Lots of star Chicago White Sox 1B came back to haunt them after leaving
By Joe Santoro
Jose Abreu and Frank Thomas will be forever linked in Chicago White Sox history.
Abreu and Thomas, both powerful right-handed hitters, are two of the greatest first basemen in the history of the franchise.
The 6-foot-3, 235-pound Abreu and the 6-5, 240-pound Thomas combined to hit 691 home runs in 25 seasons with the White Sox, each winning a Most Valuable Player award (Abreu in 2020, Thomas in 1993 and 1994).
Abreu, a three-time All Star, began his major league career with the White Sox in 2014, the same year Thomas, a five-time All Star, was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame.
Both are in the Top Ten in White Sox history in slugging percentage, OPS, runs scored, hits, total bases, doubles, home runs, RBI, strikeouts, and extra-base hits.
Both Abreu and Thomas also left the White Sox the same way, as free agents. Abreu signed a three-year, roughly $60 million contract with the Houston Astros in late November while Thomas signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Oakland A's in January 2006.
The White Sox received nothing for their quarter century of combined service except a long line of gaudy statistics, honors, and fond memories.
The White Sox, which open the season Thursday against Abreu's Astros in Houston, we have to hope the similarities between Thomas and Abreu end there.
Thomas, after all, rarely failed to put a big hurt on the White Sox after he left Chicago.
Thomas' rude treatment of the White Sox started his very first game against his former teammates.
Thomas, just five days past his 38th birthday, came to U.S. Cellular Field on the night of May 22, 2006, and promptly hit a solo home run on the fifth pitch he saw from Jon Garland to give the Athletics a 1-0 lead.
He drilled a 2-2 pitch from Garland for a single to left field in the third inning.
In the fifth inning, Thomas crushed a one-strike offering from Garland for his second home run of the game as the A's took a 4-0 lead. The White Sox would rally to beat the A's 5-4 in the 10th inning on a Pablo Ozuna bunt single (scoring A.J. Pierzynski) to send a crowd of 39,354 home happy.
The fans saw the Sox win and also witnessed a classic performance by Thomas, who went 3-for-5 with two runs scored, two homers, and two RBI.
The next night Thomas was 0-for-1 in a 9-3 Chicago victory but the Sox and Javier Vasquez walked him three times and hit him with a pitch. The three-game series concluded with a 3-2 Sox win as Thomas went 1-for-3 with another walk.
Thomas was 4-for-9 in the three games with two homers, two RBI, two runs scored, and four walks for an on-base percentage of .643 (four walks and a hit by pitch in 14 plate appearances).
The Sox faced Thomas for three more games in Oakland in September in 2006 and lost all three games.
Thomas went 3-for-10 with a double and two more home runs, driving in seven runs. He belted a two-run homer off Vasquez on Sept. 16 and a three-run blast off Jose Contreras the following game.
Thomas played six games against the Sox in 2006 and went 7-for-19 (.368) with four homers and nine RBI.
Thomas would play two more seasons (2007 and 2008) and never completely repeat the punishment he put on the Sox in 2006. But he found time to do some damage on his original major league team just the same.
Thomas drilled a home run off Mark Buehrle in his first game against the Sox in 2007, leading the Toronto Blue Jays to a 2-0 win on May 31 in Toronto.
Thomas played seven games against the White Sox in 2007, going 4-for-23 (.174) with a double, homer, and two RBI. He also walked four times and was hit by a pitch for an on-base percentage of .321.
Thomas returned to Oakland in 2008 and was just 2-for-10 in three games against the White Sox in the middle of August. He scored a run and walked once. He was 2-for-4 against Gavin Floyd in the first game of the series in Oakland, a 6-4 A's win.
The A's and Blue Jays were a combined 8-8 against the White Sox with Thomas from 2006-08. Thomas was 13-for-52 (.250) with five home runs and 11 RBI.
Abreu this week will join Thomas and a long line of memorable first basemen who enjoyed success against the White Sox after leaving Chicago.
There is no doubt that seeing Jose Abreu on another team will hurt.
There were some other notable first basemen to come back and hurt the White Sox: