'A slap in the face'
Thomas vows to come out fighting after humbling offseasonPosted: Saturday February 22, 2003 8:46 PM
Updated: Sunday February 23, 2003 11:10 PM
That sent the two-time MVP hunting for a job in the free agent market and after an unsuccessful foray, he returned to the only team he's ever played for, vowing to prove he can be the same hitter he once was.
"I set myself up for disaster and I would never have thought it would come to it. The team had a way out of it and chose to do it," Thomas said Saturday after the White Sox's first full squad workout.
"Of course I was bitter for a little while, knowing what I've done for this organization. Unprecedented. They haven't had a player to perform like I have. I felt slighted a bit. But it was business, shrewd business.
"I think I was a guinea pig."
Because he didn't meet certain performance levels, the clause in his previous contract would have allowed the White Sox to pay him $250,000 annually up front and defer $10,125,000 each year.
Instead, he re-signed in December, a one-year contract that also has three years of mutual options. He will make $5 million in 2003 and can void the deal after the season it is over.
"That's a slap in the face. I earned the right to be at a certain level and I'm not there anymore," Thomas said.
"There are incentives there to get me to that level and keep me motivated. As far as the money thing, I've got kids to support and a lifestyle to support and I like living my lifestyle.
"I've been slapped down a little. I'll come out fighting this year."
Thomas wasn't happy with comments by general manager Kenny Williams that he needs to be more of a team player and said he wants to have a long talk with both Williams and manager Jerry Manuel.
Williams said Saturday he understands if Thomas is unhappy about the team invoking the clause, but said in his previous conversations Thomas didn't voice any displeasure.
"For me to think he would have a wonderful feeling about me and what we had to do is unrealistic," Williams said.
And even though they've cleared the air, Thomas is still a bit steamed over public comments from teammate Paul Konerko, who criticized Thomas for skipping a pregame stretching drill last July as a protest for being benched.
"He had no clue what was going on," Thomas said. "If he had done what I've done, he would want an explanation too why he wasn't playing. ... We get along, there are no hard feelings. But I'd rather have it handled in the clubhouse."
Konerko said he and Thomas patched things up last summer right after the incident that began when he answered a question about Thomas being late.
"I see his side of it," Konerko said, adding he still stood by the principal of everyone participating as a team.
His relationship with Manuel also needs some work, Thomas said. Thomas wasn't mad about being benched when he was slumping right before the All-Star Game, he was mostly unhappy because he wasn't told he was being taken out of the lineup
"All I want is more communication. If you sit me down, I can handle it. Just don't play mind games with me," Thomas said.
Manuel said he'd be glad to talk with Thomas at anytime and admitted he'd probably made some mistakes in dealing with his star.
Thomas didn't make a great first impression Saturday.
He showed up nearly 10 minutes late for the first full-squad meeting of the spring as the rest of the White Sox sat in the grass to listen to introductory comments from Williams and Manuel.
But Thomas had a legitimate excuse for straggling down the hill from the clubhouse -- he was the last player to get a physical and was getting treatment for a strained back muscle.
"It looked odd," Thomas said, adding he'd hurt his back while working with personal hitting guru Walt Hriniak. "I was not trying to be late or stir something up."
In each of his first seven full seasons, Thomas hit at least 20 home runs with a .300 average and 100 walks, 100 runs and 100 RBIs.
After missing most of the 2001 season with a triceps injury, he struggled last season before a strong final month helped him finish with a .252 average, 28 homers and 92 RBIs.
"I won't hit .250 again," said Thomas, who has been in Tucson since Feb. 5 working on his hitting.
The White Sox are counting on Thomas' bat coming around, even if he isn't happiest person in the clubhouse.
"He needs to be more of a team player, be with the team and not be by himself," Jose Valentin said.
"This team is not only Frank. To win we need him, but he needs us to win also. Hopefully he puts that in mind."