White Sox

The Problem with Hockey

The Problem with Hockey

Friday, March 19, 2010
12:32 AM

I will start this by saying that Im a huge hockey fan. Growing up in the seventies in Philadelphia, I had no choice. The Flyers won back-to-back Cups and were in the hunt for over a decade. Not to mention, they were the bad boys of hockey. Physical play ruled and the Flyers did it with an iron fist.

It was during this time I heard of hockey codes and unspoken rules. For the most part there was an honor to the fighting and rough stuff, and then there was just mayhem. I loved it either way, mostly I suppose, because it helped my team win. I do remember them being the scourge of the league, hated everywhere but their home ice. That was all right, Philadelphians could identify with that.

Then in 1976 when the Russian Red Army team came to North America for a four game tour, they were 2-0-1 in their first three games. All of Canada was aghast. They cant come here and beat all of our best teams, can they? Then came game number four against the Flyers. Well, now the pride of the NHL was resting on their performance. Kill the Ruskies!! Talk about a beat-down! The Russians did know what hit them and they were scared, enough so that they walked off the ice, only coming back after they learned that they would not get paid if they did not play. That 4-1 Flyers win is still one of my favorite games, in any sport, ever!! I learned that aggressive, hard-hitting play could make an opponent wilt. A lesson I have always remembered.

One of the things that excited me about my move to Chicago was the fact that I was moving to an Original 6 city. A hockey town! I soon learned how nave that view was, but my love for hockey never waned. But in addition to what I was experiencing here, hockey in general was suffering. Losing a national contract on a network that people watch, it was banished to something called the Versus network! Then there was the strike of 2004 and hockey was in a dire predicament indeed. Something learned on the hiatus was that the sport could not continue in its Neanderthal ways. It needed to grow and be able to present itself for what it could be: The fastest, most exciting professional sport that we have. Play was designed to move faster and hopefully allow its best players to operate less encumbered than before. It still should be physical, but thuggery, was a thing of the past. Like with everything else though, change comes slow. The game today is faster, but a lot of times it reverts back to its old self.

The way of intimidation today isnt through fighting though. It is through dirty, flashy hits. Wearing new hard equipment and helmets with visors some players feel emboldened to hide in stealth mode, waiting to unleash on an unsuspecting foe, knowing that personal harm isnt likely, and having disregard for the well-being of their opponents. This has increasingly become a problem in the league. Check out You-tube. Lately it seems that there are more occurrences of head-shots and checks from behind the back. In game that moves as fast, with players bigger than ever, this is a recipe for disaster. Now we are experiencing the effects with the Blackhawks. The Ovechkin and Wisniewski hits this week on Hawk players are an example of the cheap-shot league the NHL is becoming. The general managers held meeting last week with these shots being a main topic of discussion. So much so that the league wants to adopt rules changes by the end of this season. I say its about time. Like Ive stated before, I love the toughness of hockey, fighting included, but cheap-shots were never part of that. If they were, perpetrators should be dealt with accordingly, by players or officials. Without supervision and rules doesnt chaos ensue?

Then for me, I get to the Hawks game last Sunday against Washington. Two of the best teams in the league, a possible Stanley Cup preview, and one of my favorite players, Alexander Ovechkin on the ice. Then came the hit. Or should I say, the shove. His play against Brian Campbell was as dirty as it gets. The replay was as sickening as watching it live. Every time. And Ive watched it twenty times. Why? I wanted to figure out what the supposed experts were watching, for it seemed that everyone associated with the broadcast didnt have that much of a problem with it. What?! As it so happens, there is a national broadcast of the NHL on something called NBC every Sunday morningafternoon. Im all for that. Anything that can grow the sport is good, right? Maybe, its time to re-examine that. I love Eddie Olczyk. I listen to him every time he talks hockey, on the radio or TV. I especially like the rapport he has with my boy Pat Foley. Its a shame he cant take him with him to NBC. I think the expression is dumb-downed. Doc Emerick is a great hockey announcer, a long ago Flyers announcer, but opinionated, he isnt. He gives you the game. Fair enough. Now as far as the other two on the telecast, what was that Jim Carrey movie where he was Lloyd Christmas?

