Due to the impulsive, and at times seemingly spontaneous, nature of the way they handle player movement, the White Sox have been left with egg draped all over their collective faces on a number of transactional moves over the past decade. Both Nick Swisher deals come to mind, as does last season's Daniel Hudson-Edwin Jackson swap. You may as well toss Adam Dunn's name into the conversation as well. But few moves have been as polarizing as Ozzie Guillen's decision not to re-sign designated hitter Jim Thome before the 2010 season.
Guillen passed on Thome's declining-but-steady production because of a desire for flexibility. Ozzie defended his decision at the time by saying:
"It came down to getting enough at-bats,'' Guillen explained. "I don't want a season where Jim sits three or four days in-a-row and the media comes up to him and asks, 'You're not playing ... '' This thing will become a soap opera. It's about at-bats.
"I talked to Jim [Sunday] and I made everything clear, how he would have to work with the ballclub. I wouldn't get that many at-bats for the ballclub. Play once a week, twice a week. I don't think it was fair for him. I have too much respect for the man. It was not an easy decision. Every decision is harder than another, but that one was not easy. I wanted to let him know in case he had something else with someone else.''
It didn't work out. Mark Kotsay, Andruw Jones, and Omar Vizquel would go on to form a memorably horrendous DH rotation that couldn't crack a .700 OPS as the Sox struggled to hit the ball all season long. It led directly to the Adam Dunn signing -- a move that, without foreshadow, could go down as one of the worst since baseball implemented free agency.
This isn't a case of revisionist history or second-guessing, either: any enlightened White Sox fan worth their salt was left somewhere between outraged and confounded at the time when Ozzie made his Thome decision. Former South Side Sox editor The Cheat famously (to me, at least) compared the choice to not bring back Thome to Dave Wannstedt's immortal "All the pieces are in place" quote. Of course, Kenny Williams should never have given his manager so much power in the first place, but that's neither here nor there. You know the rest of the story: the Side Siders would go on to miss the playoffs yet win a lot of games -- 87, to be exact -- with the equivalent of a Triple-A player hitting in the DH spot nightly. Meanwhile, Thome signed a ridiculously cheap contract with the Twins where he would post an astounding 25 homers and .412 on-base percentage in 108 games.
Even by White Sox standards, the Thome debacle rated squarely as a gut-punch.
That's why it was interesting to hear yesterday that the Sox could be interested in bringing back Thome for this year's stretch run after the slugger was reportedly waived by Minnesota following his 600th career homer. Ozzie Guillen was quoted as saying he'd welcome Thome back.
"I'd love to add Jim Thome back to be honest with you," Guillen said. "A lot of people think I don't want Jimmy."
"I don't expect him to be here, but if they want to bring him here, if you ask anybody wearing this uniform if they want Jim Thome back everybody here would say yes. But that's not our department."
Thome's numbers have sank from his gargantuan 2010, but he's still OPS'ing a more-than-respectable .858 in 198 plate appearances. Conversely, Dunn, the current DH, has an OPS of -- gulp -- .589.
After a one-run loss on the road to the Angels on Tuesday, the Sox sit a game below .500 and 6.5 back in the division to the surging Tigers, who have won five straight. It may already be too late for Thome to play savior, but the move would certainly improve the team, boost fan morale, and maybe even sell a few tickets. It would also be major concession from Williams and Guillen that what they did before 2010 was wrong and awful and a complete disaster. Yeah, some of us still aren't letting that one go.