White Sox

Sox Drawer: Thome close to finish line?

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Sox Drawer: Thome close to finish line?

Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011Posted: 8:12 p.m.
By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

It's three-and-a-half hours before the first pitch between the White Sox and Indians, and Jim Thome is back in Chicago, all alone in the bowels of U.S. Cellular Field, taking his customary whacks into a baseball net.

With the scent of Bengay surrounding him, Thome is preparing his 41-year-old body for Thursday's game, the 2,745th of his major league career. Thome is one who always lives in the now, playing for the present. However, here in the final month of the season, with his numbers tailing off just like they've done for every baseball great to ever play the game, there's a part of Jim that is starting to see the finish line.

"You can't play baseball forever," said Thome, seated in the Indians dugout, back with the team that drafted him in the 13th round in 1989. "To sit here and answer today, 'Am I going to play next year?' I don't know. That being said, you go out and you enjoy it. If we're not able to get into the playoffs and we go home, I'll enjoy every moment that I was able to come back to Cleveland and be apart of this great organization that drafted me, and look at it being very special."

Since the time he learned how to walk, Thome has basically had a bat in his hand. Baseball is what he knows, and what he does. It's provided Thome with a bright path to follow all these years. But what happens when that journey comes to an end?

"I think that's a challenge, and also something I look forward to, being there everyday with my family and turning to that phase of my life," Thome said. "None of us baseball players have been home everyday, and it's exciting to think about it, and also a little bit scary, because you don't know what the next chapter is. Maybe I will stay in the game, that's kind of the feeling, but I don't think any player really knows until after they retire."

Two weeks ago, the internet nearly exploded in Chicago when rumors spread that the White Sox had attempted to claim Thome off waivers from the Minnesota Twins. It would have brought Thome back to the Southside for one final curtain call. Thome heard the same rumors we did. However, it was the Indians who nabbed him, giving Thome the possibility of ending his career with the team where it all began.

But Chicago still has a special place in Thome's heart. He and his family still live here, and he plans to retire in Chicago when his career is over.

"I think everybody knows my history here in Chicago. I have fond memories. Jerry (Reinsdorf), the organization has treated me great here," Thome said. "That was a very special time in my career, especially with everything that happened with Mom, and coming home and getting the opportunity to play here was very special."

If you'd like to see Thome play again, this might be your last chance. It's the Indians' final trip to Chicago this year, and not knowing what the future holds, it could be the unofficial good-bye for the burly slugger who has belted 602 home runs in a career that should ultimately end at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Thome played only three-and-a-half seasons with the White Sox (2006-2009). Does he wish he could have stayed a little longer? The answer is yes, but....

"I would pick every team that I played for and say, 'Man it would be very special to have played for them a little longer,' absolutely yeah," Thome said. "But that's the business and that's part of it. You don't have any second regrets. You don't look back and go, 'I wish here, I wish there.' It's all been positive and great."

And that's the essence of Jim Thome, a man who seems to live in a world where it's always 75 degrees and sunny with light winds. His carefree demeanor blended with a burning desire to win has made him one of the game's most popular players both on and off the field. When time expires on his career, he'll have decades of memories to look back on. But why wait until then? Thome is soaking it in already.

"As we go through baseball it's a whirlwind, and it goes by so quick that sometimes you need to take a step back and reflect on it and smile."

He smiles. We cheer. He's earned every one of them.

White Sox can aid crusade to contend by adding some pop this winter

White Sox can aid crusade to contend by adding some pop this winter

The White Sox hit four home runs Tuesday night, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. But the guys who hit those round trippers have combined for just 31 of them this season.

Meanwhile, when Miguel Sano obliterated a baseball 482 feet in the third inning, he became the Minnesota Twins’ fifth player to reach 30 bombs this season. That’s the first time that’s happened in a single season in baseball history.

While you were sleeping, the high-powered Twins defeated the White Sox on a walk-off hit by pitch, one of the least powerful ways you can win a ballgame. But the team from the Land of 10,000 Lakes has won far more games this season by smashing baseballs into the stratosphere.

They’ll likely win an AL Central title on that premise, and while it’s not the only way to set yourself up as a World Series contender, in 2019 it’s one of the better ways. The top eight teams in the game in home runs are either going to the postseason or remain in a pennant race: the Twins, the New York Yankees, the Houston Astros, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Oakland Athletics, the Cubs, the Atlanta Braves and the Milwaukee Brewers.

So let’s bring this around to the White Sox, whose winter shopping list is beginning to take shape as they prepare to set their sights on the offseason.