After the shove Eddie expressed that fact that it was a shove from behind, and a penalty, maybe a 5 minute one. That was it. Really? Then the show really started during the intermission with Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury. I have no idea who McGuire is, besides being Milburys caddy, and a third wheel on the game telecast, but Milbury?

Isnt he the guy who drove the Islanders into the ground, defining the Peter Principle? Isnt he the Matt Millen of the NHL? Do they use the same pictures? To say his credibility is thin might be an over-statement. Then you combine it with the fact that his TV role-model is Don Cherry, and I have to ask, Who is this clown? During their segment they lamented the fact that Ovechkin was banished from the game and that the on-ice officials had over-reacted. Furthermore, McGuire said the shove just showed how strong Ovechkin was and Milbury said the game was going soft and was turning into squash. (The on-ice officials were the only ones with any onions in this whole mess.)
What Im wondering was, where is the analysis here? Hits or shoves from behind can kill someone. As Eddie said, its hard to protect yourself. Really? How about its cowardly? Campbell had well established position and get this, its important, had gotten rid of the puck 5 feet before contact, which was initiated from behind. Realizing that he could not take Campbell into the boards, he would have gotten an obvious penalty, he was more subtle with the shove.

This was a needless, reckless act. It had nothing to do with the play and nothing to do with a clean, fair finish of a check. And, most of all, why wasnt it mentioned ONCE during the telecast that Ovechkin has a history of these types of plays, in fact has been suspended before for a questionable hit? I think it would have been a fair assessment to say that Ovechkin is an exciting player, but his physical style sometimes crosses the line. The clown is doing his sorry impression of Canadas sartorially challenged favorite son and not worried about what the facts are. That Eddie did not challenge the intermission shenanigans when the game resumed was a disappointment. I know that he wants to be fair on a national telecast, and not appear to be a homer. But, fair is fair. Im sure if he was doing the game with Pat, they would have called it what it was, a dirty play by a player that has a history of such questionable acts.(And again, I am a fan of Ovechkin, but maybe he needs to be reigned in a little.)

The problem here is that hockey has a major issue with these hits. It has actually garnered national media attention. Besides the Olympics, that doesnt happen to the sport often. What the examination is asking is whether this is the same old, regionalized sport, being played by thugs? Or is it a fast exciting game that can be enjoyed by the masses? Its time for the powers to be to step up and say this type of play isnt acceptable by anyone. All of us that follow hockey had hoped that the sport could capitalize on the great exposure it got from the Vancouver Games, which had one of the most watched games ever, a game that was a great testament to the sport. Then the season resumed, and the national games on NBC went back to not being watched. Thank goodness for that, I guess. For what hockey needs to do is what the other sports have learned, protect your players, your stars especially, they are your greatest asset. Dont talk about it, do it! And for the love of god, if you have a national broadcast of your games, make sure that those on it represent it in the best way. No big deal though, its only your entire future that depends on it.

(Bartenders note: Upon finishing this blog late Thursday night, I learned of Wisniewski getting an 8 game suspension for his hit on Brent Seabrook. Im thinking: Ovechkin only got 2? Got to start somewhere I guess. More to come...)

Happy Birthday, Big Hurt! 50 Frank Thomas dates and fun facts for his 50th birthday

frank_thomas.jpg
AP

Happy Birthday, Big Hurt! 50 Frank Thomas dates and fun facts for his 50th birthday

May 27, 1968 – Frank Thomas born in Columbus, Georgia

June 5, 1989 – Frank Thomas drafted 7th overall (out of Auburn) in first round of 1989 MLB Draft

August 2, 1990 – MLB Debut – 0 for 4 with RBI at Milwaukee (Game 1 of doubleheader).  First PA was flyout vs Teddy Higuera. Knocked in GW run with a fielder’s choice off Randy Veres in top of 9th.

