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No avoiding the Thome debate

Time to break down the designated hitter spot on our daily White Sox look back and look ahead to 2011.

DESIGNATED HITTER

Look back at 2010: The White Sox were 13th in the 14-team American League in runs batted in from the DH spot with 65. Not good. Only Seattle’s 60 RBIs was worse. Now comes the unavoidable comparison. The Twins were third in RBIs from the DH spot with 107, while Jim Thome had 57 of his 59 RBIs in that role. The Thome Debate followed the White Sox not just during the season, but from the time the White Sox confirmed at last offseason they would be parting ways with the veteran and fan favorite.

The White Sox needed a left-handed power bat and some production at DH in 2010, but that isn’t necessarily why it hurt to not have Thome around. What hurt the White Sox the most is that Thome played a key role for their division rivals as he came in very handy when Justin Morneau went down for the season with a concussion. Mark Kotsay’s 47 starts as the DH led the team as the White Sox used 12 different players to start games in that role. Kotsay batted just .239 this past season, regardless of position played, and regardless of how bad his luck was with a number of hard-hit balls turned into outs, it was still .239. Paul Konerko’s 23 starts as DH appears to have helped him stay fresh during his huge season. The Manny Ramirez gamble was a bust as the veteran failed to find his old form over the final month and batted .261 in a White Sox uniform with just two RBIs. The White Sox will have to pay him nearly $4 million, although much if it is deferred.

Look ahead to 2011: Along with first base and catcher, the DH spot is unsettled as the offseason gets underway. Kotsay might retire so he might not be an option again. A left-handed bat would be ideal for the role, but the White Sox will want a player who can also give them innings on defense, whether it be at first base, third base or in the outfield. So expect the DH-by-committee plan to continue. Mark Teahen figures to get some time in the role (he had 10 starts as the DH in 2010), but manager Ozzie Guillen doesn’t figure to be as patient with him as he was with Kotsay. After taking a chance in September that failed completely, the free-agent Ramirez will not be back. Look for a new face to fill the Kotsay role.

Key stat: Kotsay didn’t get too many chances against left-handed pitchers and with good reason. He was 0-for-26 against lefties in 2010.

Quote: “No one is ever going to be happy when someone is struggling. All that does is just obviously bring other outside influences into this clubhouse, and I think we’ve done a great job just grinding through things. It’s not easy. I mean every time you struggle you get to see the true character of somebody. I think in this locker room these guys know the amount of effort, the amount of work I put in on a daily basis to help this ballclub. It just hasn’t seemed to pan out.” -- Kotsay, after a four-RBI game at Detroit in early August.