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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Frank's Pride, Big Hurt!
by Hal Vickery

Timing is everything, and last week my timing was horrible. Just hours after I submitted last week’s column came the news of Frank Thomas’s interview with Phil Arvia of the Daily Southtown. That’s when the real firestorm on sportsblab radio started.

The “insight” of the sportsblabbers was probably the most interesting part. Most of the local personalities sided with Kenny Williams, citing their knowledge of rumors of Frank Thomas blowing off events, including charity events, forcing the White Sox to cover for him. They also noted his supposed lack of gratitude toward Jerry Reinsdorf for loaning him money when Thomas’s Big Hurt Enterprises went belly up. The indication of this ingratitude was Thomas’s assertion that Reinsdorf himself should have called him when the decision was made that Thomas would be leaving the White Sox.

Others locals, mostly weekend and evening anchors who probably know even less of the situation cited his run-ins with Gen. Disarray as an indication that Frank was out only for himself, ignoring the fact that those run-ins were the result of injuries that the general seemed to downplay when Thomas’s own doctors asserted that they were far more serious than Gen. Disarray thought.

The National media, in particular “Mike and Mike” on ESPN Radio acknowledged that Thomas might be a tool, but they further noted that Williams’ comments went far beyond what is proper for an executive in that level of management to state.

This is one of those situations that is painful for a fan of the team to watch. As both regular readers of this column should know by now, I’m going into my fifty-second year as a Sox fan, and I’ve never witnessed this kind of behavior from either a player or an executive.

In all of those years, I can’t remember any former player gripe for so long about being traded or not having a contract renewed. However, I have to admit, I’ve never seen a player wear a White Sox uniform who was of the same caliber as Frank Thomas. It seems that Thomas, as the greatest player to wear a Sox uniform in the last eighty years, though he deserved different treatment than a phone call from the General Manager.

Maybe he did, but enough is enough. Ozzie Guillen had it right when he admitted that he felt the same way when the Sox let him go. He noted that he blew off steam once, and that was it. He said what was on his mind and moved on. Thomas has been complaining since November.

To those who assert, and most likely correctly so, that reporters kept asking those questions, let’s not forget that Thomas has been the “victim” of such tactics before and still hasn’t learned after sixteen years in a major league uniform to say, “No comment,” or at least, “I’ve said all I have to say.” Thomas always answers that one question too many. He has never learned.

To say that Williams overreacted initially is to assert that he show superhuman patience. Thomas, since the announcement that his option would not be picked up, has been like a stone in Williams’ shoe. Williams has the type of personality where he can only take so much and then has to respond. The Arvia interview went past the limits of Williams’ tolerance.

However, calling Thomas an idiot was one step too far. Threatening to have all images of Thomas from U.S. Cellular Field was more than going too far. That’s just plain “losing it.”

Thankfully, both Thomas and Williams, not so coincidentally after a telephone discussion between them have decided to both shut up on the matter. That was a wise decision for both of them. If Thomas has the dirty laundry Williams has implied, he doesn’t want it aired. If Williams says any more, he might just be labeled as certifiably insane.

It’s obvious that these two guys can’t stand each other. They’ve aired it for the world to see. Now is the time to shut up, and mercifully both have decided to do so, and since they’ve been quiet, the sportsblabbers have pretty much dropped the subject.

Before I finally drop the subject once and for all, however, there is one accusation towards Thomas that was made by more than one of the sportsblab hosts during the thick of the controversy. During his interview with Arvia, Thomas made the comment that he would have stayed with the Sox if they had offered him an extra million dollars.

“Aha!” said the mediots. “There’s the proof that Thomas is not about anything but making money!”

I have the feeling there is a completely different motivation behind Thomas’s desire to remain with the Sox. I have the feeling that it is this one thing that was the real reason behind his continued whining about being let go.

Think about it. Thomas has been an MVP twice in his career. He has played in two post-seasons. He has a World Series ring. So if he complains about the Sox dumping him, the sportsblabbers conclude, it has to be about money. And that’s where they make their mistake. Thomas is a professional athlete. He’s had as many accolades as one can imagine. But what is the one thing he hasn’t done?

Did you say, “Actually play in a World Series”? Thomas was a member of the White Sox for sixteen years. Sure he has his World Series ring, but he didn’t actually play in the World Series. Isn’t that supposed to be the goal of everyone who plays this game?

Thomas saw the World Series sitting on the bench. He is at the stage of his career where he might feel that he doesn’t have too many chances left to actually play a World Series game. Isn’t it logical that he’d want to do that for the team he spent his entire career with?

I think that’s what hurt so much for Thomas. He came so close to being in the Series, but his body betrayed him. He thinks he is now ready to make a comeback, and the only team he has known has in his mind suddenly turned its back on him when it appears that they have a good chance to return to the Series.

No, I don’t think Frank Thomas is about money. If you listen to him talk, his words show that he is more about pride. He’s not proud that he got his World Series ring for playing less than a month in mid-season. He’s not proud that he got the ring in the same way that a longtime employee of a corporation earns a gold watch just before retiring.

I submit that Thomas wanted to prove something to White Sox ownership and fans. He wanted to prove that he still could play and that he could help lead the Sox to another World Series Championship. He saw that dream snatched away from him, and because his pride is so great, he lashed out at the Sox.

The sad thing is that not only did the media not see that, but neither did Kenny Williams, a former player. And to me that’s the really sad part of this whole situation.


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.

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