Two Different Men Into Two Different Sunsets

Yes, yes, 2005/2006/station-to-station domination/end of an era, et cetera, but after all the ink has been spilled, there remain two things no one’s talking about with regards to last night’s trades of Jose Conteras to the Rockies and Jim Thome to the Dodgers.

1. The Sox are better off without Jose Contreras.
When was the last time anyone said “Oh good, Contreras is pitching tonight.” Two years ago? Three? Four? How many three-inning, five-run outings could the Good Guys even stand anymore to seriously consider themselves in contention? Contreras lost the magic years – not months, years – ago, and no batch of stellar outings went without bookends of the absolute worst pitching performances any of us will ever see in our lifetimes. By dealing away one-fifth of his rotation, Kenny Williams admits what we already knew: having nobody pitch is better than having Jose Contreras pitch.

2. Jim Thome is better off without the White Sox.
It may sting a little more to see Thome leave, if only because he was by all accounts one of the nicest, hardest-working guys in the league, and you know he was grateful for every at-bat. But as far back as 2005, Thome’s entire reason for waiving his no-trade clause was to live closer to home and get a shot at a World Series – a shot he thought he had with the White Sox. The Good Guys tried their hardest, and Thome certainly kept up his end of the bargain, leaving behind a highlight reel easily summed up by mere mention of two of the greatest, numerically-ordained moments in franchise history: 500 and 163. Thome and the Sox had a good thing for a while, but at 39 years old he had to know the time to get that last piece of the puzzle was running out.

In many ways, the Jim Thome of 2009 is not unlike the Ken Griffey, Jr. of 2008, leaving his hometown team for that one last shot at The Big One. Maybe he’ll return to Cleveland for an encore in 2010, or maybe this October with Los Angeles will be all the farewell tour he needs. Either way, after four years of organizational frustration it finally grew to the point where, to Thome, time spent on the bench with the Dodgers became more appealing than time spent trying to carry the Sox any further on his aching back. Here’s wishing you the world, Big Jim. You’ve earned it.