Frank Thomas on Braun: Those tests dont lie

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Frank Thomas on Braun: Those tests dont lie

With the latest report that Ryan Brauns positive test for a banned substance was caused by medication hes taking for a private medical issue, it would seem like there might be a ray of hope that the Milwaukee Brewers outfielder is true to his word that he has never taken a performance-enhancing drug.However, one person still has his doubts.Frank Thomas.The bottom line is those tests dont lie. He tested positive for something, Thomas said in an interview Monday with Comcast SportsNet. If its something medical, its got to be something weve never heard of to spike the testosterone to that type of level.When Braun was tested during the playoffs, his testosterone levels were insanely high, the highest ever for anyone who has ever taken a test, twice the level of the highest test ever taken, a source told the New York Daily News.When it comes to drug testing, Thomas is a unique authority on the matter. The former White Sox slugger who hit 521 home runs in his 19-year career was a vocal advocate for testing during his playing days, especially at the height of the steroid era when he noticed smaller, lesser players suddenly explode -- both physically and numerically as their home run totals spiked to record heights.
It probably cost Thomas the 2000 American League MVP, an award he narrowly lost to Jason Giambi, who later admitted to taking steroids. Its a sensitive subject for Thomas, and now that Braun, who just won the 2011 National League MVP, has a PED-cloud hanging over him, Frank is not afraid to be frank in discussing the ramifications.Its messy. Its messy because he won the National League Most Valuable Player, and if the test results were made public a month before, he would have not won the National League MVP. So it becomes a messy situation, Thomas said. "Right now I know with a majority of voters, he probably wouldn't have won that MVP if they had known that information that he had flunked the drug test."Braun is facing a 50-game suspension. He is currently appealing the ruling through an arbitrator, but as far as anyone knows, out of a reported 13 attempts, no player has ever won an appeal following a positive drug test.At this point, I want to wait to hear what the problem is, Thomas said of Braun. As you know, I lost an MVP to Jason Giambi back in 2000, but I told people I lost a vote. I felt I was an MVP that year. I had better numbers, I led a team that year that was expected to finish last in the division (the Sox finished first). So some things you cant get back, and this year Braun beat out a fine centerfielder Matt Kemp in LA who almost had a triple crown year, so this is going to be a messy situation one way or another.Thomas commends the leagues current drug policy and the harsher penalties being handed out.These 50-game suspensions are some serious suspensions, he said.However, does that mean that everyone is clean?Thomas says no.I think where theres smoke, theres fire, Thomas said. Theres a lot of chemists out there that say they can beat the tests. When you throw this type of money around, and guys are making 20-25 million a year there are going to be some guys that will really take that chance because its a life-changing moment when you get a check for 25 million, so some guys will take that risk.Did Braun?We dont know the answer.But we know this: Thomas has questions.For more of Thomas' comments, tune in to Chicago Baseball Hot Stove Tuesday at 5 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet.

The last White Sox rebuild: Bobby Howry remembers aftermath of '97 'White Flag' trade

The last White Sox rebuild: Bobby Howry remembers aftermath of '97 'White Flag' trade

Bobby Howry wasn't aware of the fact he was part of one of the more infamous transactions in White Sox history until a few years after it happened. 

In 1997, with the White Sox only 3 1/2 games behind the division-leading Cleveland Indians, general manager Ron Schueler pulled the trigger on a massive trade that left many around Chicago — including some in the White Sox clubhouse — scratching their heads. Heading to the San Francisco Giants was the team's best starting pitcher (left-hander Wilson Alvarez), a reliable rotation piece (Doug Drabek) and a closer coming off a 1996 All-Star appearance (Roberto Hernandez). In return, the White Sox acquired six minor leaguers: right-handers Howry, Lorenzo Barcelo, Keith Foulke, left-hander Ken Vining, shortstop Mike Caruso and outfielder Brian Manning. Only Foulke had major league experience, and it wasn't exactly good (an 8.26 ERA in 44 2/3 innings). 

