Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Frank Thomas Saga

It began with a bang and ended with a whimper.

I've spent the last two days - as have most Blue Jays fans - trying to comprehend Frank Thomas' sudden release. When he signed with the Jays, I was worried that the Big Hurt's time in Toronto would turn into a disaster; similar to what occurred when Hakeem Olajuwon played for the Raptors. Unfortunately, that's exactly what happened.

We must ask ourselves the following questions:

Did Frank Thomas deserve to get benched?

Absolutely. The man was hitting .167 with just ten hits and three homeruns. Thomas was brought in to be a power hitter and was failing to produce. If you can't do your job properly, you're going to lose your job.

I disagree with people who say, "Frank Thomas always starts the season in a slump and needs a few months before he can be effective. You just have to be patient with him."

What kind of logic is that? What kind of organization would agree to such a theory? Any team that is content with their power hitter taking two months of the regular season to warm up before becoming effective does not deserve to be in the majors. "Warming up" takes place in March during Spring Training. Once the regular season starts, you bring your A-game, day in and day out. Sure, there are days during the regular season when a player has a bad game. Sometimes, a player find himself in a slump. So what do you do? You work as hard as you can to overcome the slump. Otherwise, you're going to find yourself on the bench.

I cannot believe some fans are okay with Thomas' lack of production. I cannot believe some fans are okay with the fact that Thomas doesn't start playing well until midway through the season. I understand he's hit over 500 homeruns. I understand he's a hall-of-famer. I understand he's one of the best ball players of the 90's. I completely agree and accept that. However, I will not put Frank Thomas on a pedestal, nor will I view him differently when compared to his teammates. If Matt Stairs, or Lyle Overbay, or Alex Rios, or Vernon Wells were to hit .167, the fans would DEMAND the unproductive player be benched, released, traded, or demoted to Syracuse. You would never hear "Oh, is just being . He always needs a few months to warm up before he starts to hit well. Just give it some time." Last season, Thomas had a pretty good season. But by the time he statistics started to climb, it was too late. The Blue Jays had already played themselves out of contention. There was no way the Jays could allow a similar thing to happen this year. Something had to be done.

Was money a factor in the decision to bench Thomas?

Of course. Whether you like it or not, professional baseball is a business. At the end of the day, it's all about making a profit. Money is spent to develop a winning team. No owner likes to waste money. How would you feel if you paid your star player millions of dollars and he failed to produce? George Steinbrenner wouldn't put up with it; neither should Ted Rogers.

Did Frank Thomas handle the situation well?

No way! He clearly shot himself in the foot. Baseball is a team sport. I don't care if you're the superstar who leads the team in everything, or the utility player who might get 60 at-bats if he's lucky; you do not put your needs ahead of the team's needs. Yes, being benched stinks, but you suck it up, act in a professional manner, and do whatever you can to get back in the lineup. You do not do what Frank Thomas did. You DO NOT refuse to sit in the dugout. You DO NOT refuse to shake your teammates' hands after they win a match. Thomas' actions were inappropriate, unprofessional, childish and downright rude.

Will Thomas' absence hurt the Jays?

No. There are enough players to pick up the slack. Stairs has been hitting well, as is Aaron Hill, Rios and Wells. Shannon Stewart and Rod Barajas will also get more playing time, which couldn't happen with Thomas in the lineup. Granted, every hitter needs to hit the ball better. But it's not like Thomas was making a large offensive impact.

I guess you can call this closure. It's a shame things had to end like this. However, these things happen. It's not the first time this has happened (Randy Myers, Mike Stanley, Erik Hanson) and it probably won't be the last (Barry Bonds?????***).

The Hek

***Ugh, it makes my stomach turn.


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