August 3, 1990 – First Major League hit – a 2-run triple off Mark Knudson in 7th inning at Milwaukee

August 28, 1990 – First career HR.  Solo HR at Metrodome off Gary Wayne in 9th inning

September 27, 1990 – First career Major League home run in Chicago (at Comiskey Park)

September 28, 1990 – Thomas hits the last White Sox home run at old Comiskey Park (off Randy Johnson)

June 24, 1991 – First career Grand Slam – off Michael Jackson of Mariners at New Comiskey Park

July 15, 1991 – First career multi-HR game – both off Mike Gardiner of the Red Sox at New Comiskey Park

September 28, 1991 – 128th walk of season, breaking Lu Blue’s club record set 60 years prior.  Thomas finished with 138.

September 16, 1992 – Lone career 5-hit game (in this game, Don Mattingly took a handful of some kid’s popcorn on a pop foul by Tim Raines)

August 31, 1993 – 100th career HR – off Sterling Hitchcock at Yankee Stadium

September 1, 1993 – 38th HR of season (at Yankee Stadium off Scott Kamieniecki), setting a new White Sox record (breaking record previously held by Dick Allen & Carlton Fisk)

September 5, 1993 – 40th HR of season – first player in White Sox history to reach 40.  Thomas finished with 41.

October 5, 1993 – First career postseason game.  He reached base 5 times. (1 for 1 with 4 walks) in Game 1 of 1993 ALCS vs Blue Jays at New Comiskey Park

October 9, 1993 – First career postseason home run.  Game 4 of 1993 ALCS vs Blue Jays at Skydome off Todd Stottlemyre

November 10, 1993 – Thomas named American League MVP by the BBWAA

April 19, 1994 – Home Run for the 5th straight game.  It’s the first of two 5-game HR streaks in 1994

May 29, 1994 – Home Run for the 5th straight game.  It’s his second 5-game HR streak of the season.

October 26, 1994 – Thomas named American League MVP by the BBWAA for the second straight season

July 10, 1995 – Won 1995 Home Run Derby at The Ballpark in Arlington, Texas

July 11, 1995 – First All-Star Home Run in White Sox history (at The Ballpark in Arlington, Texas)

March 31, 1996 – Frank Thomas hits the first regular season home run in March in MLB history (off Randy Johnson)

May 15, 1996 – Career-high 6 RBI (first of two times he did it) in 20-8 win vs Brewers in Milwaukee

June 9, 1996 – 200th career HR – off Jimmy Haynes at Oriole Park at Camden Yards

September 15, 1996 – first career 3-HR game (all three off Tim Wakefield); the first of which is career HR #215, passing Carlton Fisk for most HR in White Sox history  

May 20, 1997 – Thomas reaches base for the 15th straight plate appearance (HR, 1B, BB, 2B, 2B, BB, 1B, BB, 1B, 1B, 1B, 1B, 2B, BB, BB)

July 14, 1998 – First career walkoff HR (off Rick Aguilera of the Twins)

June 15, 1999 – Extended his hitting streak to 21 games – a career-best.  He reached base 44 times during the 21-game stretch (33 hits, 10 walks, 1 HBP)

August 7, 1999 – 300th career HR – off Kevin Appier at the Oakland Coliseum

July 15, 2000 – Career-high 6 RBI (second of two times he did it) in 15-7 win vs Cardinals at New Comiskey Park

July 23, 2002 – 495’ home run off Johan Santana in Chicago.  His longest home run at New Comiskey Park/Guaranteed Rate Field

July 2, 2003 – Second career Walkoff HR – off Eddie Guardado of the Twins

July 25, 2003 – 400th career HR – off Jorge Sosa of the Rays at US Cellular Field

August 4, 2003  - 2,000th career hit – a home run off Nate Field of the Royals at US Cellular Field

August 18, 2003 – Third career Walkoff HR – off Jarrod Washburn of the Angels

July 18, 2005 – 448th and final home run in a White Sox uniform (448 remains a franchise record)

