CHICAGO -- Frank Thomas, whose status for last night's game was uncertain until shortly before game time, was just about everybody's main topic of conversation before the start of the American League Championship Series.
While White Sox manager Gene Lamont was deciding whether to use his star at first base or as the designated hitter, a Chicago television station was reporting that Thomas was about to become baseball's highest salaried player. Reportedly, the White Sox are close to making a six-year deal that will pay Thomas $44 million.
Barry Bonds is currently baseball's highest salaried performer, having signed a $43.75 million, six-year contract with the San Francisco Giants last year. The White Sox have said they would not be conducting any negotiations during postseason play and declined to comment on the report.
Meanwhile, from the Toronto clubhouse, Blue Jays DH Paul Molitor said he was glad that Thomas was in the White Sox lineup. "Frank has meant so much to that club, you don't want to see a guy like that miss the series," said Molitor.
Thomas was sidelined five days last week with what was described as tendinitis in his left forearm. Rather than risk further injury, Lamont decided to use Thomas as his DH last night.
"I'm glad he can play," said Molitor. "You like to go against the best they can offer."
Thomas was clear choice
Lamont's decision to use Thomas as DH may have been made easier by his other options. Neither Bo Jackson nor George Bell, the other DH candidates, has performed well against the Blue Jays.
Bell hit .065 (2-for-31) against his former team this year and has only a .129 average (9-for-70) for his career. Jackson hit .048 (1-for-21) this season and has hit only .199 (45-for-161) over the last seven years.
Dan Pasqua hit .294 (5-for-17) against the Blue Jays this year, and gives the White Sox another left-handed hitter against the Blue Jays' four right-handed starters.
What a matchup
This is the sixth time in ALCS history, and fourth time in the last six years, that the team with the best ERA (Chicago) has faced the team with the best batting average (Toronto tied with the Yankees at .279).
In four of the other five years, the team with the best ERA has prevailed. The lone exception was Minnesota's win over Toronto in 1991. The years the pitching leaders won were 1969 and 1970, the Orioles over the Minnesota Twins; and 1988 and 1990, when the Oakland Athletics beat the Boston Red Sox.
Guzman on the wild side
Juan Guzman tied a couple of dubious ALCS records in the first inning last night. After walking Frank Thomas, the Blue Jays' right-hander threw three wild pitches, matching a record for one playoff game. The wild pitches were the second, third and fourth for Guzman in his AL Championship Series career, a record he holds by himself.
The experience factor
Prior to last night, the White Sox had eight players who had played a total of 15 postseason games. The Blue Jays, who had only five players on their roster without postseason experience, had played a total of 143 playoff or World Series games.
East in the lead
This is the 25th year for baseball playoffs. The Eastern Division leads 14-10, having won the first three matchups (1969-71) and nine of 10 pennants between 1975 and 1984. Since then, however, the Red Sox in 1986 and the Blue Jays last year are the only AL East teams to advance to the World Series.