Monday, February 22, 2010

Frank Thomas vs. Thomas Frank

Frank "The Big Hurt" Thomas has recently made official his retirement from Major League Baseball. During the first decade of his career, there was not a better all-around hitter in baseball. Batting average, power, home runs, walks, all that stuff - he was the man you least wanted to see 60 feet and 6 inches away during the majority of the Clinton administration (except for maybe Ken Starr*). Although injuries put a serious damper on his offensive prowess, there is no doubt that Frank Thomas will make the Hall Of Fame when he's eligible - most likely in the first year of voting. One more thing: I won a Frank Thomas jersey (White Sox colors of course) in a contest at a show by the punk band The Boys Club out in Long Beach, Long Island. It brings me luck, and so far no injuries.

Thomas "(no nickname)" Frank is an author who wrote a book called What's The Matter With Kansas? Said book discusses the issue of working-class people, mostly rural white folks, who have been bamboozled into voting against their economic interests by the smoke and mirrors of mainstream politics. The title refers to a popular song of the same name from the late 1800's, when Kansas (and many other rural, mostly white regions) were ablaze with legitimate populist movements - "legitimate" here defined as "not overseen by conservative think tanks in Washington DC." Back then, poor farmers from near Wichita tended to vote for progressive or even (gasp!) Socialist candidates for local, state, and national office. What changed? Ask Thomas Frank, but in my humble opinion, the general standard of living for poor rural whites has increased substantially since the late 1800's (since the Great Depression, really), and most of the Bubbas now really don't care so much about sticking it to the wealthy as they used to when there was no such thing as farm subsidies, food stamps, and social security/medicare. Forget the Dust Bowl and sodbuster starvation; they're now on the NASCAR diet now and are doing just fine, thank you.

As of this date, I am not sure that Frank Thomas and Thomas Frank have ever met, or are even necessarily aware of each other's existence. And I wouldn't even know who would be more likely to be aware of who, all things considered.

Thomas Frank makes some great points in his writing, but doesn't seem to grasp that many people tend to vote against their own economic interests when they reach a certain low level of affluence. Frank Thomas was the best hitter of the 1990's, but was primarily a DH and first baseman, and his injuries did rob him of some productive years. He also has the reputation, deserved or no, of not being all that "tough" - The Big Hurt couldn't PLAY hurt. Hmm. I do think that Frank Thomas can probably write better than Thomas Frank can hit, though.


*in fairness, most people probably didn't care how near or far away Ken Starr was - they just didn't want to see him, period.

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