Howry was largely oblivious to the shocking nature of the trade that brought him from the Giants to White Sox until, before the 1999 season, he was featured in a commercial that referenced the "White Flag trade."

"I don't even know if I knew it was called that before then," Howry recalled last weekend at the Sheraton Grand Chicago at Cubs Convention. 

The trade was a stark signal that youth would be emphasized on 35th and Shields. Both Alvarez and Hernandez were set to become free agents after the 1997 season, and the 40-year-old Darwin wasn't a long-term piece, either. With youngsters like Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Lee rising through the farm system, the move was made with an eye on the future and maximizing the return on players who weren't going to be long-term pieces. 

Sound familiar? 

It's hardly a perfect comparison, but when the White Sox traded Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox in December for four minor leaguers — headlined by top-100 prospects in Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech — it was the first rebuilding blockbuster trade the organization had made since the 1997 White Flag deal. Shortly after trading their staff ace at the 2016 Winter Meetings, the White Sox shipped Adam Eaton — their best position player — to the Washington Nationals for a package of prospects featuring two more highly-regarded youngsters in Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. 

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And there still could be more moves on the horizon, too, for Rick Hahn's White Sox (Jose Quintana has been the subject of persistent rumors since the Winter Meetings). But for those looking for an optimistic outlook of the White Sox rebuilding plans, it's worth noting that the club's last youth movement, to an extent, was successful.

Only Howry (3.74 ERA over 294 games) and Foulke (2.87 ERA, 100 saves over 346 games) became significant long-term pieces for the White Sox from those six players brought over in 1997. And it wasn't like Schueler dealt away any of the franchise's cornerstones — like Frank Thomas, Albert Belle and Robin Ventura — but with future starters in Lee, Ordonez and Chris Singleton on their way the White Sox were able to go young. A swap of promising youthful players (Mike Cameron for Paul Konerko) proved to be successful a year and a half later. 

And with a couple of shrewd moves — namely, dealing Jamie Navarro and John Snyder to the Milwaukee Brewers for Cal Eldred and Jose Valentin — the "Kids Can Play" White Sox stormed to an American League Central title in 2000. 

"It was great," Howry said of developing with so many young players in the late 1999's and 2000. "You come in and you feel a lot more comfortable when you got a lot of young guys and you're all coming up together and building together. It's not like you're walking into a primarily veteran clubhouse where you're kind of having to duck and hide all the time. We had a great group of guys and we built together over a couple of years, and putting that together was a lot of fun."

What sparked things in 2000, Howry said, was that ferocious brawl with the Detroit Tigers on April 22 in which 11 players were ejected (the fight left Foulke needing five stitches and former Tigers catcher/first baseman Robert Fick doused in beer). 

"About the time we had that fight with Detroit, that big brawl, all of a sudden after then we just seemed to kind of come together and everything started to click and it took off," Howry said. 

The White Sox went 80-81 in 1998 and slipped to 75-86 in 1999, but their 95-67 record in 2000 was the best in the league — though it only amounted to a three-game sweep at the hands of the wild-card winning Seattle Mariners. 

Still, the White Flag trade had a happy ending two and a half years later. While with the White Sox, Howry didn't feel pressure to perform under the circumstances with which he arrived, which probably helped those young players grow together into eventual division champions. 

"I was 23 years old," Howry said. "At 23 years old, I didn't really — I was just like, okay, I'm still playing, I got a place to play. I didn't really put a whole lot of thought into three veteran guys for six minor leaguers." 

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins discusses staying at catcher

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins discusses staying at catcher

White Sox 2016 first round pick Zack Collins joins the podcast to talk about his future with the White Sox, when he hopes to make the big leagues and the doubters who question whether he can be a major league catcher.   He discusses comparisons with Kyle Schwarber, his impressions of Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, why his dad took him to a Linkin Park concert when he was 6 years old and much more.