The common off-day angle on this Twins-White Sox series was Jim Thome. It was a story that more or less wrote itself:
- Thome had played for the White Sox (2006-2009);
- The Sox toyed with bringing him back as a free agent during the winter and chose not to, with manager Ozzie Guillen explaining that there wouldn't be sufficient at-bats for him;
- The Twins signed him to a low-priced one-year deal with no commitment on playing time;
- He has mashed with Minnesota (17 homers, .593 slugging percentage in 253 plateappearances);
- The White Sox are believed to be looking now for left-handed power.
Conclusion: The White Sox screwed up.
Maybe so. I wasn't enthused about the Thome signing at the time myself. I was concerned about how his inability to play in the field would thin the bench and reckoned that the White Sox had concluded that age had eroded his hitting.
Guillen, for political reasons, was never going to say anything like We think Thome can't hit lefties or a good fastball anymore. But that was likely part of their thinking when they shipped him to the Dodgers last August, and even more so this winter.
Thome is a one-dimensional player. He can't run and he hasn't played in the field in years. He has to hit to help a team.
He has helped the Twins.
Tuesday's 10th-inning game-winning home run came off a hard-throwing lefty-handed reliever (Matt Thornton) — exactly the kind of guy I figured would eat Thome up. He had two singles earlier in the game against John Danks, a left-handed starter. Thome's playing time against southpaws has been limited, but in his first 60 plate appearances against lefties (56 at-bats) he hit four homers and slugged .500. Lot of strikeouts, few walks — but he hasn't been Jacque Jones helpless against southpaws.
I don't know how well Ron Gardenhire would be doing at juggling playing time if Justin Morneau had remained healthy. He had turned to playing Michael Cuddyer at third base in order to get Thome, Jason Kubel, Delmon Young and Cuddyer all in the lineup at once, and I didn't think it was helping. The defense suffered, and Cuddyer wasn't hitting.
Guillen, meanwhile, isn't backing down on his preference to have players who can play in the field and run a bit. And it isn't like the White Sox have lost all their power.
Here's Guillen after the game on the Thome homer:
''I will take that matchup again, Maybe Thome will hit a home run again. He's hit about 600 home runs. Jim Thome is a home-run hitter, he's a very strong man, he's been doing it for a lot of years. If [center fielder Denard] Span hit that home run in that inning, then I would be crying here. But Jim Thome hit it, you go shower and go and get it [tonight].''