Thursday night was a pretty great night to be me. Not only did I have Illini basketball to watch, but then my favorite baseball team went out and did something to make me excited about baseball for the first time in months.
Oh, I know a lot of you are still very much involved in the baseball reason at the moment. The Cardinals could clinch another trip to the World Series tonight. However, if you're a White Sox fan like myself, you haven't had much reason to care since May.
I love baseball but I had to take a step back from it this season. The White Sox were just that bad. It's not that I stopped paying attention to them this season, but that I stopped caring. I had to turn it off for my own sanity. It's not just that the team was bad, it was that there wasn't much hope for the future outside of Chris Sale.
That changed a bit when the Sox acquired Avisail Garcia at the trade deadline, but it really changed on Thursday night when it was announced that the Sox had signed Cuban free agent Jose Abreu. Now, I'm not going to get into what kind of player Abreu supposedly is, or whether or not this is a move the White Sox should be making. If you're interested in finding out about that, go ahead and read this from South Side Sox.
The only thing I know about Abreu, besides the fact he has "poop-your-pants power" is that I'm thrilled the White Sox signed him, and that he's got a lot to live up to. And while most people will compare Abreu to recent Cuban imports like Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig, I'm thinking more along the lines of the succession of first baseman with the White Sox.
Now, I've been a Sox fan my entire life, but I've only been a sentient White Sox fan for roughly 23 of those years. Yes, an 8-year old kid can say he's a fan, but that doesn't mean that kid actually knows anything about what's happening aside from "baseball is being played and my team is winning/losing."
Ever since I became truly aware of what I was watching, the White Sox have essentially had two first basemen. From 1990 to 2013 it was a position that had been manned by Frank Thomas and Paul Konerko. One of whom will be a Hall of Famer, and the other who would belong in the Hall of Very Good.
Seven of their combined 31 seasons with the White Sox overlapped, and in those 31 seasons Thomas and Konerko combined to hit .294 with 875 home runs and 2,826 RBI.
Both Thomas and Konerko rank in the top ten in franchise history in WAR and slugging percentage. They rank in the top five in games played, at bats, plate appearances, runs scored, hits and doubles. They are the top two in total bases, home runs and RBI.
One of them already has a statue on the concourse at US Cellular Field and his number retired. The other will soon enough.
These are two legends that Jose Abreu has to replace.
While the White Sox have had their ups and downs during my lifetime as a fan, with a lot more ups than downs, even if you remove that World Series title. Still, the one constant for me as a White Sox fan is that Frank Thomas or Paul Konerko were going to be at first base more often than not, all the while being the most important bat in the middle of the lineup.
The good news for Abreu is that as a 26-year old who grew up in Cuba, he probably isn't even aware of what he's replacing in Chicago. So odds are he won't be feeling that weight on his shoulders.
However, that's who I'll be comparing him too. And while it'd be foolish to think Abreu can come close to replicating the careers of Thomas and Konerko, I'll be watching and hoping he can.
No pressure, bro.