with the Detroit Tigers. All he did was post a 1.06 ERA in five regular-season starts and a 2.21 ERA in six postseason outings. Justin Verlander. Again. And then there’s his running mate Dallas Keuchel — who doesn’t like the Cubs very much, apparently — has been just as good. He had a 2.90 ERA last year and won the American League Cy Young in 2015 with a 2.48 ERA and 20 wins.

Get past those guys and you’ll have to face the new guy. Gerrit Cole is now an Astro, as well, the reigning champs bolstering their already excellent rotation by importing one of the National League’s best pitchers. Cole saw his numbers jump last year (4.26 ERA) but still almost had 200 strikeouts and now has a much better roster around him than the one he left in Pittsburgh.

Charlie Morton? He threw four one-run innings in Game 7 of the World Series. Lance McCullers? He had 2.1 shutout innings in Game 7 of the World Series. This rotation is a force that could mow down the AL. There are questions, sure, but this five is entering 2018 as the best collection of arms in the Junior Circuit.

And we haven’t even gotten to the hitting. Oh, the hitting! The Astros scored 34 runs in seven World Series games. They banged out 56 hits. They hit 15 home runs. This after they were baseball’s best offense during the regular season.

The names are obvious to anyone who watched the postseason. Jose Altuve, surely tired of all the short jokes, is arguably the best player in baseball, and he won the AL MVP last season with a ridiculous .346/.410/.547 slash line. Carlos Correa, perhaps baseball’s best young shortstop, had a .315/.391/.550 slash line. George Springer, your World Series MVP, hit 34 regular-season home runs and got on base at a .367 clip before hitting five homers and slashing .379/.471/.1.000 in the Fall Classic.

Then there’s Alex Bregman and Josh Reddick and Marwin Gonzalez, who were all very good to great in 2017. They shouldn’t all be expected to do what they did last season — you need look no further than the Cubs to see what a deep World Series run can do to a team, especially early. But is there a better lineup than this in the AL? Anyone? Bueller?

It’s hard to repeat, and “hard” is becoming one heck of an understatement considering no one’s repeated in almost two decades. The Yankees last did it when they beat the broken-bat-throwing Mike Piazza and the New York Mets in the 2000 World Series. Since then, no one’s done it twice in a row.

Last year, most of us looked at the Cubs and said, “They have the best team, they are favorites to do it again.” And then they were not even in first place in the NL Central at the All-Star break. A similar fate could await the Astros. But right now, they look like the best team the AL has to offer.

Houston, you are clear for takeoff ... again.

2017 record: 101-61, first place in AL West, World Series champions

Offseason additions: Gerrit Cole, , Joe Smith, Hector Rondon

Offseason departures: Carlos Beltran, Cameron Maybin, Mike Fiers, Tyler Clippard, Luke Gregerson, Francisco Liriano

X-factor: The Astros now count one-time Cubs closer Hector Rondon among their relievers now, but the X-factor pick here is Bregman. After a fine but nothing special first half, he was one of baseball's best after the All-Star break last year, slashing .315/.367/.536 with 11 homers and 44 RBIs in 71 games in the second half.

Projected lineup:

1. George Springer, CF
2. Alex Bregman, 3B
3. Jose Altuve, 2B
4. Carlos Correa, SS
5. Josh Reddick, RF
6. Marwin Gonzalez, 1B
7. Brian McCann, C
8. Evan Gattis, DH
9. Derek Fisher, LF

Projected rotation:

1. Justin Verlander
2. Dallas Keuchel
3. Gerrit Cole
4. Lance McCullers
5. Charlie Morton

Prediction: First place in AL West

Catch up on the AL:

Oakland Athletics
Texas Rangers
Seattle Mariners
Los Angeles Angels
Houston Astros

Catch up on the NL:

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Francisco Giants