The Daily Illini

Column: It’s not me, it’s you

By Jon Gluskin

It’s a general rule in romance that no relationship can end well. When it’s over, you can’t just be friends and everything cannot be OK between the two people.

After following the Frank Thomas-Kenny Williams soap opera over the past couple of days, it’s apparent that this rule does not just apply in the romantic spectrum, but in the sports spectrum as well.

Ultimately, a player and a team are in a relationship and when it ends, feelings are going to get hurt – yes, even a 6-foot-5, 270-lb man, who can hit a 98 mph fastball over 500 feet, has feelings too.

It’s really unfortunate that this is the way Frank’s career with the White Sox has to end.

Due to his clubhouse and off-the-field drama, Thomas never got the respect he deserved because the fact is, he is the greatest player in franchise history and one of the greatest right-handed hitters in the history of the game.

After the Sox traded for first-baseman/designated hitter Jim Thome, and re-signed all-star first baseman Paul Konerko, Frank’s 16-year relationship with the Sox was all but over.

The Sox soon bought out Thomas’ contract for $3.5 million, thus ending his tenure. Then his feelings got hurt. He claims he never got a call telling him of the team’s decision.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for Jerry Reinsdorf, I do. But I really thought the relationship we had over the last 16 years, he would have picked up the phone to say, ‘Big Guy, we’re moving forward. We’re going somewhere different. We don’t know your situation or what’s going to happen.’ I can live with that, I really can,” Thomas said to the Daily Southtown, a paper in the Chicago suburb of Tinley Park.

“But treating me like some passing-by-player … I’ve got no respect for that,” he said.

And let the floodgates open.

Williams took the Thomas approach and lashed back instead of keeping quiet.

“He’s an idiot. He’s selfish. That’s why we don’t miss him,” he said.

There was no reason to lash back at Thomas in such a harsh manner. Thomas had every right to be frustrated with the way he was treated.

All Frank ever did was hit .307 with 447 homeruns, 1,465 RBIs, and 1,327 runs, winning AL MVP twice – the homeruns, RBIs and runs are all Sox records, along with on-base percentage, slugging percentage, total bases and walks.

He demonstrated a type of loyalty that is unheard of in the sports world today, sticking with one uniform for his entire career until the Sox decided enough was enough.

Thomas made it clear from his comments that he understands that sports are a business, and that the Sox had to make a decision for the good of their organization and not worry about hurting their superstar. He didn’t attack Williams or Reinsdorf for not bringing him back. He just criticized the way in which the Sox didn’t call him to notify him of their decision.

Frank obviously was not an angel during his career with the Sox. He said some things that merited the criticism he got. He did some things that rightfully hurt his reputation.

But at least for one time in his career, Frank did not say the wrong things. His ex-general manager did.

Since Williams took over the GM role of the Sox after the 2000 season, the two had a rocky relationship. Frank was injured and overpaid, but still found time to pout.

But when it comes down to it, Thomas looks like the “good guy” in this situation. He did not make it a war of words.

On Monday, the two talked for about 20 minutes over the phone. This conversation seemed to bring a sour ending to a flawed relationship between an incredible baseball player and an incredible general manager.

“We’re finished talking. I mean, there’s nothing else to talk about. Actual love lost – I mean, basically there’s not much love over the last five years,” Thomas told reporters at the A’s complex in Phoenix on Monday. “So, you know, we’re just moving forward.”

Love hurts.

Hopefully, this will not be the legacy for which Big Frank’s career with the Sox is remembered.

When Frank is addressing the crowd at his Hall of Fame induction, he better be wearing black and white.

Jon Gluskin is a senior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected]

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