Living near the rawhide-and Vienna hot dog-hungry fans of Chicago, one potential nominee in the twilight of his career has been the focal point of Hall of Fame discussions in local newspapers and on radio air waves in recent weeks – Frank Thomas. Does the "Big Hurt" deserve a first-ballot bid?
Coming from a Cubs fan that would rather belly-flop into the frigid January waters of Lake Michigan than root for the South-Siders, without a shred of doubt, Thomas deserves the esteemed accolade in his first year of eligibility. Why? Just compare his numbers to some of the giants of the game.
At his peak, he dominated the AL for nearly a decade. From 1991-1997 he had seven consecutive seasons of a .300-plus average, 20 homers, 100 RBI, 100 runs and 100 walks. Greats Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams and some guy named Babe Ruth never accomplished that feat. Also, the Oakland slugger is one of 11 players in Major League history that has compiled a .300 career average, 400 homers, 1,000 RBI, 1,000 runs and 1,000 walks. Those that accompany Thomas on that short list are legends fit for a field of dreams-Aaron, Foxx, Gehrig, Mays, Musial, Ott, Ruth, Williams, Manny Ramirez and Jeff Bagwell (another good debate).
Some purists would argue that the DH deserves no notoriety and that Thomas' selfish attitude is an unattractive quality. They are terribly misguided. Regardless of personality or position viewpoints, he is arguably one of the greatest hitters in Chicago and baseball history whose accomplishments were done with consistency and zeal.
Still truckin' at age 38, his resurgent 24-homer season proves the former college tight end is far from done. With a World Series ring, over 2,200 career hits and just 28 homers shy of 500, he deserves to be immortalized in bronze. Just don't tell that to White Sox general manager Kenny Williams. Here are the news and notes that rounded third over the weekend:
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
- The chow-da in Boston has a certain wicked awesome taste this week after Theo Epstein and the Boston Red Sox front office slipped one past the Yankees last Thursday. Passing through waivers on August 4, veteran catcher Javy Lopez was traded from the Baltimore Orioles to Boston for $1.3 million and the always curious player to be named later. "He's an experienced catcher. I know he hasn't caught much (this season), but he has caught for a long time," Boston manager Terry Francona said. Elated to feel wanted again, Lopez added, "This is the opportunity that I pretty much was looking for this year. It is a good feeling. It's exciting. This is something that I can get back on track. I haven't been in the playoffs for so long and I'm trying to get back." Lopez is 0-for-10 thus far in BoSox red.
With Jason Varitek out 4-6 weeks after having surgery to repair torn cartilage in his knee on Wednesday, this was a brilliant move. Lopez goes from wavier wire fodder to catcher treasure with the switch to a park conducive to his hitting, albeit fading, skills. In 28 career games at Fenway, Lopez has a solid .281 batting average, four homers and 21 RBI. Out of the shadow of Ramon Hernandez, he will be an adequate power numbers contributor at a very thin position in 12-team mixed leagues. Well protected in the six-spot and a career .305 hitter in September, look for Lopez to tally two-month totals around: .280 BA, four homers and 20 RBI.
Lopez's fantasy impact isn't just limited to the lumber. From a defensive standpoint, he leaves a great deal to be desired. So far this season he has thrown out just four runners on 20 attempts and only 20-percent of base burglars since 2004. Heck, sloth catcher Josh Paul stole his first base in two years off Lopez on August 5. Now that's bad. With Doug Mirabelli out for the next few days with an ankle injury, those in daily transaction head-to-head leagues may want to exploit Lopez's defensive flaws to gain an edge in stolen bases. It's obvious why the Orioles didn't want Javy wearing a chest protector.
- Two golden-armed pitching gods with injury concerns gave many fantasy owners small heart-attacks last week. Arizona Diamondbacks sinker-baller Brandon Webb had an MRI on his sore right elbow on August 3. Luckily, the exam showed no structural damage and a DL stint is highly unlikely. "He's obviously a guy we can't be too careful with," manager Bob Melvin said. "He wants to pitch and feels like he can, but as long as there's some soreness in there we're just going to go the extra yard and make sure he's healthy." The potential NL Cy Young winner threw a positive side session on Friday and reported no pain. Anticipate a late-week return to the starting rotation, possibly on Friday against Florida. Owners in all formats should keep him benched this week as a precaution.
On the junior circuit, libido driver Francisco Liriano was scratched from his last start on August 1 with an elbow injury. Thankfully, MRI results revealed that the injury was muscle-related and not a direct cause of ligament discomfort. The flame-throwing marvel commented that he felt "fine" and was "ready to go" after a pain-free bullpen session on Friday. On Monday, Liriano faces a Detroit team he lit up for 12 strikeouts in eight innings in his last start. Look for Ron Gardenhire to keep a strict 85-95 pitch count on his treasured starter in his next couple of outings to be safe. With two-starts this week, keep him active in all formats. And thank your lucky stars.