July 20, 2005 – Last game in a White Sox uniform.  He went 1 for 4 (single off Nate Robertson) in 8-6 loss vs Tigers at US Cellular Field

May 22, 2006 – First game AGAINST the White sox.  He homers twice at US Cellular Field (2 solo HR off Jon Garland) but the White Sox win 5-4

July 6, 2006 – Fourth and final career walkoff HR (only one not in a White Sox uniform).  With Oakland A’s off Scot Shields of the Angels

September 11, 2006 – Home Run for the sixth straight game (with the Oakland A’s); his career-long streak

October 3, 2006 – His lone career postseason multi-HR game.  In his first postseason game not in a White Sox uniform (with A’s – vs Twins at Metrodome)

June 28, 2007 – 500th career HR (with Blue Jays – off Carlos Silva at the Metrodome)

September 17, 2007 – Second of 2 career 3-HR games.  This game was with Toronto Blue Jays.  Tim Wakefield allowed the first 2 (Wakefield allowed all 3 of his HR 9/15/1996)

August 9, 2008 – 521st and final career HR (with Oakland A’s) – off Armando Galarraga at Comerica Park

August 29, 2008 – Final MLB game – he went 2 for 4 vs Twins at the Oakland Coliseum.  His final hit was off Kevin Slowey; final plate appearance was strikeout vs Craig Breslow

February 12, 2010 – Held press conference at US Cellular Field to formally announce his retirement

August 29, 2010 – White Sox retire #35 on Frank Thomas Day at US Cellular Field

January 8, 2014 – Thomas elected to the Hall of Fame

July 27, 2014 – Inducted into the Hall of Fame, along with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa & Joe Torre

 

 

 

50 Frank Thomas fun facts

 

  1. 521 career Home Runs.

Tied for 20th in MLB history with Willie McCovey & Ted Williams

One of 27 players in MLB history with 500+ Home Runs

 

  1. Thomas had 11 career grand slams

 

  1. 7 extra-inning home runs is a White Sox franchise record.

 

  1. Thomas holds the White Sox season record for both

Home runs at home (30 in 2000)

Home Runs on the road (25 in 1995)

 

  1. Thomas homered against every MLB team except the Pirates

 

  1. Thomas homered more against the Twins (52 HR) than any other team

 

  1. Thomas had 2 career pinch hit home runs.  Both times he pinch hit for pitchers.  Jim Parque & Luis Vizcaino

 

  1. Thomas hit 3 triples before he hit his first Major League home run.

He’s one of two 500-HR club members with 3 or more triples before hitting his first HR.  The other one is Reggie Jackson (4 triples before first HR)

 

  1. Thomas had 3 triples in his first 17 MLB games.

Thomas had 9 triples in his remaining 2,305 MLB games.

 

  1. Thomas was born the same day as Jeff Bagwell.   They both won 1994 MVP awards.

 

  1. Thomas (1993-94) was the first to win American League MVP in consecutive seasons since Roger Maris in 1960-61.  Only Miguel Cabrera (2012-13) has done it since.

 

  1. Thomas’s .419 career On-Base percentage is the best by any right-handed hitter alive (with at least 100 career Major League plate apperances).

 

  1. His last 162 games in a White Sox uniform:  .254/.387/.566, 104 Runs, 47 Home Runs, 121 RBI

 

  1. Thomas (the White Sox 1989 first round pick) and Alex Fernandez (the White Sox 1990 first round pick)

made their Major League debuts in the same game (August 2, 1990 – game 1 of doubleheader at Milwaukee)

 

  1. Frank Thomas had 9 seasons with 100 Runs, 100 RBI and 100 Walks.  Only three players had more.

Babe Ruth (11), Lou Gehrig (11) and Barry Bonds (10)

 

  1. 521 career HR x 4 bases per HR x 90 feet per base = 187,560 feet.  Or roughly 35.52 Miles.  Thomas’s #35 is retired by the White Sox.

