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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Manuel pulls Frank's Chain (again)

General Disarray absolves himself of responsibility, too.

If anybody is looking for further proof that Gen. Disarray has it in for Frank Thomas, look no further.  Before the Sox loss on Friday night, the general shared his thoughts about Thomas, and the good news is that Thomas will probably still be playing for the White Sox through September 28.  After that, both he and the team have a choice on whether or not he stays. 

In his comments, the general put the onus of the Sox success for the rest of the 2003 season on Thomas (not coincidentally deflecting it from himself).  As reported in last Saturday’s Chicago Tribune by Teddy Greenstein, Manuel said, "If Frank is hitting, we go.  Magglio is going to be hot and cold. Carlos Lee has been somewhat consistent. Everett has given us some really good at-bats. Joe Crede here and there. You don't expect to get a lot from the ninth spot.

"But that middle part of the order is where people have to do their thing." 

So what Manuel did was absolve everyone but Thomas from the need to consistently produce for the remainder of the season.  So naturally, Thomas went out that night and increased Thomas’s chances of success by playing him at first base where his average is well over .100 higher than as DH, right? 

You know better than that!  This is Gen. Disarray we’re talking about fans.  No, Frank was back again as DH where he struck out three times and flied out.   

Thomas and the general are really very similar.  Thomas has admitted that when he DHs he “thinks too much.”   Gen. Disarray has admitted that “I like to tinker, but it usually doesn’t work out.”  This could easily be translated as, “I think too much.”  Perhaps this is the source of the friction between them. 

After all, Thomas played decent first base except for his inability to throw, due to an old shoulder injury.  The general thought and thought and decided that Frank was a professional DH.  Thomas was a good soldier, proclaiming, “I’d prefer not to play first base.”  The problem is that since the general made that fateful move, Thomas’s hitting has gone down the toilet. 

Since being returned to the DH role after the All-Star Break, Thomas has had a lot of time to think, and on July 21, he declared, “If I can get a ball close enough to me, I'm going to pull it. I don't care to go to right field anymore."   

This should have set off warning bells in Gen. Disarray’s head.  Frank was thinking again.  At that point, he should have sat Frank down and told him what was expected of him.  Instead, he apparently waited until August 15 to do it.  One can only hope the general spoke to Thomas before speaking to the media on the matter. 

The general was right when he said, "It's very difficult to say 'I'm going to hit home runs' and do it.  I would rather him become an RBI machine and a base-hit and doubles guy and a guy with a high on-base percentage. I think that would benefit us most. 

"He has, what, 28 home runs?  He needs to hit about 50 if he hits .260. I think he's about a .280, .290 guy right now who can hit 40 home runs. That would be more than enough for us. But you can't hit .260 and not be productive." 

This is great, but has he said this to Thomas?  It was just last Sunday (August 10) that it was reported that the general and Thomas sat down and talked about Thomas playing first base on the road trip to Anaheim and Texas.  Was his role discussed then?  It would have been a perfect opportunity. 

What was actually reported about that conversation was that Thomas apparently felt that he would play first base on the road trip.  As of Friday night’s game, Thomas has been the DH all five games that were played up to that point.

Gen. Disarray has many weaknesses as a manager, most of which have been recounted here, but the apparent promise to play Thomas at first and then reneging on the promise is one of his biggest flaws, and it is apparently a character flaw.  The general makes statements and then consistently fails to follow up on them. 

Up to now, the worst example of this was the long term benching of Royce Clayton that lasted one game.  Now we apparently have the general telling a player that he will have a particular job one day, but then doing just the opposite for the next five.  

Is it any wonder that Rick White said that the players need to know what their roles are, a comment that got him fired?  Is it any wonder that Jose Valentin has made statements that the everyday players would like to know where they are going to hit?  Is it any wonder that Jon Garland and Tom Gordon have talked to the general, wanting their roles clarified? 

If Gen. Disarray has a plan, he certainly isn’t letting his players in on it.  Right now the plan seems to be to jerk around a two-time MVP. 


Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at hvickery@svs.com.

More features from Hal Vickery here!

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