The Big Hurt is about to hang 'em up

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The Big Hurt is ready to face reality:

Frank Thomas said he’s getting close to announcing his retirement,
and the 41-year-old slugger said he’s having fun being a member of the
media. The Chicago White Sox’s all-time leader in home runs, RBI and
runs, finished last season with the Oakland A’s and hasn’t been picked
up this season.

“That percent right now [that I’ll play again] is probably about
five percent, since we’re so deep into the season now,” Thomas said on
ESPN 1000. “But I’m still in shape, ready to go, if anything happens.
But I’m getting close to announcing my retirement because I just turned
41. I just want to make sure that it’s the move I really want to make.
I don’t want to be one of those guys that keeps coming back and keeps
saying, ‘I’m unretiring, I’m coming back.’ I want to make sure it’s out
of my system.”

Well, sort of face reality. I think baseball has more or less taken
care of the “retire/unretire” option for Thomas. Though he could still
probably be useful on an AL team, no one wants him (unlike Griffey, who
is probably less useful than Thomas, Thomas doesn’t have a home where
he can go and become a gate attraction), so the decision is pretty much
out of his hands.

Thomas will be an interesting Hall of Fame case. He should be a lock
on the numbers alone, but spending so much time at DH is gong to hurt
him with some voters. It’s less clear how the steroids era will effect
him. On the one hand he was outspoken against PEDs and helped lead the
charge to institute testing. And the media recognized him for that to
some degree. On the other hand, there’s a strong sense that all
offensive statistics — not just those of the PED users — were
inflated during Thomas’ career, so people may discount his
accomplishments even if they don’t consider them to be illegitimate in
and of themselves. That may be a little unfair and irrational, but if
you don’t think the BBWAA can be unfair and irrational, you’re not very
familiar with their work.

For what it’s worth, he’d have my vote.

Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga to throw out first pitches in Games 1 and 2

CLEVELAND - OCTOBER 05:  Kenny Lofton #7 of the Cleveland Indians runs to first base against the New York Yankees during Game Two of the American League Divisional Series at Jacobs Field on October 5, 2007 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Major League Baseball just announced the details for the ceremonial and off-field stuff in connection with Games 1 and 2 of the World Series. The one most people were wondering about was the ceremonial first pitch. Sorry, Charlie Sheen fans. Sorry fans of “Major League” in general. Two real baseball stars are handing first pitch duties: Kenny Lofton before Game 1, Carlos Baerga for Game 2.

Lofton needs no introduction. He should be a Hall of Famer but is criminally overlooked, perhaps because he bounced around to a lot of different clubs. He made his name in Cleveland, however, doing three separate tours with the Indians, leading the AL in stolen bases for five straight years early in his career and putting up a line of .300/.375/.426 in ten seasons on the shores of Lake Erie.

Baerga played for the Tribe between 1990 and 1996 and was, for a time, quite the superstar, even if people don’t talk about him much anymore. His career fell off pretty quickly in that way that often happens for second basemen and/or stars who end up on the Mets, but there was a time when he was perhaps the biggest star on some excellent Indians teams. People had “will Carlos Baerga be a Hall of Famer?” conversations and stuff. The mid-90s were a special time.

Beyond the first pitches, the National Anthem will be sung by Rachel Platten before Game 1 and by the group Locash before Game 2. As I am an old man out of touch with most things, I have no idea who they are, but I am sure their fans are passionate and their renditions of the Anthem will be fine and non-controversial. Fox, MLB and the folks at major record labels are pretty good about that sort of thing and everyone will be especially vigilant in light of what happened with that Canadian tenors group at the All-Star Game. If nothing else, I bet you pick up the check for the Anthem performance after the song, and not before these days.

I guess the White Sox don’t count

CHICAGO - APRIL 04: General Manager Ken Williams of the Chicago White Sox shows off his World Series Championship ring during ceremonies prior to the start of a game against the Cleveland Indians on April 4, 2006 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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I realize everyone is super excited about the Cubs being in the World Series for the first time since 1945, with the chance to win it for the first time since 1908. But you’d think folks would remember that it’s just the Cubs — and not Chicago as a whole — who have been away from the Fall Classic for so long.

I know their recent struggles makes it seem like a long, long time ago, but the White Sox won the World Series in 2005. They were in the World Series in 1959 too. You wouldn’t know that, though, if you looked at some prominent media outlets:





I understand the impulse to tell the “a whole city is coming together!” story every time stuff like this happens, but there are a lot of White Sox fans in Chicago. A good number of them don’t give a crap about the Cubs. Many even resent them for being the glory franchise in the city in the eyes of many. They certainly don’t feel like there’s a championship drought afoot, and I imagine they’re somewhat cranky about having their team’s glory plastered over like this.