Big Hurt breaks down AL Central race
White Sox great sees two very different teams vying for title
OAKLAND -- Frank Thomas isn't planning on giving up his day job as a Hall of Fame baseball player for a full-time move into a television analyst role or that of baseball prognosticator.
But when asked prior to Saturday's contest to break down the America League Central race between the team where he became a star and Minnesota, Thomas pointed out two different forces going to battle during the season's final 40 games.
"One team does the little things so well and the other team is going to bash you to death," Thomas said. "So, you never know how it's going to play out.
"The White sox are loaded. Their lineup is loaded and very talented, but Minnesota seems to do the little things with the great pitching to beat them. It's weird.
"I was part of a team in 2006 where we didn't hit, but for some reason, we hit enough to win with the pitching and defense being there," Thomas added. "Some times you can't look past pitching and defense. That's very important, especially down the stretch."
Thomas made reference to the 2006 A's, who were led offensively by the Big Hurt and Nick Swisher, making their way to the AL Championship Series. As Thomas pointed out, Oakland ranked near the bottom of the AL that year with its .260 batting average, .412 slugging percentage and 4.76 runs scored per game.
Yet, the A's found a way to win 93 games and claim the AL West title. Even with the White Sox improved pitching, especially in the bullpen, and solid defense, Thomas seemed to be comparing the 2006 A's to the 2008 Twins.
In the end, though, Thomas would not go out on a limb and pick an AL Central winner.
"No, I can't make any predictions," Thomas said. "[The White Sox] might have enough to intimidate and push them over if their pitching is not on. But [Minnesota manager Ron] Gardenhire, for some reason, he has them in contention every year.
"They never go away. You have to give Gardenhire credit. He's a great manager."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.