We all know Rick Hahn and his front office will be targeting starting pitching, the general manager has said as much after the organization’s major league ready depth in that area was worn bare in 2019. We’ll have to wait to find out whether Hahn inks a top-of-the-rotation star or provides depth behind All-Star hurler Lucas Giolito. But that shouldn’t — nay, can’t — be the only area that gets a facelift.

The White Sox also need an everyday right fielder, the internal options whittled from bountiful to non-existent thanks to injuries and under-performance in the minor leagues this season. The White Sox could probably also use a designated hitter. While Zack Collins — one of the home-run hitters Tuesday night — is getting a lot of reps there right now, if this team has eyes on contending next season, they might not have the luxury of playing “let’s see what he can do” with Collins.

Those two positions would figure to provide opportunities for Hahn’s front office to add some desperately needed pop to this lineup.

The White Sox are in the middle of their final up-close-and-personal demonstration of what an influx of offseason power can do, playing against baseball’s home-run leaders in the Twins. No team in baseball has launched more homers than the Twins this season, which is by design after they spent last offseason adding Nelson Cruz, C.J. Cron, Jonathan Schoop and Marwin Gonzalez, a quartet that combined for 104 home runs in 2018. This year, they’ve blasted a combined 95 with a week and a half worth of games left.

The power numbers are remarkable in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and in an era where the home-run ball is dominating, they’re doing it better than anyone. White Sox fans surely don’t need to be reminded of that fact. The Twins have hit 39 home runs against the South Siders this season, including 27 of them at Guaranteed Rate Field. Cruz, who is the only player in the bigs to hit at least 35 homers in each of the last six seasons, has hit eight of his 37 dingers off White Sox pitching.

While the White Sox likely won’t deviate from their rebuilding efforts just to copy the Twins, there’s no doubt they could use some additional power. They came into Tuesday night with the sixth fewest home runs in baseball, some of the game’s worst teams the only ones behind them. With the Twins using the longball to win a division crown and make themselves one of the best teams in the game, surely the White Sox could benefit from mixing some outside pop in with their cavalcade of young players.

They’ll likely get some help from Luis Robert, who belted 32 home runs in the minors this season a year after hitting none while battling thumb injuries in 2018. Nick Madrigal probably won’t do much for the White Sox home-run total, but a full, healthy season of Eloy Jimenez should. He’s en route to a 30-homer rookie season despite missing nearly 40 games. Jose Abreu certainly hasn’t been the problem, flirting with a career high in homers while blasting past his career high in RBIs. James McCann, Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson all had terrific seasons, but is a significant jump in home runs expected for 2020? Probably not.

So added power will have to come from the two holes that need plugging in the everyday lineup.

Who’s out there? Fans will jump right to J.D. Martinez, who’s expected to opt out of his deal with the Boston Red Sox and become a highly pursued free agent. Martinez would fit the bill, all right, with 35 more homers this season to bring his total since the start of the 2015 season to a whopping 183.

Martinez will have his fair share of pursuers, and it’ll cost some big bucks to make his opt-out worth it (even though the Red Sox would probably be happy to see his salary come off the books given their supposed financial pickle). But the White Sox have that much-discussed money to spend, and Martinez would solve their power deficiency as their everyday DH.

Corner outfield free agents to-be include Nicholas Castellanos, Yasiel Puig and Marcell Ozuna. If the disastrous Pittsburgh Pirates decide to let Starling Marte walk, he could add a career-high 23 homers to the lineup. Kole Calhoun could hit the market, and he’s past the 30-homer mark this season. He’s also the only lefty in that group, something that could matter considering the White Sox projected lineup for 2020 and beyond is heavily right handed.

And then there’s the trade market. But remember that the depth of the White Sox farm system doesn’t look much like it did a year ago, and it could be rather difficult for Hahn to create an appealing package of prospects that could fetch the kind of impact bat (or arm, for that matter) the team would like to add to the roster.

The opportunities are there for the White Sox to make some Twins-esque additions and ratchet up the power numbers in 2020. It won’t mean they’ll be mashing at a Twins-esque level — considering that no team in baseball has, even the ones also hitting homers in bunches — but it’s a trait that’s helping teams across the game win on a nightly basis.

The White Sox could help their crusade to contend in 2020 — to join that group of baseball’s best teams — by improving themselves in that area this winter.

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White Sox Talk Podcast: What we've learned about the White Sox in 2019

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: What we've learned about the White Sox in 2019

A lot has happened with the White Sox this season. Chuck Garfien, Ryan McGuffey and Vinnie Duber cover it all. They discuss the great (3:00), the good (14:40), the bad (20:10) and the ugly (26:20). They also rate the moves the White Sox made last offseason (32:30)

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

White Sox Talk Podcast

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