Frank Thomas was refused arbitration yesterday, almost certaining ending his long White Sox career. Predicatably, as it always happens with older athletes who refuse to quit, Frank is angry, bitter, and resentful. Always optimistic, Frank expects to be healthy next year and contribute significantly -- like he did ten years ago, when he wasn't 38 years old.
I think the truth is Frank thinks he needs 500 homers to lock in his Hall Of Fame credentials. Because of the twin negatives of DH-ness and an injury-riddled last half of his career, many observers feel that Frank falls just short of a Hall of Fame career. I suspect Frank believes that and is still looking for some more counting numbers.
The problem is, if he puts up some mediocre numbers, he'll damage people's memories, and be remembered by the HOF voters as an old, slow slugger. I think he'd do better to hang them up, and spend the next five years quietly reminding the world how he wasn't chemically assisted during his tenure, and should be judged that way, being the elder statesman he has earned the right to be.
It's always disappointing when a premier athlete overstays his time, like a great actor taking a bit part on a TV show. Or think of the train wreck that was Life With Lucy (Lucille Ball) trying to recapture that magic from the 1950s. That's what I think of a 38-year-old Frank Thomas bouncing around the hotel selling himself as healthy and ready to contribute. Sure, it's possible he'll put up some nice numbers and be healthy for a full year. It's also possible he'll get elected the next Nevada senator. Just don't bet on either.
If Frank doesn't want to become part of the Minnie Minoso post-retirement PR machine for the White Sox quite yet, and somebody wants to pay him several million bucks not to, I'm fine with that. But let's be realistic, the odds are, he'll break something else and that will be that.