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Today in Blue Jay History: Frank Thomas Released

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Toronto Blue Jays Spring Training - February 22, 2007 Photo by A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images

13 years ago today

The Blue Jays released Frank Thomas.

The Jays signed Frank Thomas to a two-year deal, plus a vesting option for a 3rd year before the 2007 season. Frank had had a 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 slowly 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 Gibby benched him 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. After his release, the A’s picked up Thomas, and he hit .263/.364/.387 for them in 217 at-bats. Decent OBA, but he was paid to drive in runs, and his power disappeared. That would be the end of his career.

The Jays saved $10 million for 2009. We’d also save money when A.J. Burnett left as a free again. I think we spent it on Kevin Millar.

The Jays finished 86-76 that year. After Frank left, Matt Stairs was the primary DH, 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. They hired Cito Gaston, and things got better. The best thing he did was put a young Adam Lind into the lineup, saving us from watching the baseball stylings of Brad Wilkerson and Kevin Mench in the outfield.

We had a 51-37 record under Cito, and we had a bit of hope for a while, 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 got the boot.

20 years ago today

Carlos Delgado hit three home runs in a game for the second time in the 2001 season.

And he went back-to-back with Raul Mondesi twice in the game, an MLB first for teammates.

Delgado drove in 4, and Raul Mondesi drove in 5. We beat the Royals 12-4.

Chris Carpenter got the win, pitching 7 innings, allowing 8 hits, 3 earned, 3 walks, and 3 strikeouts. Carlos Beltran hit a home run off him. Pasqual Coco pitched the last two innings. If you don’t remember Coco, you aren’t alone. He pitched in 10 Jays’ games over three seasons. He had a 6.05 ERA in 19.1 innings for his career.

Mac Suzuki started for the Royals. He gave up one of Delgado’s homers. Roberto Hernandez and Tony Cogan also gave up one each.

Here are the starting lineups. We got 100 home runs that season from the guys hitting 3, 4, and 5 that day.


Lineup

BLUE JAYS ROYALS
Brian Simmons, LF Luis Alicia, 2B
Jeff Frye, 2B Carlos Beltran, CF
Raul Mondesi, RF Mark Quinn, DH
Carlos Delgado, 1B Jermaine Dye, Rf
Jose Cruz, CF Mike Sweeney, 1B
Brad Fullmer, DH Joe Randa, 3B
Tony Batista, 3B Dee Brown, 3B
Darrin Fletcher, C Hector Ortiz, C
Chris Woodward, SS Rey Sanchez, SS

You can see the boxscore here.