Jim Thome

Top White Sox stories of 2018: Jim Thome inducted, Harold Baines elected to Hall of Fame

Top White Sox stories of 2018: Jim Thome inducted, Harold Baines elected to Hall of Fame

As the new year approaches, we're counting down the top White Sox stories from 2018.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum has had an injection of White Sox flavor in recent years.

After Frank Thomas was inducted in 2014 and Tim Raines went in last year, this year saw further representation, with Jim Thome enshrined and Harold Baines elected to grow the contingent of former South Siders in the Hall.

Thome's election was a no-doubter. The five-time All Star and four-time top-10 MVP finisher ranks eighth all-time with 612 home runs. He's sporting a Cleveland Indians hat on his plaque, but his induction was well loved in his native Illinois, where he spent four seasons as a member of the White Sox, during which he launched 134 of those home runs.

None of those dingers was more beloved than his solo shot in the Blackout Game in 2008, the only run scored in the one-game playoff against the Minnesota Twins that won the White Sox their most recent AL Central title.

A whole career of moments like that got him a trip to Cooperstown, where he was inducted over the summer.

Baines' election, which just happened earlier this month during the Winter Meetings, was the complete opposite, a huge surprise, but no less appreciated on the South Side, where Baines spent 14 of his 22 big league seasons. While Baines' election by the Today's Game Committee — which included team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and former White Sox manager Tony La Russa — generated disbelief across the internet, the White Sox celebrated his joining the ranks of the game's all-time greats.

"I think the people with the White Sox might be happier than Harold because we all love Harold so much," Reinsdorf said the night of Baines' election in Nevada. "We’re just so happy for him. But he deserved it. He got in because he deserved to get in — not because he’s a great guy. He is a great guy.

"He just deserved it. It was just a shame he didn’t get in sooner than this. Harold is a great player. You look at the numbers he put up in the '80s and the '90s and played in the majors for 22 years. I don’t think he ever had a bad year. Of course, there’s no finer person than Harold Baines.

"When the game was on the line in the eighth or ninth inning, and you can pick somebody to you wanted up, it was Harold Baines."

Controversy aside, both Thome and Baines joined baseball's most elite fraternity in 2018, which came as terrific news to their biggest fans on the South Side. Of course, both Thome and Baines remain part of the organization. Baines was a longtime coach after his playing career ended and is still involved around Guaranteed Rate Field. Thome is a special assistant in the White Sox front office and reportedly helped deliver their pitch to mega free agent Bryce Harper this winter.

That makes them both members of the White Sox family, and their achieving baseball's highest honor was celebrated as much at the corner of 35th and Shields as it was in the Thome and Baines households.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.

MLB teams pulling out all the stops for Bryce Harper and Cubs reportedly still in the mix

MLB teams pulling out all the stops for Bryce Harper and Cubs reportedly still in the mix

Bryce Harper is still dominating headlines this Hot Stove season and now we're getting a glimpse into the big pitches from each MLB team.

Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan detailed how teams around the league are courting the superstar free agent, including the Los Angeles Dodgers sending Magic Johnson to Las Vegas (Harper's hometown) and the White Sox sending Jim Thome.

Passan also discussed the Cubs, but only to say they're expected to "check in" on Harper. 

The Cubs have been touting their financial constraints for more than a month, citing the rise in payroll that is projected to eclipse the luxury tax threshold ($206 million) even before any other signings or moves take place this winter. The moves they've made already support that claim, dealing away Drew Smyly and his $7 million deal ($5 million against the luxury tax) to clear room for Cole Hamels' $20 million option and sending Tommy La Stella to the Los Angeles Angels last week ahead of an increase in salary that is supposed to take the pinch-hitting specialist up to about $1.2 million.

Still, Theo Epstein's front office kicks the tires on any move that could possibly make their team better and acquiring a player with Harper's absurd talent would certainly improve the lineup, regardless of cost. It would be irresponsible to not at least "check in" on Harper's market and get a sense of who he is as a player/person with a face-to-face meeting.

