The consensus among Blue Jays fans is that Frank Thomas’s tenure in Toronto was a disaster.
The Big Hurt was 38 years old when he inked a two-year, $18.12-million deal with the Blue Jays on November 18, 2006. It’s a contract that many Jays supporters rank as one of the worst in franchise history.
But was it really that bad?
Sure, Thomas was released in the first month of his second season with the Jays, but in 2007, his first campaign with the club, he led the Blue Jays in home runs (26), RBI (95), walks (81) and on-base percentage (.377). The 6-foot-5, 240-pound slugger also clubbed his 500th career home run – a bomb to left-centre field off of Twins right-hander Carlos Silva at the Metrodome on June 28 – that season.
So Blue Jays fans should probably savor the fact that they got a regular look at the one of the greatest hitters of the past 25 years rather than reminisce about his Canadian tenure with disdain.
In 19 big league seasons, Thomas hit . 301, belted 521 homers (18th all-time), recorded 1,704 RBI (22nd all-time) and registered a .974 OPS (14th all-time). Along the way, he won two American League MVP Awards and was selected to six all-star games. This resume earned him election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame this past January in his first year of eligibility. He’ll be officially inducted, along with pitching greats Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, in a ceremony in Cooperstown on July 27.
Thomas is set to become the sixth player – joining Roberto Alomar, Rickey Henderson, Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor and Phil Niekro – to have suited up for the Jays to be honoured in Cooperstown.
But Thomas’s tenure in Toronto isn’t his only link to Canada. Here’s a look at some of The Big Hurt’s other Canadian connections:
– Thomas played for the Blue Jays for the entire 2007 season and for 16 games in 2008, but he also suited up for 142 games against the Jays (as a member of the Chicago White Sox and Oakland A’s) and hit .281 with 21 home runs. Over the course of his career, Thomas belted 34 homers and knocked in 115 runs in 160 games at the Rogers Centre.
– While with the White Sox, the Bunyanesque slugger played one, three-game series at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium in 2004, from June 18 to June 20. He pinch-hit in the first two games, but he started and notched two hits – including a first-inning double – off of Expos starter Zach Day in the finale.
– Thomas had one five-hit game during his major league career. It occurred on September 16, 1992 at Yankee Stadium, while he was with the White Sox. Thomas racked up two doubles and three singles in a White Sox 9-6 win. Thomas hit third in the lineup that day between 2013 Canadian Baseball Hall of Famers Tim Raines (batting second) and George Bell (batting cleanup).
– By my count, Thomas had four Canadian teammates during his big league career (hometown, team, years played with Thomas): Kirk McCaskill (Kapuskasing, Ont., White Sox, 1992 to 1996), Aaron Myette (New Westminster, B.C., White Sox, 1999, 2000), Rich Harden (Victoria, B.C., A’s, 2006) and Matt Stairs (St. John, N.B., Blue Jays, 2007, 2008).
– Thomas hit home runs off of two Canadian pitchers during his career: Denis Boucher (Montreal, Que.) and Rheal Cormier (Cap-Pele, N.B.). He also also faced eight other Canadian pitchers: Erik Bedard (Navan, Ont.), Jason Dickson (Chatham, N.B.), Jesse Crain (Toronto, Ont.), Adam Loewen (Surrey, B.C.), McCaskill, Paul Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.), Paul Spoljaric (Kelowna, B.C.) and Jeff Zimmerman (Kelowna, B.C.).
– Thomas started his only minor league rehab stint in Ottawa. In 2005, after being sidelined for more than 10 months with an ankle injury, Thomas joined the White Sox Triple-A affiliate Charlotte Knights for a four-game series versus the Ottawa Lynx from May 17 to May 20. Just 1,349 fans showed up at Ottawa Stadium for the first game of the series, a 9-8 Lynx win in which Thomas went 2-for-3 with a double and a walk. In all, Thomas went 4-for-15 in the four-game series that saw the Lynx average 2,082 fans per game.
– Thomas hit three home runs in a game twice during his big league career. One of those performances came as a member of the Blue Jays on September 17, 2007 at the Rogers Centre. Batting clean-up that day, Thomas socked a pair of homers off of Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield and another off of reliever Kyle Snider in the Blue Jays’ 6-1 win.
– New Westminster, B.C., native Justin Morneau upstaged Thomas in the final game of Thomas’s big league career. On August 29, 2008, Thomas, then a member of the Oakland A’s, had two singles in four at bats in the A’s 12-2 loss to the Twins. Morneau was 4-for-5 with two doubles in that contest.