Chicago White Sox

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.

Confidence continues to build after Lucas Giolito's latest strong start

Confidence continues to build after Lucas Giolito's latest strong start

Nothing is proven, Lucas Giolito will have to come back next season and show he can do this once again. But another huge development in the White Sox rebuild has been the continued development and success of Giolito late in the season.

The young White Sox pitcher added another outstanding performance to the ledger on Sunday afternoon.

Giolito pitched seven sharp innings and helped the White Sox officially avoid 100 losses in an 8-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals at Guaranteed Rate Field. He allowed a run and five hits with five strikeouts and no walks. It’s another step in a nice turnaround for Giolito, who struggled at Triple-A earlier in the year.

“I feel like this is where I can pitch,” Giolito said. “I can pitch deep into games. I wouldn't really say awestruck or anything like that. I’d say that there’s a lot of struggles there earlier this year. I worked through those … I feel like getting the confidence back up, it’s all I really needed to feel comfortable and be ready to go.”

Some of the metrics would suggest Giolito is in line for a dropoff. While his earned-run average is 2.38, his Fielding Independent Pitching is 4.94. His xFIP is a little lower at 4.42. But the elevated numbers are in part due to Giolito not missing as many bats and striking out 6.75 batters per nine innings.

But Giolito’s big-league numbers also come at a time in which he has never pitched more. He has pitched a combined 174 innings this season, which dwarfs his previous high of 136 2/3 innings in 2016.

Despite the workload, the right-hander continues to bring good stuff. He got seven swings and misses and 10 called strikes with his four-seam fastball, which averaged 92.3 mph, according to Baseball Savant.

“He's got angle, he's got height,” manager Rick Renteria said “He's got good angle so that creates, believe or not, some deception and he can ride it up out of the zone. And then he comes out from that angle with the breaking ball or his changeup. So the angle creates some pretty good deception.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: Conditioned for success: Avisail Garcia vows to work even harder in offseason after breakout campaign]

Giolito has filled up the strikezone since he reached the majors partly because of belief in his stuff. He’s thrown strikes on 63.4 percent of his pitches and was even better Sunday with 65 of 98 offerings. The other part of it is trust in his defense, which made several spectacular plays behind him.

Giolito knows this is only the beginning. But he feels good after a stretch in which he has quality starts in five of six games. Over the stretch he has a 1.83 ERA and 25 hits allowed with 12 walks and 30 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings.

“My confidence is there,” Giolito said. “I trust my stuff, I trust my pitches. There are things to work on, things I’m talking to (Don Cooper) about. There’s always stuff to improve, for sure. I’d say that just the confidence and everything is right where it needs to be so I’m going to continue to try and pitch like I am.”

Conditioned for success: Avisail Garcia vows to work even harder in offseason after breakout campaign

Conditioned for success: Avisail Garcia vows to work even harder in offseason after breakout campaign

When searching for why Avisail Garcia has had sustained success this season, you can’t overlook his fitter frame.

The White Sox outfielder entered a breakout 2017 season approximately 18 pounds lighter than he was a year ago. Garcia, who’s hitting .331, doubled, homered and drove in three runs as the White Sox topped the Kansas City Royals 8-1 at Guaranteed Rate Field on Sunday afternoon. Given the way he has performed this season, the first-time All-Star said he plans to work even harder this offseason.

“One hundred percent (better),” Garcia said. “I want to keep losing a little bit more. I want to feel way better next year.”

Garcia has provided the White Sox with a boatload of feel-good moments this season. He cut down two base runners in Friday night’s wild victory over the Royals, including on the final play of the game. Overall, Garcia has felt a difference in the field and it’s shown up in his defensive numbers. He headed into Sunday worth 2 Defensive Runs Saved after he finished the 2015 season at minus-11.

But even more of Garcia’s production has come at the plate, where he reached the 80-RBI mark on Sunday. He followed a one-out Yoan Moncada double off Ian Kennedy in the first inning with an opposite-field blast to right field, Garcia’s 18th homer.

Six innings later, Garcia doubled in a run. He’s hitting .331/.379/.504 on the season and entered Sunday worth 3.5 f-Wins Above Replacement.

“It seems likes he’s always finding barrel and like, man, that’s impressive to go up there, have disciplined at-bats and consistently get the barrel of the bat to the ball,” pitcher Lucas Giolito said.

Garcia’s play has offered him more encouragement to continue his efforts. Though he was adamant at the All-Star Game he wanted to duplicate his first-half efforts, Garcia suffered a series of injuries that bothered him throughout July. But he’s found comfort at the plate once again and knows how important a role his improved conditioning has played.

“The offseason, I have to do the same even harder,” Garcia said. “I want to do my best every year so now I have the ability to be here and trying to help my team. Just have to keep working.”