The Philadelphia Phillies still look like the favorite in the Harper Sweepstakes and the moves they've made this week further back that claim, as Passan pointed out, by opening up a spot in the outfield and gaining a bit of financial flexibility in the Carlos Santana deal with the Seattle Mariners, allowing Rhys Hoskins to move back to first base.

The Cubs are on track for roughly $219 million in payroll against the luxury tax in 2019 and the Dodgers aren't far behind at $197 million while the Phillies sit at just $132 million and the White Sox are at a stunning $81 million.

The next couple weeks will be fascinating for Harper's market as MLB's Winter Meetings take place in Vegas, where the superstar will be just a short car ride away from the game's top decision-makers.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Cubs easily on your device.

Report: White Sox felt best way to pitch future Hall of Famer Bryce Harper was with current Hall of Famer Jim Thome

Report: White Sox felt best way to pitch future Hall of Famer Bryce Harper was with current Hall of Famer Jim Thome

The race for Bryce Harper is on. And while information regarding the running order is hard to come by, the White Sox reportedly have a bib.

It's been just about a month since the initial report of their interest in signing Harper, the biggest fish in this winter's free-agent pond who's expected to receive the richest contract in baseball history. Flurries of other reports have painted the White Sox offseason as an aggressive one as they are perhaps looking to infuse their rebuilding effort with one of the game's best players.

Well, we have at least a couple more details on the White Sox pursuit of Harper from Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan and Tim Brown. Apparently the White Sox are one of about 12 teams who have already met with or plan to meet with Harper in Las Vegas, his hometown and the site of this month's Winter Meetings. The South Siders must be in the former category because Passan and Brown added that they used Jim Thome as part of their pitch.

What better way to try to lure a future Hall of Famer to your team than with a current Hall of Famer?

Of course, the biggest news in Passan and Brown's report is that the Los Angeles Dodgers used a similar strategy, sending owner and sports icon Magic Johnson to pitch Harper on the wonders of Southern California. Thome didn't have the surf to sell, obviously, but he's as much of an expert as you'll find on the benefits of putting on a White Sox uniform. He spent four seasons on the South Side, witnessed firsthand the aftermath, if not the actual event, of a World Series winning team and can speak to getting the royal treatment in his post-playing career. The team put him in the front office upon his retirement and showered him with deserved praise in celebrating his Hall of Fame induction this past summer.

Thome can also speak to playing for the team considered by some the favorite to land Harper, the Philadelphia Phillies. The White Sox acquired him in a trade with the Phillies after his third year in the City of Brotherly Love. You'd have to imagine, as a representative of the White Sox, he had more good things to say about Chicago.

It's hard to get a sense of the timing of Harper's decision or the specific frontrunners from the details in this report. You'd have to imagine Harper's decision won't come before the Winter Meetings, giving him a chance to meet with however many of baseball's 30 clubs want to pitch him when they all descend on Sin City. As for which of those teams already have or have plans to? The White Sox were mentioned alongside the Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees in that roughly 12-team group. The Cubs, San Diego Padres, Washington Nationals, Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals were name dropped in the report, as well.

Regardless of who they're from, the White Sox will surely be competing against extremely lucrative offers, though with all the reports about their aggressiveness, it makes sense their's would be, too. After all, it'd be hard to be in on Harper if you weren't willing to hand out one of the biggest contracts ever, and the White Sox have been touting their financial flexibility, general manager Rick Hahn's preferred phrase to explain the fact that the team has hardly any long-term financial commitments to speak of.

The biggest hurdle seems to be their pitch of planned future success as opposed to pitches of immediate, championship-caliber rosters that Harper could join. The White Sox rebuild still has big league success as coming a year or two down the road, and even with a talent as immense as Harper's, would they even be a playoff team in 2019? Compare that to, say, the Yankees, who won 100 games last year and have an All-Star type player at most of the positions on the field. Joining that, if the money were equal, would seem difficult to pass up.

But Hahn, for one, believes the White Sox loaded farm system and the bright future it's planned to yield is a darn good selling point, too.

And having a Hall of Famer like Thome as the pitchman can't hurt, either.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.