Sox Drawer: What still hurts the Big Hurt?

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Sox Drawer: What still hurts the Big Hurt?

Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010
6:46 PM

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

Youve seen Frank Thomas hit. Youve seen him run. Youve seen him throw.

Now get ready to see the man cry.

Sunday is Frank Thomas Day at U.S. Cellular Field, an event honoring the White Sox all-time greatest hitter, who gave gallons of blood, sweat, and tears to the franchise for 16 seasons.

Now that hes retired, the blood and sweat are gone. All thats left are the tears.

Im going to try and keep a straight face, but its going to be hard, Thomas said in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. I know the emotions are going to be flowing (on Sunday). Its going to be difficult.

So yes, there is crying in baseball. Its happened to Thomas before, but for an entirely different reason.

The 1994 baseball strike.

The infamous labor catastrophe that abrupty canceled the season might have robbed Thomas and the White Sox of a World Series title. It still hurts the Big Hurt, a gash that remains inside his heart, a wound that might never heal.

It was heartbreaking, because I was at my best that year, Thomas remembers. I had everything rolling. My mind was just in a great place. For that to happen, I had to pick up the pieces just like everybody else. But its been tough to swallow over the last 16 years.

On Aug. 10, the White Sox were in first place, 21 games over .500, predicted by most to be the favorite to represent the American League in the World Series. Besides Thomas, the Sox lineup featured Robin Ventura, Tim Raines, Julio Franco, Lance Johnson, and Ozzie Guillen. The starting rotation had Jack McDowell, Alex Fernandez, Wilson Alvarez, and Jason Bere.

That team to me had it all, Thomas said. Hitting, pitching, defense. We were just a very talented bunch, and we had gelled together because of the disappointment of the 1993 playoffs (losing in the ALCS to Toronto in six games). We were ready to go all the way.

And Frank? He wasnt tearing the cover off the ball that season, he consistently severed and slashed it. He was batting .353, with an on-base percentage of .494, the highest since Ted Williams in 1957. He also had 38 homers and 101 RBIs.

But after beating the As in Oakland 2-1, Frank and everyone else were told to pack their bags and go home. The season was over. The league was shutting down.

Frank sat at his locker that night and cried.

I did because I knew it was my last game of the season, and because I knew that I was at my best. I said to myself that night, I dont think I can ever play at that level again, and have everything go my way. The hits were getting through, hitting behind runners, home runs, scoring runs, everything was just right where it needed to be.

It was a tough pill to swallow, about the size of a donut, which would ironically be repeated in 2005, when the White Sox won the World Series with Franks foot strapped to a cast, the slugger lost for the season with a fractured ankle.

He couldnt win, even when the White Sox did.

It was tough, Thomas said. On one side I was so happy for the organization, on the other side I was just torn, because I was sitting there going, How can we finally get to the World Series after all of this, and Im not playing. But this was my heart. This was 16 years of hard work, and I saw this team go from a bottom feeder to the top of the heap and it was such an amazing thing to be through all of that, because a lot of the guys on the team had no idea. (Before) nobody wanted to watch this team, no one wanted to put this team on TV, but to be World Series champions from there, and I was able to be there year in and year out through it all, it made my life.

Today, Franks baseball life is pretty full. Earlier this summer he became an official White Sox ambassador. Hes also spent the season on the set with Bill Melton and I as an analyst on White Sox Pre and Post-Game Live. As much as Id like to think that my presence has been a life altering experience for Frank, and that he will remain with Comcast SportsNet from here to eternity, he has other ideas for his baseball future.

How does manager Frank Thomas sound?

Of course I could manage. I think I could easily manage. I think I would be a great hitting coach, but at this particular time, Im happy with what Im doing, and well see. Working with young guys my last five years in the league, thats all I did day-to-day, was helping young guys with hitting situations, and getting them through tough times.

But now that his playing days are over, there is one goal that has yet to be fulfilled - induction into the Hall of Fame. Hes eligible in 2014.

Its in the back of my mind. Thats a goal of everyone after the first few years in the league and youve had success. Everyone wants to be compared to the greatest who have played in this game. To ever get the opportunity to be a Hall of Famer, I would be overwhelmed and overjoyed and a proud member, because I do know what it takes to get to that level because I put myself through it.

Now if he can only get through Sundays ceremony without weeping. That might be his greatest accomplishment.

David Robertson, Nate Jones return to White Sox after WBC victory

David Robertson, Nate Jones return to White Sox after WBC victory

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Having experienced a playoff-like atmosphere at the World Baseball Classic, David Robertson and Nate Jones already feel prepared for the regular season. 

The two relievers returned to White Sox camp on Friday morning bearing gold medals from a Team USA WBC title run that concluded on Wednesday night with an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Robertson, who recorded the final three outs of the clinching victory, said he's glad to be back and won't need much of a tune-up to be ready for the April 3 season opener.

