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Baseball: A's sign Frank Thomas

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posted on Jan, 25 2006 @ 03:05 PM
We signed him to a one year deal today to supposedly gives us that 'big bat' in the middle of the order. He was injured for part of last season and the one before with leg injuries. So it remains to be seen if he can stay healthy. Thomas is one of only 10 major league players in history with a .300 career batting average, 400 home runs, 1,000 RBI's, 1,000 runs scored and 1,000 walks. The former Auburn star won back-to-back American League MVP awards (1993 & 1994) and won the A.L. batting crown in 1997 when hit a robust .347. But at 37, does he still have what it takes?

posted on Jan, 25 2006 @ 04:19 PM
Oh, no, not another one.

This is another guy who, like I said on the Piazza thread, could embarrass himself and his great legacy if he's not careful. Like Piazza, he is very tall (a liability) and very big (a bad combination, where baseball longevity is concerned). And also like Piazza, he's already 37 years old--and an old 37 because of his size.

He, not Griffey or Bonds, was almost every expert's choice for the greatest hitter of the 1990's, and really, neither Griffey nor Bonds was close. No less an expert than Bill James made the extraordinary remark that Thomas had a chance to be remembered in the same historical company as Babe Ruth and Ted Williams. Where hitting is concerned, of course, that's as good as it gets.

In his first 10 full seasons, Thomas:

-----Drew over 100 walks nine times, despite that strike zone. Those walks turned into a lot of runs at the expense of zero outs;

-----Hit 337 HR;

-----Had only one year with an on-base percentage below .414 (!);

-----Had six of ten seasons with slugging averages over .600, including one at .729, the first slugging average over .700 since 1957 (Ted Williams, at age 38);

-----Hand NINE out of 10 seasons over 100 RBI's, and nobody could call those White Sox teams juggernauts, much less call New Comiskey a hitter's paradise with its long foul lines;

-----Had 3 firsts, 1 second and 3 thirds in RBI's.

NOW, do I think James went overboard in saying Thomas had a chance to be another Babe Ruth or Teddy Ballgame until he fell off in 2001? God, yes. Babe Ruth led the A.L. in home runs 12 times in 14 years and slugging 13 times in 14 years (not a misprint); Frank Thomas has accomplished those feats 0 and 1 times, respectively. Babe Ruth had--you'll want to get ready for this one--three different seasons in which he hit more HR's than any other American League TEAM. Nobody today would be allowed to do that, of course, and nobody could, anyway, considering the number of home runs teams hit.

Now, I know Babe Ruth stats very well, because that's obligatory for a baseball history nut. And y'all may know them pretty well before this coming season is over. But trust me, even making all sorts of adjustments for different eras, Frank Williams was never going to be another Babe Ruth. And he wasn't going to win two triple crowns, have a .482 CAREER on-base average and bat .406 for a season, nor was he going to win six batting titles, 12 on-base titles and 9 slugging titles, or even come close to doing those things. So he wasn't going to be anything like Ted Williams #2.

But he was a very, very, very good hitter, and I've never heard anything to indicate he's tainted by you-know-what. In fact, his performances in the past five years (see below) seem to suggest otherwise.

Even with the big fall-off in recent years, he has a .427 LIFETIME on-base average. That's one of the best of all time, with only seven 20th Century players of 10 or more seasons ahead of him--not counting Bonds, which is how I'm going to approach these things. And the last of those seven to retire was Ted Williams, after the 1960 season! (Williams, Ruth, Gehrig, Hornsby, Cobb, Foxx and Speaker are the complete 7, in that order.) And he has a .568 lifetime slugging average--higher than Mays, Mantle and Aaron--which has gone DOWN during the last five years, while all the steroid cheats' averages have soared. His on-base average has really plummeted in the past 5 years, even though it's still good enough to be #8 all-time, post-1900. As I recall, it was either #3 or #4; I can't recall if he was ahead of Gehrig or not.

I really don't want to see this great player embarrass his legacy. He has made over $86,000,000 already, not counting the considerable fortune he's made in endorsements because the only better player of the 1990's is so hateable nobody wants him endorsing their stuff.

FRANK, YOU ARE THE KIND OF GUY WHO COULD REALLY EMBARRASS YOURSELF, GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY. You could play another 8 years, probably, with the last 5 or so being as a bench player who comes up and takes clumsy, Kingmanesque hacks at the ball, but absolutely murders it when he connects (a la Kingman). But what a sad way that would be to end such a great career.