 

  1. Thomas collected his 500th career home run the same day Craig Biggio collected his 3,000th career hit.  June 28, 2007

 

  1. Thomas collected his 300th career home run the same day Wade Boggs collected his 3,000th career hit.  August 7, 1999

 

  1. Thomas hit the last White Sox home run at Old Comiskey Park (9/28/1990) and the first White Sox home run at New Comiskey Park (4/22/1991)

 

  1. Thomas also had the first White Sox home run at five other parks.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards (5/8/1992), Progressive Field (7/21/1994), Rangers Ballpark (5/13/1994), Tropicana Field (4/4/1998) & Minute Maid Park (6/2/2000)

 

  1. In 14 career games on his birthday, Thomas hit .468/.583/.766 with 2 HR, 10 RBI, 22 Hits & 13 Walks

 

  1. From 1951-present, 1,109 players have appeared in at least one game with the White Sox**  One has won a batting title for the White Sox.  Frank Thomas (.347 in 1997)

(prior to Thomas, Luke Appling won two batting titles – 1936 & 1943.  His last game with the Sox was 1950)

                **through May 24, 2018

 

  1. In 1997, Frank Thomas hit .417/.524/.748 in 185 PA with RISP.

He had 39 walks.  Only 14 strikeouts.

 

  1. Frank Thomas had 3 receptions for 45 yards as a Tight End for Auburn’s football team in 1986

 

  1. Thomas’s #35 is retired by the White Sox, but his first career Major League hit came while wearing #15.

 

  1. Had a hit off Charlie Hough (born 1/5/1948) & Felix Hernández (born 4/8/1986)

 

  1. In Thomas’s first 8 MLB seasons (1,076 games), he hit .330/.452/.600 with 879 walks and only 582 strikeouts.  And a 177 wRC+  Mike Trout is in his 8th MLB season.  His career wRC+ is 170

 

  1. Thomas is one of six players in MLB history with 500+ Home Runs and .300 BA, .400 OBP & .500 SLG. The others: Babe Ruth, Manny Ramírez, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams & Mel Ott

 

  1. Prior to joining the White Sox, Frank Thomas had 112 walks in 109 games with Birmingham in 1990

 

  1. Joe DiMaggio had 361 career home runs.  Frank Thomas had 361 career home runs… against right-handed pitchers alone.

 

  1. Frank Thomas had more career stolen bases (32) than Joe DiMaggio (30)

 

  1. Thomas homered in 28 different MLB ballparks, off 336 different pitchers.

 

  1. The most home runs Thomas hit off a pitcher was 9 off Mike Mussina.

30 hits is the most by Thomas off any pitcher during his career

 

  1. 9 of Thomas’s home runs were off pitchers currently in the Hall of Fame.

5 off Randy Johnson, 2 off Jack Morris, 1 off Pedro Martínez, 1 off Goose Gossage.

 

  1. Thomas homered off 17 different pitchers who won a Cy Young award

(Clemens, Colón, Cone, Hentgen, Hershiser, R. Johnson, P. Martínez, McDowell, Sabathia, Saberhagen, Santana, Sutcliffe, Valenzuela, Viola, Webb, Welch & Zito)

 

  1. Thomas homered off 6 pitchers who threw a perfect game

(Mark Buehrle, David Cone, Dennis Martínez, Kenny Rogers, David Wells & Randy Johnson)

 

  1. Thomas had 1,704 career RBI. 

He drove himself in 521 times.

He drove in exactly 100 different teammates

Most often driven in?  Ray Durham (184 times)

 

  1. 1,047 players had at least 100 career plate appearances at old Comiskey Park.  Frank Thomas had the best on-base percentage of all of them

(.510 OBP in 102 PA)

 

  1. Thomas had a 52-game on-base streak to begin 1996… the streak was 57 games if you included the last 5 games of 1995.

 

  1. In his first 162 career MLB games, Frank Thomas reached base 313 times.

He hit .317/.449/.532 with 110 Runs, 27 HR, 106 RBI, 134 BB, 132 K, 3 HBP

 

  1. Frank Thomas has 5 of the 12 seasons of at least 40 home runs in White Sox history.  Nobody else has more than two. 

 

  1. A Double in his 149th career plate appearance (in his 39th career MLB game) put his career batting average at .303.  That career batting average never fell under .300 again.

