View Full Version : Mariotti, Thomas and rants

08-06-2002, 10:06 AM
Anyone read/react to Jay Mariotti's column in today's (8/6) Sun Times?

He argues that the Sox need to exercise the diminished skills clause in Frank Thomas' contract.

I thought it might light a firestorm here at WSI but so far I don't see much on it.

I don't care for Mariotti because he has come across in the past as a Sox-hater. More accurately, I think he may be a big-time critic of Reinsdorf, but it's one thing for us to criticize our team's greedy ownership and inept management, but it's something else for a member of the media to criticize it, because the criticism of ownership and management comes across as an attack on the team as a whole. Hence, he appears to us to be a Sox-hater. As a person who has worked in the media, I just think that as a columnist, especially for a "tabloid" paper like the Sun-Times, who desperately are trying to cut into the Tribune monolith, Mariotti's mission is to get people riled up enough to buy the Sun-Times at the newsstand and then subscribe. He's pretty good at his job because he get's me riled up.

As Sox fans I think we -- myself absolutely included -- tend to be of above-average intelligence and therefore pessimists and contrarians and look for conspiracies in everything, especially in the media. (Whereas Cubs fans, making up and reflecting the majority of the population at large, are dumb and content and therefore optimistic and happy, win or lose.)

Back to Thomas. In August 1990 I attended a baseball card show in Orland Park, Illinois, and paid Frank Thomas $5 to autograph his 1990 Score #1 draft pick rookie card, because I had been enthusiastically following his tearing up of the minors as a member of the Birmingham Barons. This was just days before -- if not the same day -- that he made his major league debut. I was 13 or 14 and absolutely was convinced that Thomas, upon being called up, would replicate his success on a grander scale at new Comiskey and help the team build upon it's surprising 1990 run along with youngsters like Sammy Sosa, Jack McDowell, Alex Fernandez, Wilson Alvarez and of course Robin Ventura and vets Ozzie Guillen and Fisk and Karkovice. I thought Thomas was the piece that would push us over the top to at least two World Series wins in the 1990s. When they traded for Tim Raines in December 1990 to obtain that critical veteran leadoff man, the future appeared to be "now." (Also, remember that great bullpen with Bobby Thigpen, Scott Radinsky, Don Pall, Ken Patterson and Wayne Edwards?)

In 1991, in my second game at beautiful new Comsikey Park, I sat in the upper deck behind first -- because those were the only seats that were still available -- and was treated to a beautiful sight of the entire miraculous stadium -- unobstructed by support pillars. Mid-game, Big Frank stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and I turned to my friend, himself a huge Sox fan like me, and said "Just watch, he's going to hit a grand slam." Sure enough, Frank deposited the first pitch into the outfield bleachers with a majestic towering drive that sent the mid-week crowd of 35,000-plus into absolute pandemonium.

It gives me goose bumps to think about it 11 years later.

Because I knew that he was destined for the Hall of Fame, I collected every Frank Thomas baseball card I possibly could and eagerly anticipated the arrival of Beckett Baseball Card Price Guide each month to see how much Frank's cards were escalating in value. I plastered his posters on my bedroom wall. With religious ferocity I read the paper every day for his stats (since we didn't have cable and couldn't see many games on TV). I listened to John Rooney and Wayne Hagin take turns doing play by play on WMAQ.

When Robin Ventura (I believe it was July 31, 1992) hit a ninth-inning grand slam to win a game at Comiskey to cap off an unbelievable month of many homers, I remember with fondness Big Frank picking up Robin after he crossed home plate to celebrate the win.

In 1996, when I joined a fantasy baseball league, I was crestfallen when I got the number 2 pick and the first guy to draft took Frank.

The point to all my slobbering over these memories is to show how much of a fan I am of Frank Thomas. I know he wasn't the best husband, or the best clubhouse guy, or even the fastest or best defensive first-baseman. I was disappointed that he wasn't able to capitalize on his on-field success and "own" Chicago like Walter Payton and Michael Jordan. But still I knew that as long as he was playing first (and later DH) and batting third the Sox would be OK, despite later problems with Sox idiots and failures like Steve Sax, George Bell, Terry Bevington and Jaime Navarro.

So it pains me as much as anyone to have to say that we need to move on and that I agree with Mariotti and that Reinsdorf needs to exercise his contractual privilege to employ the diminished skills clause on Frank Thomas.

Like Mariotti points out, his $10 million annual salary will preclude our tightwad management from being able to lock up Maggs and Paul Konerko and Mark Buehrle to long-term deals.

They need to take that $10 million and invest it in defense up the middle (catcher, shortstop and center field) to help our young pitchers -- many of whom are not strikeout artists and who need good defense.

Carlos Lee and Jeff Liefer can produce current Thomas-esque numbers platooning at DH (and backing up in left and right) for much less money, and in another year Borchard can take over in left. Rowand can continue serving as the outfield utility man after we get a full-time speedy, defensive-minded center fielder.

This team is full of DHs who are all producing at near-equal levels, so the team ought to cut its losses now and not be saddled with $10 million for Frank for the next four years. If Thomas were to show a return to his 2000 form for the next two months, and start hustling (and sliding into bases when necessary), then I would reconsider my opinion and would be able to tolerate the clubhouse problems that Frank has been bringing lately. However, if he does not, the Sox needs to cut their losses now.

Sorry for my indulgent pontificating.


08-06-2002, 03:33 PM
Who would pay for the station?