You've got the bucks, and they'll surely last you and yours as long as needed. You've got the glory, and in a game where the sport's history is so big, that will last decades, if not centuries, after you are gone. Don't tarnish your legacy like Steve Carlton or, dare I say it, Willie Mays by sticking around painfully too long.


posted on Jan, 26 2006 @ 01:25 PM
I'm sad to see Frank leave Chicago, but at least I'll get to see him play again. I know these players are risking embarrassment, but I'd rather see him play and not do well, then not see him play at all.

posted on Jan, 26 2006 @ 03:57 PM
I agree with you IF he has the good sense to quit right away, once it becomes apparent he's washed.

If you review Mike Schmidt's career record, that's exactly what he did, and he did it at age 36. No knowledgeable person questions Schmidt's status as the greatest third baseman ever. He won EIGHT home run titles, which is to say, more than any major leaguer of all time whose name was not Babe Ruth.

Now... suppose Schmidt played 4 more years, his multiple-gold glove shot to hell, his power gone, his batting average at .203. Those years would have figured into his career averages, and would have brought them down a lot and would have tarred a lot of people's memories of him. And this was a guy who'd made $8 million in his career, not $85 million--despite being 2 times the player Thomas or Piazza is. But instead, as he was sailing along having all his great seasons, he suddenly had quite a bad one at age 35, came back and played terribly for another 1/4 season at age 36, couldn't field a routine grounder one day, called a press conference the next, and said, "I quit."

Will Thomas and Piazza have the good sense to do that when they can no longer hit major league pitching? That's my concern. Piazza's obviously headed for life in the American League if he persists, because his defensive stats at catcher are surprisingly average, but his stats at 1B are lousy and he can't continue playing catcher if he can't throw ANYONE out. And it's pretty well-established where Thomas has to play. Oh, and if either of those guys is dirty--which I do not believe for a second--he'd better retire now, before he winds up like Rafael You-Know-Who, losing it all.

Obviously I support the right of these men to keep playing as long as there is someone who'll pay them, but if Thomas hasn't improved markedly over last year by the middle of this year, he should quit and save his legacy, especially that otherworldly on-base average. And Piazza, who is now virtually everyone's choice for the greatest hitting catcher in MLB history (i.e., excluding Josh Gibson). should study how Mike Schmidt did it, and if his hitting goes the way Schmidt's did, he should show the same class and wisdom.



posted on Jan, 26 2006 @ 04:13 PM
Who did they get to replace Thomas? Was it Thome from the Philles?

One question i would like to ask is, what age would you consider a baseball player to be 'over the hill' so to speak. I have noticed a big change in football in the UK, where players are prolonging their careers and playing well beyond the age what they used to. Goalkeepers always play well into their late 30's and are not considered to be in their prime untill they hit 30, but now the outfield players are doing it...

posted on Jan, 26 2006 @ 07:54 PM
It varies dramatically, with the individual. Schmidt was over the hill young, and had the great sense to know it. Babe Ruth, even as fat as he got at the end, was a tremendous player until shortly before he hit 40. Nolan Ryan pitched very well after he hit 40, and I doubt he was juiced. Hank Aaron was great in his late 30's, and it wasn't all because of "The Launching Pad." Juan Marichal underwent a precipitous decline beginning at the alleged age of 32. Stan Musial hit .330 with power at age 41, and Warren Spahn went 23-7 at age 42 (!), but Robin Roberts, by far the greatest pitcher of the first half of the 50's, was never the same again after age 28.

Players "wash up" at different ages, and I don't think it can be predicted in advance when they will--except perhaps at catcher, where "games caught" is a real good indicator, or with very large players (Frank Howard, for example), which is why I'm circumspect about Thomas and doubly circumspect about Piazza.

But more to the point: Piazza and Thomas have shown real signs of decline already. If they don't turn it around, and fast, I think they should take the immense fortunes they've already made, retire, and bask forevermore in the glory of the great historical places they have made for themselves. The alternative is ugly.



posted on Jan, 27 2006 @ 11:03 AM
So... Would you say the same about Sosa, his numbers have declined the last few seasons. Although he has been littered by foot injurys and such like the last few seasons, he looks to be on his way out..

posted on Jan, 27 2006 @ 02:07 PM
No, I would say the same thing about Sosa that I say about Bonds, and even worse, because Bonds was already a legitimate Hall of Famer--a first-rounder, even--before his magical, um, growth spurt. That is, I don't think Sosa has a place in history, except in the most pejorative sense.

His case is not as flagrant as Bonds', but he played a lot of mediocre-to-merely-good years, and then all of a sudden BOOM, he's going over 60 HR's a year like clockwork. I ain't buying it.



posted on Jan, 27 2006 @ 02:11 PM
So as you said 'NO' you think Sosa can produce like he has in previous seasons and he is not over the hill...

posted on Jan, 27 2006 @ 03:31 PM
Yeah, with the great big giant proviso that his place on the hill was never legit to begin with

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