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cheeses_h_rice
08-06-2002, 10:37 AM
http://www.suntimes.com/output/mariotti/cst-spt-jay06.html


Jay makes Frank out to be Satan incarnate here. He also makes Konerko's "I'm sick of losing" speech into an anti-Frank diatribe.

But still, his basic point -- whether or not to invoke the diminished skills clause -- is a viable one.

___


Time to slide Big Hurt out door

August 6, 2002

BY JAY MARIOTTI SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST


Whether they sound a gong, push a secret red button or send a polite fax, it's time. At the exact nano-second their dreary season ends, the White Sox must exercise the ''diminishing skills'' clause in Frank Thomas' deal and begin the process of running him out of town on a rail.

Conveniently, there's a set of tracks behind Comiskey Park. Tell the conductor to toot the horn when he's leaving.

I derive no great pleasure in writing this. It's a sad day in Chicago when a man who once was baseball's premier hitter, as automatic a ballpark treat as organ music and mustard, becomes a wimpy, absurdly overpaid, .239-hitting sulker whose only headlines come when he's causing another clubhouse disturbance or not sliding into home plate. Maybe a prospering franchise could afford to keep him as a charity case, but the financially struggling Sox no longer can take the Thomas plunge for even one more season, much less a whopping four owed him under a contract that suddenly represents the biggest albatross in Jerry Reinsdorf's kingdom.

Only by executing the clause--doable because of Thomas' free-falling production this season--will the Sox have any chance of escaping a $40 million commitment to the aging slugger through 2006. The complex provision allows Reinsdorf to defer all but $250,000 per season, which could prompt Thomas to terminate the contract and become a free agent. It wouldn't be the smartest decision for Thomas, rejecting $39million in future earnings for what is certain to be a comparatively shrimpy deal from another big-league club, assuming one is interested. But Thomas has been through a bitter divorce and business troubles, meaning he might be willing to accept, say, $3.5 million a year elsewhere and relieve Reinsdorf of the huge long-term payout.

That Thomas even would consider such a deal shows how far he has slipped, on and off the field. But the Sox need to push him in that direction, tell him in no uncertain terms that he's no longer welcome. ''I don't want to be somewhere where I'm not wanted,'' he said recently, suggesting he might be agreeable to an escape hatch and a cheaper contract elsewhere. He has become the most untradeable player in the major leagues, with teams scared off by another provision that guarantees his final four seasons in full if he's traded. The only way the Sox can dump Thomas, then, is via clause-and-effect. They push the button, shrink his pay stubs to working-stiff levels--and, hopefully, he runs to another city.

Perhaps he'll even slide when he gets there.

Not much is riding here, only the viability of baseball on the South Side. If Thomas chooses to stay and wait for his deferred jackpot, it would limit what the Sox can pay other players-- eventual free agents Paul Konerko and Magglio Ordonez included--and sabotage the franchise's chances of contending anytime soon. As it is, the Sox are expected to lose up to $15 million this season, even after their recent fire sale. With attendance again in the bottom third of the majors and low crowds expected the last 71/2 weeks, the last thing the Sox need is an unproductive Thomas hogging an ample chunk of the payroll. In the worst-case scenario, the best player in franchise history conceivably could drag the franchise into near-oblivion.

In one sense, it was the best deal Reinsdorf ever did, allowing him a chance to slip away from a hefty commitment when a superstar crumbles. In another sense, it was the worst deal Reinsdorf ever did, allowing Thomas to become an internal plague for four more years if he decides to wait for his money. I might even recommend the Sox pay an unusually large part of his salary if that's what it takes to send him away. Whatever the method, they must get him out of here. Frank Thomas cannot be on the roster when the Sox report to Tucson next February.

If it's unfair to blame him for a lost season, given the missteps of inept general manager Kenny Williams, there's no doubt Thomas has become more divisive and counterproductive than valuable. He's a mental wreck in the batter's box, continuing a gradual slide since the late 1990s that paused only during his retro season in 2000. While he still knocks in runs here and there, his batting average is lower than that of Comiskey pariah Royce Clayton while his on-base percentage--once the hallmark of his awesome statistical lines-- has dropped lower than Tony Graffanino's. Another bad year has put him in another bad mood. As Konerko pointed out last month in his much-appreciated, anti-Thomas rant, his teammates are sick of it.

Not that their daggers have led to any dramatic improvements. Over the weekend in Tampa Bay, where the Sox stumbled around against the contraction-ready Devil Rays, Thomas once again exhibited why Sox fans call him The Big Skirt. He refused to slide on a play at home plate, as he often does, causing teammate Carlos Lee to call him out during a screaming match in the trainers' room. Never mind that Thomas looked safe. Sliding into home plate is a rite of professionalism, allowing a player to prove his willingness to get down and dirty and take one for the team. Back in 1994, Thomas refused to go hard into home plate during a game in Cleveland, causing Ozzie Guillen and other mates to rip him in the clubhouse.

Several years later, things haven't changed. On June 27, Thomas went in standing up against the division-leading Twins and was tagged out by catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Saturday night, he was thumbed out by umpire Steve Rippley, chewed out by Lee and singled out by manager Jerry Manuel, whose life has become preoccupied by Thomas-related incidents. What's so ridiculous here is that Lee is a blockhead who often gets picked off first base. He's also 26, eight years younger than Thomas yet understandably disrespectful of his elder.

''I just told him he needed to slide,'' said Lee, whose Sox future, too, is shaky.

