11 years ago today, April 20, 2008, the Blue Jays released Frank Thomas.
The Jays signed Frank Thomas to a two year deal, plus vesting option for a 3rd year before the 2007 season. Frank had had a really good 2007, hitting .277/.377/.480, with 29 home runs. Then he started 2008 slowly, hitting just .167/.306/.333 in his first 72 at bats. Thomas was a notoriously slow starter for much of his career. As late as June 3rd, 2007, Frank was hitting just .217. After that he went on a roll.
So when he started slow in 2008, most of us figured he’d get it together at some point, but manager John Gibbons (likely with the input of GM J.P. Ricciardi) decided Frank should sit on the bench. Frank did not react well.
Here is how Hugo put it at the time:
Thomas did not shake hands with his teammates after the game and spoke angrily to reporters, indicating his belief that the decision was based on money, not putting the best team on the field.
Frank figured he was being benched so that he wouldn’t reach the number of at bats needed to vest his option for the next season. He was likely right. They replaced Frank, that night, with Joe Inglett, a nice enough player but not someone that would give you a lot of production.
Hugo put up a poll, and most BBBers didn’t think releasing Frank was a good move. We were wrong. The A’s picked up Thomas, after his release and he hit .263/.364/.387 for them in 217 at bats. Decent OBA, but he was being paid to drive in runs and his power disappeared. That would be the end of his career.
The Jays saved $10 million for 2009.
The Jays finished 86-76 that year. Matt Stairs was the primary DH, after Frank left, and he wasn’t great, hitting .250/.342/.394.
The season became a bit of a mess, we expected to contend and we didn’t. Gibbons was fired on June 30th, when we had a 35-39 record. Cito Gaston was hired and things got better. The best thing he did was put a young Adam Lind into the lineup, saving us from watching the stylings Brad Wilkerson and Kevin Mench in the outfield.
We had a 51-37 record under Cito and we had a bit of hope for awhile but we never got closer than 7.5 games from the top of the division and finished 4th, with a 86-76 record. 2009 went worse with us finishing 75-87 (despite scoring 27 more runs than we allowed) and Ricciardi was fired.