- Injury News and Notes: The super-sized Bartolo Colon is likely out for the season with a right rotator cuff tear. Angels manager Mike Scioscia commented, "It's tough news. Understandably, we know what Bart has meant to our club and to our rotation the last couple of years. It certainly explains a lot of the issues he's been having." Did anyone think the extra doughnuts could also be an issue? Rookie Joe Saunders, a must grab in all leagues 12-teams and deeper, will fill the rotation void … All-Star second baseman Jeff Kent is expected to return to the lineup from an oblique strain early this week. "He said he feels like he's ready to go. He's been talking about [returning] the last couple of days. If it's not by Monday, he'll probably come in the office with a shotgun, and it won't be a casual conversation," said manager Grady Little. With Nomar Garciaparra also expected to return this week, Julio Lugo will become a super-utility player, as previously feared … Tampa young stud Scott Kazmir had his return start postponed until Friday at Oakland to get some additional bullpen work. D-Ray's manager Joe Maddon added, "He just needs to get back throwing his breaking ball. He has not done enough of that." Kazmir's has a 3.32 career ERA against the A's in four starts. Activate him with confidence … Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, sidelined since late June with a hamstring injury, is expected to return to the revamped Bronx Bomber's lineup on Tuesday. On a three-game rehab assignment at Double-A Trenton, he went 5-for-10 with two RBI. This is your last call to buy low … For the second time this season, Oakland A's shortstop Bobby Crosby was placed on the 15-day DL with a back muscle strain. General manager Billy Beane anticipates Crosby to return to the lineup when he's eligible on August 14. Until then, Marco Scutaro will get some extra work at shortstop … Milwaukee Brewers glass vase Ben Sheets is out indefinitely with a pectoral strain. Injuring the chest muscle after a one-inning outing in St. Louis on Saturday, Sheets commented, "I'm a little sore, not bad though. The muscle is sore where it cramped. We're just hoping it's going to go away." Ned Yost has pushed his ace's start back a couple of days for Sheets to get some extra rest, but is not sure he will take the mound at all. The Sheets news and the banishment of Chorizo for the remainder of the season have not curdled the cheese for Brewers fans this week.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
- Mark Teahen, KC, 3B
Not since a group of Mohawk-disguised patriots raided three ships in Boston Harbor has there been a "Tea" party quite like this. The man that has made the "Heart of America" go pitter-pat over the last month, Teahen was recently named the AL Player of the Week from July 24-31. Since July 1, this Royal has been the king of fantasy hearts, sporting a .324 average with eight homers and 30 RBI. Much of his success can be attributed to a stark improvement in plate patience. From April thru June, Teahen was impatient at the dish totaling a 34:11 strikeout-to-walk ratio. However, since July 1, that mark is 25:22. The consistent eagle-eye should continue to bode well for the KC third basemen given his raw 20 home run power. At a position with a shallow talent pool, expect him to be a top-15 three-bagger over the remainder of the season hitting third in the Royals lineup. One of the hottest pick-ups in Yahoo! leagues with over 20,000 adds last week, he is surprisingly still available in 70 percent of leagues. For those of you frustrated by Eric Chavez, have a spot of "Tea."
PROSPECT WATCH: Top players down on the farm
- Rich Hill, ChC, SP (ETA: Now)
If this Hill could ever be consistent at the Major League level, he would be a fantasy Mount Everest. One of the Cubs prized pitching prospects, Hill is a hard-throwing lefty with one of the sickest 12-to-6 curveballs in the game. Since 2005, the talented youngster has dominated Triple-A batters compiling a line that has caused Wrigleyville rats to drool uncontrollably – 165 IP, 2.51 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and an unfathomable 227:35 strikeout-to-walk ratio. A Mr. Hyde at the big league level, Hill has had difficulty finding the strike-zone, walking an uncharacteristic 38 batters in 61.1 career innings. He has also been torched by the longball in the Majors, allowing a home run every 5.5 innings. In his past two starts, the 26-year-old turned a corner, going 15 strong innings, allowing four earned with an impressive 15:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio. If his command remains consistent, he has the stuff to be the NL version of Barry Zito. With the Cubs well out of contention and looking toward the future, he will continue to audition for a permanent '07 rotation spot. NL-only and 12-team and deeper mixed league owners in search of a high upside strikeout pitcher for a stretch run should climb this Hill.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Yahoo! Experts League Update
Y!-Romig is slowly chipping away at what was once thought to be an unsurmountable lead for RotoWire_Liss. Romig currently sits 11 points back of the lead, roughly half the distance from where he sat last week. The rest of the pack remains 20-plus points back of the top spot, so this league is shaping up as a two-man race. The latest waiver wire additions across the league include Joe Saunders, Craig Monroe, Mark DeRosa, Seth McClung, Shawn Green and Aaron Rowand.
- Armando Benitez
- Mike Stanton