Given the stomach punch we've all recently been subjected to, I've been thinking about what could possibly give us hope, here in this seemingly dark pit of despair. I've got something for all of us to believe in: believe in Frank Thomas.
I've done some thinking lately about our venerable DH and his legacy, and I've come to the conclusion that Mr. Thomas has valid reason to be very, very bitter. Thomas has been a vocal advocate for steroids testing for about 13 years. He was the only active player to openly talk to the Mitchell Report. He, if anyone is, is free from the taint of steroids.
I remember, as many of you do, the incredible feat it was to get to 30 home runs in a season, much less 40, 50, 60 or 70. If you couple the way in which home runs were hit prior to the steroids era and the numbers that Big Frank has put up without help, his stats are really impressive.
His awesomeness gets lost in the mix however. Several reasons:
1. Five of the top ten home run hitters of all-time, strangely enough, came to be in the steroids era. We don't have the answers to who and how and how long and all that. But we can, fairly safely I think, assume that not all of those players' numbers are legitimate. If they don't do steroids, Frank stands out more, as he should.
2. He played the majority of his career on the Southside. He was not blessed with a career in a major market, or at least not the top billing in a major market. The White Sox are the Bay Area A's, and the A's are the A's and Toronto is an afterthought in the AL East (I mean, when they're not spanking us). point is, he's never had the full attention of the media in the regular season.
3. He worked the count as well as anyone. Frank, even early in his career, was never opposed to taking a walk. If you didn't give him something to hit, he'd take his base. If you did, or made a mistake, he almost always made you pay for it. But contrary to what we at AN think, walks are not sexy.
4. His playoff experience...well, let's just say he has as much playoff experience in gold and green in one year as he did in 16 with the Sox. We gave him his only postseason winning series. He hasn't really had the media's full attention in the post-season.
5. His home run totals are consistent (thank you, Mr. Morgan) with the home run leaders in the pre-steroids era, also known as "not sexy." Here are his season totals for the last nineteen years: 7, 32, 24, 41, 38, 40, 40, 35, 29, 15, 43, 4, 28, 42, 18, 12, 39, 26, 7. As a point of reference, Reggie led the league in home runs four times. He had 32 in '73, 36 in '75, 41 in '80 and 39 in '82.
Frank Thomas is, essentially, the anti-Bonds. He apparently took the road less traveled. This is not so much an indictment of the steroids era, as much as a call for hailing a contrarian who refused to play along. So, we should, if nothing else, bathe in the splendor and glory that is The Big Hurt for the remainder of the season. He's our guy. And he's gotten the short end of the baseball legacy stick and he's managed to keep a good attitude about it, and let's face it, the guy's just awesome. Huge man-crush. 'Nuff said.
Okay, linky links:
SuSlu's worried about our closer's sleeping.
If Bob Geren says this about you:
"A real base-running mistake," Geren said.
is that the equivalent of a real manager calling you out?
SuSlu also said those bums in the GWN had the audacity to boo Big Frank on Monday. Well, Canada, allow me to say "Boo!" to you:
Frank Thomas, let go by the Blue Jays in April after he complained about diminished playing time, drew scattered boos in his first appearance in Toronto since he was released.
In case you missed it in yesterday's DLD, sslinger brought us emergency sandwich. Apologies for the repeat, but I didn't want anyone to miss it, and I wanted you all to note where the call(s) originated.
JoPo, Live at Budokan, er, China!
Read up on the hero of the day.
Fagitaboutit --this is in my neck of the woods--perhaps I should go up for a couple days and do an AN special report...
Jim Caple at ESPN (I know, I know--I'm sleeping with the enemy) has an interesting debate about closers and their changed role in baseball in the last twenty-five years, including quotes from BB. Billy is asked why the modern ball club will bring in their closer up by three, but not normally in a late-inning situations where the game is clearly on the line:
"I'll tell you why," Oakland general manager Billy Beane says. "It's the same reason more football coaches don't go for it on fourth-and-1. Because when it doesn't work, 30 of you guys come storming in wondering why the manager didn't go to the closer. It's turned into a situation where a lot of emotion is tied to that decision, just as a lot of emotion is tied to the fourth-down decision. Even if you know the odds, it's more comfortable being wrong when you go to the closer or the punter.
"The position has become very media-driven. It became a national story when Boston announced it would go with a bullpen by committee."
It will probably be less of a story in Oakland.
Dump away, peeps, dump away.