OAKLAND, Calif. -- As the White Sox wait for the price to fall on a proven left-handed power hitter, Jim Thome continues to do his thing in Minnesota.
It was Ozzie Guillen’s call this winter, of course, to part ways with not only a fan favorite, but a favorite of the players in the clubhouse. Thome is having a decent season with the Twins, although perhaps below expectations, batting .262 with 11 home runs and 30 RBIs.
Asked if he had any regret over the decision to say goodbye to the exact same type of player the team is trying to land now, Guillen wasn’t about to look back.
“I think we are where we are [in first place] because we want to be this way,” Guillen said. “And I say ‘we,’ because everyone in the organization was in the same boat, pulling the same rope. But when I made that decision about Jim, it was just because one reason. I love Jim Thome, and all you guys know, he knows, his wife, the players, everyone knows how much we love him.”
That “one reason” Guillen is talking about was a desire to cut down on strikeouts, improve on-base percentage, be more durable and be more active on the bases. Juan Pierre became the new left-handed hitting outfielder epitomizing Guillen’s new agenda.
But Pierre’s .320 on-base percentage is lower than Thome’s .396 mark, although Pierre has 376 at-bats, compared to Thome’s 168. Pierre also has an American League-leading 35 stolen bases, although he has struggled of late with four hits in 33 at-bats before Sunday.
Another of the team’s new outfielders, Andruw Jones, has struggled with strikeouts, collecting one every four at-bats. But at least he brings the defensive element that Thome could no longer offer.
Ultimately, it isn’t as if there is a clear-cut argument to make that the White Sox are so much better off without Thome than they would have been with him. Except now, teams are trying to pry away Gordon Beckham, Daniel Hudson and even John Danks or Gavin Floyd in return for that left-handed swinger the White Sox covet.
Is that really a better situation to be in?
“If I have to wear this the rest of my life because Jimmy is a fan favorite, player favorite, manager favorite, owner favorite I mean everyone loves Jim Thome in this organization,” Guillen said. “I think Jim Thome got more respect, people talked about him more than Frank Thomas, that’s how much people love him here. That’s pretty good company.
“In the meanwhile, even when we were struggling I continued to keep my head up and say, ‘I think we did the right thing,’ or ‘I did the right thing,’ if they want to put it that way. I don’t regret it at all, no.
“ It’s easy for us to make the lineup, keep the guys fresh, win different ways. A lot of people say, ‘Well, you guys aren’t going to go anywhere because you can’t hit the home run.’ Well, in seven years I’ve been managing this ballclub we’ve had a lot of guys that hit home runs, and we finished third a lot of times, too.”
And for the record, the White Sox were fourth in the American League in home runs with 106 before their road-trip finale at Oakland.
Riding the clutch
There is one thing Carlos Quentin’s recent nagging injuries haven’t been able to derail: his ability to hit in the clutch. Since June 1, Quentin is second in baseball posting a .457 batting average with runners in scoring position.
Quentin is just one in a number of White Sox players that have delivered when it counts, just maybe not as much as necessary on the 10-game road trip to open the second half. The White Sox are hitting .320 ast a team with runners in scoring position over the 39 games before Sunday.
The only hitter in baseball who is doing better than Quentin since June 1 is the Twins’ Delmon Young, hitting a whopping .551 in those situations. The White Sox saw Young’s ability to come through earlier in the road trip when his RBI single tied a June 18 game at Minnesota and the Twins won it on Alex Rios’ throwing error on the same play.