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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Frank's Chicago (Media) Blues!

Some thoughts as spring training begins in earnest…. 

Gen. Disarray (aka Sox manager Jerry Manuel) needs to get over his obsession with tinkering.  He is already on the record as saying that he’d like to tinker with the starting lineup.  Everyone assumed that the leadoff hitter for 2003 would be D’Angelo Jimenez and that he would be followed in the lineup by Jose Valentin.  This would set the stage nicely for the Sox big guns, Frank Thomas, Magglio Ordoñez, Paul Konerko, and Carlos Lee.   

But we don’t call our commanding officer Gen. Disarray for no reason.  No, Manuel seems to think that Carlos Lee might be a number two hitter.  Manuel described Lee as “a guy who can work the count and get a high pitch count.” 

The General explained, "He's been a big on-base guy the last year, so he's a possibility.  Jose could then break up some of the right-handers we have in the (bottom of the) lineup.

"It depends on who we're playing and how those guys are swinging the bats. If we need a little shakeup I wouldn't hesitate (moving guys around). The second position for me is for a guy that knows the game, knows how to move a runner. I do like to use young players there just to teach them about the game."

For the record, Lee will be 27 years old in June and will be starting his fifth season in the American League.  I guess in the mind of Gen. Disarray, this makes him a young player who needs to learn about the game, or that he has something else in mind, or that he doesn’t know what he has in mind, or….

You would have thought that the President had arrived in Mesa, AZ last week when Sammy Sosa arrived in town.  Not only that, he arrived on time!  In the world of sports “journalism,” this apparently qualifies as being a major story.  Sammy’s arrival in camp was national news!

You have to admit that Sammy knows how to put a positive spin on things.  He told the fawning media that his “early” arrival was out of “respect” for the Cubs new manager, Dusty Baker.  A cynic might take note that “early” and “on time” are two different things.  Sosa was on time.  Something he hasn’t been for years.  A cynic might also infer that his doing so out of “respect” for Baker was an indication of his feelings for former Cubs manager Don Baylor.

Apparently media cynicism is only apparent when it comes to the White Sox and their superstar, Frank Thomas.  While very little mention was made of the 800 or so autographs that Thomas signed for his appreciative fans, much ado was made of the fact that he would not talk to reporters.

Of course Frank has the right not to talk to anyone he chooses not to talk to.  And he has good reason not to talk to anyone in the media for reasons going back to the flap over the statement he made several years ago about not really thinking about Jackie Robinson.  (I wonder how many African-American athletes ever think about Robinson.  These guys are jocks, not civil rights activists.)

Thomas was also highly criticized for lack of effort in 1999 by Gen. Disarray, and this was dutifully picked up by the media.  Thomas may have figured that when a huge bone spur was removed from his ankle, he might be cut a little slack.  Instead, his first day back at camp in 2000, he got into a shouting match with the general, which was heard by the reporters.  The theme of the reports seemed to be that the general was standing up to his bad-boy superstar.

You’d also think that Thomas would be cut some slack last year after his return from a career threatening tear to his triceps muscle not far into the 2002 season.  Instead the press jumped all over his lack of production, his benching by Manuel, and public criticism by Paul Konerko.  Only a few reports here and there noted that his swing seemed to be affected by continued pain in his arm, and that this perhaps might be the reason for his struggles.

Compare that with the Chicago media jumping to Sammy Sosa’s defense when a writer for Sports Illustrated dared to suggest that he take a test to prove that he does not use steroids.  Sosa was right to refuse the test, and criticism of the SI writer was somewhat justified because of the ambush-style nature of the challenge.  However, did anyone attempt to find out whether or not Sosa uses steroids?  Did anyone ask what Sosa was doing with $20,000 in cash in a bag that was stolen from him?  And most of all, has anyone questioned why Sammy Sosa is suddenly so much smaller in the upper body than he was just a few months ago? 

Of course not!  Chicago writers find it much easier to criticize Frank Thomas for not giving them interviews.


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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