OK, so it's not exactly Willie Mays in a Mets uniform, but if this ends up being the last image we have of Frank Thomas the ballplayer, it's a pretty sad one.
After coming to a "mutual agreement" with the Blue Jays (J.P. Ricciardi's words, not Frank's) on Sunday, the arguably best pure hitter of the '90s was granted his release by the club. He's now free to sign with any team who's willing to see if the Big Hurt has anything left — on Toronto's dime, no less.
While the April release of a future Hall of Famer is certainly a tad shocking — the last time I can remember a similar situation is the White Sox bouncing Carlton Fisk in mid-June, 1993 — the move made too much sense for the Blue Jays. Had Thomas reached 370 plate appearances this season, a 2009 option for $10 million would have been exercised ... way too much for a player who was starting to pout at the beginning of 2008. With financial considerations being a concern, Thomas' reaction to his diminished playing time provided too good of an excuse to spring the trap door.
A reaction from Blue Jays blogs and media outlets follows the jump and I don't think I'm spoiling any surprises by saying they're not too broken up by the whole thing. After all, they still have the memories of No. 500 to block out Frank looking bad in that powder blue pajama top.
The Southpaw: "Let me touch just a second on the assumption that JP has crassly and classlessly put the financial consideration above the good of the team. I just don't read it that way. That's not to say that I don't think money was an issue, certainly if the other negatives potentially in play here are legitimate, then you don't want to be holding the bag on a guaranteed contract for more of the same next season. But the timing of this is very wrong if you are assuming there's nothing at work here but money. After all, Rolen is still some days away and the obvious call-up (Adam Lind) is not 100% at the moment. If there was cold calculation regarding the option year then the same sort of calculation would have waited a couple of weeks to pull the trigger."
Drunk Jays Fans: "If Thomas couldn't accept being dropped in the order or benched until he could consistently contribute to the offence instead of being a giant black hole in the most important part of the lineup, what else are the Jays supposed to do? Keep carrying a disgruntled, benched Hall-of-Famer who's not shy about venting through the media and who pulled some bush league bull**** as his final act with the team by not participating in the post-game handshake?"
Globe and Mail: "First, forget about it being an issue in the clubhouse. Thomas was a benign presence on clubhouse life, clearly looking out for No. 1 but not in a bad way — doing it the way all future Hall of Famers have done when they play out the string. He wasn't a drag on anybody, but neither was he going to go out of his way to light a fire. There are advantages to being Larger Than Life (TM), and, well, who among us, right? It's a big deal if Roy Halladay is angry. Or Vernon Wells or Aaron Hill. Thomas ... not so much."
Tao of Stieb: "The best part about the Jays releasing Frank Thomas is that it should put an end to the chants of "Frank the Tank" at the Rogers SkyDome. Because that had gotten more than a little tiresome. While we think it is possible that there was still a little fight left in the Big Hurt, chances are that he wouldn't have reached either the 26 homer or 96 RBI plateaus from last year. The Jays were facing a situation where they either cut bait soon, or ended up stuck with a seriously diminished asset."