Hall of Famer Frank Thomas has seen rebuilds blossom into championships. He understands they might be the right path toward a successful future.
“I’ve watched it firsthand,’’ he said. ‘‘I first saw it with Cleveland when I was playing. Cleveland did it. Then you saw the Royals do it. You saw Houston do it, and they’re tearing it up with that youth. There have been some other teams that have had a lot of success with it, too.”
Thomas just so happened to omit the Cubs.
He called the White Sox’ game Sunday on Channel 9 with Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, who coined his “Big Hurt” nickname. Thomas truly appreciates what Harrelson — and that moniker — has meant to his life.
“People still call me ‘Big Hurt’ instead of Frank Thomas when I go places,” said Thomas, who added that Harrelson is a Hall of Fame broadcaster. “It’s kind of interesting what someone can bestow on you, and he did that for me. I’m proud of it and very happy and blessed he did it.”
These days, the Sox are looking for their next player worthy of an iconic nickname. They’re in the middle of a rebuild that will yield a lot of defeats — such as the 3-1 loss Sunday to the Tigers — and hoping their deep pool of prospects produces a winner.
Though he sounded somewhat cautious about the idea because of the Chicago market, Thomas generally endorsed the notion of the Sox’ rebuild.
“It’s hard to say because it’s Chicago, and we’re used to winning,’’ Thomas said. ‘‘You normally get away with this in a smaller market, but you’ve got to understand they’ve taken their time with it. They wasted a lot of money for a five-year period trying to continue to be successful the way we were in the past, and it wasn’t working.”
The Sox aren’t the only team to reach that conclusion recently. The idea has become an accepted aspect of baseball, with many other franchises going through a teardown.
“It’s a different ballgame now,’’ Thomas said. ‘‘It’s all about the youth. The hardest part they’re going to have, though, is figuring out who’s going to be here and who’s not going to be here because over the next couple years, they’ve got so many young, talented players in Double-A and Triple-A that someone could actually force some of these guys out. It’s going to be a hard decision, what they’re going to have to do.”
Thomas has his eye on outfield prospect Eloy Jimenez. The power hitter has Sox fans drooling about his potential. And Thomas compared Jimenez to another Hall of Famer.
“I’ve really watched him a lot,’’ he said. ‘‘He’s a tremendous [player]. He reminds me of a young [Vladimir Guerrero] that can cover the whole zone and use the whole field. I’m interested in seeing how he progresses.”
As for whether Rick Renteria is the right manager for when the team is ready to win, Thomas said that’s not up to him.
“I hope it’s Ricky because he’s done a heck of a rebuild job with the Cubs and a heck of a rebuild job here,” Thomas said. “It’s just time for him to get a good team out on the field and see what he really can do. I’m hoping he gets a chance to have a full team to put out there for 162 games and see what he can do.”