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December 06, 2001

Big Hurt turns into Big Pout
By Dan Patrick

Feb. 28
After listening to Frank Thomas' speech Tuesday at the White Sox training camp, I'm even more confused -- and I'm not alone. So is Frank Thomas.

Here are a few of his quotes:

  • "I have never been greedy."
  • "I did look like the poster boy for greed over the last weekend. But that is not the case."
  • "I'm a great person. I've always been a great person."

    Yes, but I wasn't looking at Thomas the person or the baseball player. This is more about Thomas the businessman. He may be good at the former, but he's terrible at the latter.

    The clauses in his contract read like those for a rookie, not for an accomplished player like Thomas. Signing that contract was like saying, "This is what I hope to do in my career."

    As reported, Thomas has to either be among the top 10 in the MVP voting, make the All-Star team or win the Silver Slugger Award from 2001-2006 or the White Sox could reduce his contract to $250,000 and defer $10 million.

    Thomas brought up that his former agent, the late Robert Fraley, died and left him nobody with whom to go over the contract. But Fraley was alive when Thomas signed the contract. And now even his current agents, Mike Moye and former pitcher Scott Sanderson, are reportedly trying to distance themselves from him.

    Thomas said he didn't want his contract situation to go public. But it became public because of Thomas, no one else.

    He said he needed to develop a better working relationship with owner Jerry Reinsdorf, and then he turned around and said he's never had a problem with Reinsdorf.

    So once again, I'm confused.

    To Thomas' credit, he arrived at camp on time. But he was on time because he faced a fine if he reported late. And for a player who seems to be in short supply of money, every dollar counts.

    He is asking for loyalty, for the White Sox to take care of him. But this is the same team that took care of him when he had subpar seasons in 1998 and 1999 and went for 0-for-the-playoffs last season. Over the first two years of the contract, he hit .283, a number far below what should be expected from one of the 10 highest-paid players in the game. But the White Sox didn't ask for the money back.

    The White Sox went through a situation with Thomas last spring, only it wasn't about the money. It was about Jerry Manuel, after he and Manuel had a shouting match. All Manuel did is become Manager of the Year in the American League.

    What Thomas needs to do now is internalize the situation, as he did a year ago. If he does that, then maybe the White Sox can accomplish the same goals on the field. If his contract complaints linger, Thomas won't -- at least not in a White Sox uniform after this season.

    His situation is a double-edged sword. Thomas wants both market value and security. At the time he signed the deal, he had both. Now he has security but no market value. However, he signed the deal and should do the honorable thing -- honor it -- regardless of how the market has changed.

    In 1997, Thomas was looking at the $10 million he was going to make at that moment. He wasn't thinking about tomorrow or whether his talents may slip. But in the offseason, when he saw what Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Manny Ramirez were going to be paid, it seemed he woke up and said, "If they are making that kind of money, I must be worth somewhere near that. Gosh, I need to get money now."

    Reality set in, and he may have panicked, thinking -- as a divorced father of three -- he could be making "only" $250,000 this season with the rest of the money deferred until he's 50 if he doesn't reach his incentives.

    According to Thomas' salary structure, a lot of players are underpaid, not just him. Maybe A-Rod, Manny and Jeter are part of the problem because they are overpaid. Players get overpaid, and then others naturally want a bump.

    With Thomas as the case study, I hope other players will realize how they should or could sound if they gripe about being underpaid in the future. If they do, there will be a void of emotion and sympathy awaiting them.

    Thomas says he is not the poster child for the greedy ballplayer. But he can serve as the poster child for how not to go about handling a contract situation.

    No one wants to hear his complaints because most people can't fathom making $10 million in a lifetime, let alone a year. So Thomas should keep his thoughts to himself. He's given people 10 million reasons not to lend him a shoulder to cry on.

    I want to like . I want to respect him. But like the White Sox, I am running out of patience. Thomas doesn't want to renegotiate his contract; he just wants more money.

    Frank Thomas
    Frank Thomas had a monster 2000 season: .328, 43 homers, 143 RBI. But he wasn't offering any money back after struggling in 1998 and '99.

    Granted, he is not officially a holdout until Tuesday, the mandatory reporting date for all players. There is still hope that Thomas will regain some sanity. He was scheduled to meet Monday with White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who -- as owner of the Chicago Bulls -- once told Scottie Pippen, "You signed the deal, you live with the deal." And Pippen did.

    I feel badly that Thomas can't survive on $9.9 million. Then again, maybe he only gets about $5 million because his ex-wife gets half of his salary. I feel sorry for him; I do.

    But Thomas is just looking at the contracts Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Manny Ramirez signed in the offseason, saying, "I'm just as good. I belong in the same ballpark with them financially." I guess Thomas forgets that the White Sox didn't ask for money back after he struggled in 1998 and slumped even more in 1999, when his slugging percentage was lower than Herbert Perry's.

    The crosstown Cubs may be renegotiating with Sammy Sosa, but Sosa, Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi are all entering the final years of their contracts and have legitimate negotiating points about where they stand with the team's future. Thomas, however, still has six years left on the nine-year contract he signed in September 1997.

    I understand why Thomas is upset. Advisers told him not to sign the long-term deal, but he did anyway, even though it had incentives and clauses regarding performance. Mark McGwire told me two weeks ago he doesn't know why teams give long-term contracts and why players sign them. Neither party benefits. The team will almost always renegotiate the contract, and the player runs the risk of the team thinking he won't live up to the deal. So why sign the long-term deal?

    It's scary to think that A-Rod, Jeter or Ramirez may be underpaid by the time their deals expire. In addition, I have never seen a player give back money if he falters. And rarely will an owner take a stand and say no to a player demanding a new deal.

    Jerry Reinsdorf did it in basketball, and he can do it in baseball. He shouldn't give in to Thomas' demands.

    If Reinsdorf did it in basketball, he can do it in baseball. He shouldn't give in to Thomas' demands. If he gives in, it sends the wrong message to the players and the other owners. So Reinsdorf needs to take a stand.

    This is supposed to be a great year for the White Sox. Last season they made the playoffs for the first time in seven years and were arguably the best story in the American League. They have a legitimate chance to win the franchise's first World Series since 1917. They have an emerging superstar in Magglio Ordonez and just traded for David Wells. Things were looking up for the White Sox -- until their DH (as in "dinero hungry") got in the way.

    Do the White Sox try to trade him? If so, what can they get in return? And if Thomas goes someplace else, would he still get his wish to have a wallet as thick as A-Rod, Jeter or Ramirez?

    Thomas was back to being the Big Hurt with an MVP-type season a year ago. But now, the following spring, he's just the Big Pout.

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