CHICAGO -- Frank Thomas used to be one of the biggest, brightest stars in baseball, but his inability to lift himself above the flagging fortunes of the declining Chicago White Sox franchise has left him looking very ordinary in an otherwise extraordinary season.
Chicago Cubs' slugger Sammy Sosa and pitching phenom Kerry Wood have stolen the heart of the Second City, leaving Thomas to languish in the relative obscurity of his 1998 statistics and share in the futility of an organization that he recently dubbed "a laughingstock."
Thomas failed to make the American League All-Star team for the first time since his debut in the midseason classic in 1993. He was outpointed in the fan voting by Cleveland Indians slugger Jim Thome and Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez, and rightfully so. He finished the first half with 14 home runs and 55 RBI in a season when the league's top hitters are on pace to challenge the single-season record in both categories.
Of course, he merely is a reflection of his team. The White Sox lose the fan voting every night in Chicago. The Cubs dominate the market, and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf apparently has lost his desire to compete with them. Whether Thomas is a victim of that organizational malaise or one of the contributing factors remains an open question.
The situation has gotten so bad that a high-profile Chicago columnist barely caused a ripple when he called Thursday for the White Sox to trade Thomas. They are considering trading everyone else, so why not?
Thomas isn't doing the team or himself any good going through the motions in Chicago when he could rekindle his competitive fire with a contending club and bring the rebuilding White Sox a package of young players in return.
The White Sox, however, appear more likely to deal third baseman Robin Ventura, despite public pronouncements to the contrary. They would trade high-priced outfielder Albert Belle in a minute, but nobody wants to assume his huge contract. Thomas is a relative bargain at an average annual salary of $7.9 million per year (through 2001), so he probably isn't going anywhere.
Trouble is, neither are the White Sox.
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