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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Diminished Clause.

Who but the White Sox would even negotiate such a thing?

The Frank Thomas soap opera continues.† No sooner than Thomas speaks out on the employment by Prof. Chaos of coaches/spies, it is revealed that the Sox have invoked the ďdiminished skillsĒ clause in Thomasís contract.† Iím not sure which came first, and it really doesnít matter all that much.† There is a lot of animosity there.† †

However, one thing strikes me as interesting throughout this mess.† The Sox have been wrong in the past about Thomasís health.† They thought he was jaking it when he complained about the pain in his foot in 1999.† Gen. Disarray angrily sent Thomas home for the rest of the season, only to find out that Thomas had been playing in what had to be excruciating pain all season with a huge bone spur.† When Thomas tore his triceps in 2001, the Sox tacitly approved of David Wells accusing Thomas of malingering.† Nothing was said defending Thomas, but it turned out the tear was enough to put him out for the rest of the season.†

Couple this history with the fact that the Sox have consistently underestimated the severity of injuries (see Sirotka, Mike) and also underestimated the recovery time from surgeries resulting from injuries (see Pitching Staff 2001-2002), and one can begin to question the judgment of the Sox regarding Thomasís recovery from his injury.†

Thomas struggled until August, and then he came back with a vengeance.† Are we finally beginning to see the real Frank Thomas?† The Chairman and Prof. Chaos donít really seem to care.† They see a chance to stick it to their perceived (emphasis on that last word) crybaby, and by golly, theyíre going to do it.†

The Sox are in a cost-cutting mood at present, and their highest salaried player has a contract that enables them to (a) defer salary payments, (b) renegotiate a new salary or get rid of it altogether, and (c) punish Thomas.† It was obvious that despite the high probability that Thomasís woes in 2002 were due more to recovery time from injury than from diminished skills, the Sox were going to take advantage of The Clause.†

So what is in the future?† Thomasís contract allows him to remain with the Sox if he canít find a team willing to match his salary.† Thomas is now almost exclusively a designated hitter.† This limits his free-agency possibilities to an American League club.† The sticking point is the salary of about $10 million that Thomasís contract calls for.† There is a possibility that Thomasís skills are indeed diminishing.† Itís unlikely that any club is going to want to take that chance and be stuck with paying him through 2006. †Heck, thatís very likely the motivation of the Sox for invoking the clause.†

Reports in newspapers are that, rather than paying Thomas the $250,000 that the clause allows them to pay with the remainder deferred, the Sox are willing to renegotiate the payment to $5 million.† Thomasís kids are in Chicago.† He really wants to stay in Chicago.† If the reports of the Sox desire to negotiate a payment above one that is actually $50,000 below the new minimum salary agreement, then it is likely that all of this is much ado about nothing.†

Iíll go out on a limb and predict that Thomas will find that no one is willing to take a chance on him and that heíll be back in Chicago in 2003 receiving something more than the $250,000 he is entitled to in this contract.† †

The funny thing about all of this is that I really donít have a whole lot of interest in all of this.† What I find interesting is how that clause was put into the contract in the first place.† The Sox wanted to keep Thomas long term.† The Chairman reportedly likes Thomas.† Thomas wanted security, so he was willing to sign the contract extension that gave him security until 2006.† So everyone was happy to get the deal done.†

But what does it tell you about The Chairman that while putting together a deal for a player everyone says is a favorite of his, he has a clause put into the contract that allows him to defer all but $250,000 (an amount a second or third year fringe player might have received at the time) if the player didnít meet certain stated requirements?† What does it tell you about The Chairman when it is reported that he then advised his player not to sign the contract because that clause was in it?† And what does it tell you about The Chairman when he then invokes The Clause when the player has an off year following an injury that caused the player to miss nearly the entire previous season?†

What kind of person says, ďLook I want you long term because I like you, but if you fail to produce, Iíll still give you the money, but Iíll defer all but a scrubís salary until after the contract has expired.† So I really donít think you should sign this.† Hereís the penĒ?† †

Whatever kind of person that is, thatís who runs the Chicago White Sox.

Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at

More features from Hal Vickery here!

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