"Back up to speed?" Robertson said. "More like slow down and get ready for the season. I'll probably play catch (Friday). I didn't throw (Thursday), I spent the day traveling. Probably play catch today, and be ready to throw (Saturday). If I needed to throw today, I could. I feel like I'm season ready right now."

"It feels good to be back. It's been a long trip doing this WBC, so it's good to be back and relax a little bit. Have a couple days before we start the season."

Both Jones and Robertson appeared four times each for Team USA with similar results. Each allowed a solo home run but nothing else. Jones said he brought his gold medal back to camp because he isn't yet ready to put it in his safety deposit box. His favorite moments of the tournament were brought on by raucous crowds.

"Once you get a crowd chanting USA that was a pretty cool moment," Jones said. "You're proud of representing your country, and once they did that, it all kind of set in, like, ‘Wow, this is happening.'

"It's just pure excitement, everybody going crazy."

Jones and Robertson said they're pleased to have returned to the relative tranquility of White Sox camp after they lived out of a suitcase for the previous 18 days. Both were set to meet with pitching coach Don Cooper and manager Rick Renteria to discuss their upcoming schedule. Jones said he expected to throw a side session on Friday in front of Cooper to have his mechanics reviewed. Robertson last pitched on Wednesday and didn't know when he'd throw again.

"They've been busy, obviously, with Robbie finishing up the last game," Renteria said. "We'll see how the schedule lines up in terms of their usage for the remaining 9-10 days."

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Robertson is pretty sure he won't need much work. Whereas the team's closer normally waits until the first week of March to appear in a game, Robertson has pitched in plenty this spring. Each of the last four has had a ton more intensity than any normal Cactus League work.

"It felt like playoff baseball really early in the year," Robertson said. "Just coming from Miami, trying to win a couple days in there was really hard. Fans were really loud. That place was a very intense environment, and it didn't feel like you were the home team at all.

"It felt like (a home game) when we were in San Diego We were the home team there, and when we got to L.A., same thing. Although, I will say that when we were playing the Japanese, it erupted a couple times when they had some big moments in their game. It was just a lot of fun to play in this whole event. It was definitely more than I expected."

Jose Quintana gets the Opening Day start for White Sox

Jose Quintana gets the Opening Day start for White Sox

 

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jose Quintana has been named the Opening Day starter — for the White Sox.

While many are surprised he still hasn't been traded, few should be shocked by the news manager Rick Renteria delivered on Friday, when he announced Quintana would pitch the April 3 opener.

With Chris Sale gone to Boston, Quintana, a first-time All-Star in 2016, has been the odds-on favorite to take over as the team's ace. The only question seemed to be whether or not he'd still be in a White Sox uniform when the season began. But the club made it clear Friday that Quintana is their guy and he'll face the Detroit Tigers in the first game of 2017. The only one who seemed a little taken aback about the news is Quintana.

"I was surprised," Quintana said. "I knew I may get the ball for that day, but they didn't say nothing, so you didn't know. I just kept going and doing my workouts and all my stuff. I'm really, really happy with this opportunity. It's huge for me. I can't wait for that day to come.

"I'm excited to have this opportunity. It's a huge honor for me to have the ball for Opening Day the first time in my life. And I think it's a once-in-a-life opportunity."

Asked about the announcement earlier in the week, Renteria said he needed more time. Many speculated that it meant the White Sox were continuing to listen to offers for Quintana, who has drawn constant interest since the team began its rebuild in December.

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Quintana, who went 13-12 with a 3.20 ERA and 181 strikeouts in 208 innings last season, has looked fantastic all spring. Pitching in front of more than a dozen scouts on Thursday, Quintana made his first Cactus League appearance in a month and allowed two hits over seven scoreless innings. The left-hander also put on a brilliant performance for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic on March 10 as he retired the first 17 Team USA hitters he faced before allowing a hit.

"He's very happy about it," Renteria said. "He has obviously earned it.

"I don't know if he was surprised as much as he was elated and proud to be given the opportunity to be the Opening Day starter. It's a privilege."

Quintana's resume of consistency made him a clear-cut choice for the nod. He heads into 2017 having pitched at least 200 innings in each of the past four seasons. In that span, he's produced a 3.32 ERA and 18.1 Wins Above Replacement, according to fangraphs.com. That figure represents the seventh-highest WAR total among all big league pitchers in that span.

Even though he's viewed as the staff ace, Quintana — who potentially has four years and $36.85 million left on his current contract — said he was surprised by the news because the club hadn't yet informed him of the honor.

"It means a lot for me, especially after last year when you make the All-Star team and this year the opportunity to play in the WBC and now you have the opportunity to pitch on Opening Day," Quintana said. "That's a lot of things happening for me now and I'm happy. And really blessed. You just try to do all my things every time.

"Maybe they don't know what it means for me, but it's a big thing."