 

  1. Frank Thomas has the most career HR by a player named Frank Thomas (521); which is 235 more than the other Frank Thomas, who was the Frank Thomas who played his final MLB game in a Chicago Uniform (5/30/1966 – with the Cubs).

 

  1. Frank Thomas’s first career grand slam (6/24/1991) scored two future Hall of Famers (Thomas & Tim Raines) and two future White Sox managers (Ozzie Guillen & Robin Ventura)

 

  1. Four position players were picked ahead of Frank Thomas in the 1989 MLB Draft.  Two never reached the Majors (Jeff Jackson & Paul Coleman) and the other two combined for 65 career home runs (Tyler Houston & Donald Harris).

 

  1. 508 players had at least 1,000 plate appearances during the 1990s.  Of those 508 the top two in on-base percentage were Frank Thomas (.440) and Barry Bonds (.434)

 

  1. Thomas hit .322/.448/.635 career vs lefties

 

  1. Thomas is the only player in White Sox history with multiple 5-game home run streaks.  Both were in 1994.

 

  1. In 38 career plate appearances against Bartolo Colón, Thomas hit .483/.605/.828 with 2 HR, 14 hits & 9 walks

 

  1. Besides his 448 HR, Thomas also is the White Sox franchise career leader in Runs (1,327), Doubles (447), RBI (1,465), Walks (1,466), OBP (.427 – min 1,500 PA) & SLG (.568 – min 1,500 PA)

Joe Maddon wants Cubs fans to cheer for Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez

Joe Maddon wants Cubs fans to cheer for Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez

Why can't a trade be looked at as a win-win? 

There doesn't always have to be a clear winner and loser.

Prior to Jose Quintana taking the ball for Saturday's game against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field, Joe Maddon was asked about the players (Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease) the Cubs gave up to acquire Quintana as well as the deal with the Yankees for Aroldis Chapman in July 2016.

Gleyber Torres is absolutely killing it in New York, hitting .323 with a 1.014 OPS, 9 homers and 24 RBI in only 29 games. Six of those homers have come in the last week alone. 

With the White Sox, both Jimenez and Cease have found success in Double-A and Advanced Class-A, respectively.

Jimenez is hitting .331 with a .992 OPS, 9 homers and 35 RBI in 35 games. Cease is 6-2 with a 2.83 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 57 strikeouts in 47.2 innings.

As the Cubs work to get their offense settled into a consistent groove, some Cubs fans have been looking at what might've been with guys like Torres and Jimenez.

"You can't have it both ways, man," Maddon said. "I'm happy for Gleyber. When he left, we talked about it. And we talked about the kids that went to the White Sox. It's good stuff. 

"I'm really disappointed if anybody's disappointed in the fact we won the World Series in 2016 and the fact that the guy we're talking about that we had to give up Gleyber for was so instrumental in that happening. That's bad process if you're gonna get stuck on something like that. Be happy for Gleyber. Be happy for him."

Maddon has been a fan of Torres' since he saw him in spring training in 2015, Maddon's first year in the Cubs organization.

"This kid's 21, with high, high baseball intellect," Maddon said. "He's very similar to Javy on the field. I've had some great conversations with him in the past. 

"The first time I saw him in spring training, I thought this guy's for real. It was like one at-bat, line drive to RF, I said who is this guy? And then you have a conversation with him. He's solid."

Maddon's point is a great one — would Cubs fans prefer to still have Torres and NOT have the 2016 World Series championship? Because that title doesn't happen without Chapman, regardless of how you feel about him as a person or what the Cubs had to give up to acquire him.

"Don't play that game," Maddon said. "Be happy for [Torres]. I'm gonna be happy when Eloy and Dylan make it up here. All these dudes, I want them to get here and be really good. And the guys that we get, I want them to be really good. 

"I don't understand why somebody's gotta lose all the time. This is an absolute classic example of what was good for both teams."