''No doubt he should have slid,'' Manuel said. ''He was standing up and was tagged out. This guy has been playing for 35 years. He can't slide? He knows he has to slide. That was a big play for us. We would have still had first and third with no outs.''

Asked why he didn't address Thomas in the dugout, Manuel said, ''All the guys, they jump on him all the time.''

Ever hear of anything so sad? A two-time American League MVP, one of the game's most well-paid players, has become such a problem child that younger teammates are forced to verbally discipline him. Ten years ago, Thomas was as well-adjusted a young superstar as I'd seen. I'll never forget sitting with him one March morning in Florida and hearing him tell me, ''Hey, I got married over the winter. Did it in Vegas. I'm very happy.''

Since then, Thomas has been strung out by money, fame, big business, nightlife and a maturity motor running in reverse. If he once symbolized what was right about the White Sox, he now symbolizes what is wrong and stale.

There is a way to cut their losses and say goodbye. They have 54 days to figure out how to tell him.

Iwritecode
08-06-2002, 10:56 AM
Originally posted by cheeses_h_rice
The complex provision allows Reinsdorf to defer all but $250,000 per season, which could prompt Thomas to terminate the contract and become a free agent.

I'm just wondering, ever time I hear about this clause everyone keeps saying Thomas will only make $250K. Can JR defer less if he so chooses? Maybe bring Thomas's salary down to 3 or 4 million next year? That way he's not paying the full amount allowing him to effectively cut salary at least for the one year and maybe Thomas will stay. I would really hate to see another team pick him up for some bargain basement price and then watch him return to form for the next 3-4 years. Also, once the clause is invoked, does that mean that if he would happen to stay, that he could never receive his full 10 million for one year? Like if he returned to form next year, he could get the full amount in 2004?

Jerry_Manuel
08-06-2002, 11:08 AM
Originally posted by Iwritecode
I would really hate to see another team pick him up for some bargain basement price and then watch him return to form for the next 3-4 years.

He's taking a gamble if he leaves.

If Frank remains with the Sox he has 40 million dollars coming his way, no matter when he gets it. If he signs a one year deal elsewhere and he's bad, then he's not going to get a big money deal again.

duke of dorwood
08-06-2002, 11:11 AM
He will stay-just to get even with all of them. It's his right.

cheeses_h_rice
08-06-2002, 11:14 AM
Originally posted by Iwritecode


I'm just wondering, ever time I hear about this clause everyone keeps saying Thomas will only make $250K. Can JR defer less if he so chooses? Maybe bring Thomas's salary down to 3 or 4 million next year? That way he's not paying the full amount allowing him to effectively cut salary at least for the one year and maybe Thomas will stay. I would really hate to see another team pick him up for some bargain basement price and then watch him return to form for the next 3-4 years. Also, once the clause is invoked, does that mean that if he would happen to stay, that he could never receive his full 10 million for one year? Like if he returned to form next year, he could get the full amount in 2004?

You make a good point. By chopping Frank's "salary" for 2003 down to $250,000, knowing Frank would have to accept it and stay, you risk coming across as a cheapskate and unloyal to a franchise-defining player, plus you risk Frank having a permanently bad attitude regarding the Sox, which can't be good.

Surely there is a happy middle ground here, where Frank can agree to, say, $2M a year with the rest deferred, and the Sox will be getting "their money's worth" from him, assuming he reverts to form or even close to it in 2003.

Personally, I think JR will choose to be somewhat loyal, but also not a sucker. Hopefully Frank and his agent will work with the Sox to resolve this huge monkey on their back. I say give Frank one more year to prove himself.

MrX
08-06-2002, 01:56 PM
I derive no great pleasure in writing this.

yeah right

voodoochile
08-06-2002, 02:04 PM
Originally posted by cheeses_h_rice


You make a good point. By chopping Frank's "salary" for 2003 down to $250,000, knowing Frank would have to accept it and stay, you risk coming across as a cheapskate and unloyal to a franchise-defining player, plus you risk Frank having a permanently bad attitude regarding the Sox, which can't be good.

Surely there is a happy middle ground here, where Frank can agree to, say, $2M a year with the rest deferred, and the Sox will be getting "their money's worth" from him, assuming he reverts to form or even close to it in 2003.

Personally, I think JR will choose to be somewhat loyal, but also not a sucker. Hopefully Frank and his agent will work with the Sox to resolve this huge monkey on their back. I say give Frank one more year to prove himself.

That would imply that JR is willing to renegotiate, even if it is a one-sided negotiation. I was thinking something similar, but knowing JR, he'd rather cut the salary to the bone and hope Frank walks away from JR's money.

Still, I doubt he will invoke the clause this year, and if he does, Sox fans should rise up in arms and retake this club. Daver probably has enough weapons for half the members of this board and even though I am primarily a pacifist by nature, I would be willing to spray shots wildly around JR's booth thus distracting security and allowing others to do the dirty work...

Personally, I think JR is ripe for a diminished skills clause. He clearly is losing the ability to run this team...

idseer
08-06-2002, 02:08 PM
Originally posted by voodoochile


and even though I am primarily a pacifist by nature, I would be willing to spray shots wildly around JR's booth thus distracting security and allowing others to do the dirty work...



LMAO! thanks for the belly laugh voodoo. :smile:

MrX
08-06-2002, 02:19 PM
the best player in franchise history conceivably could drag the franchise into near-oblivion

:reinsy
Why does he get all the credit for killing the franchise. I'm doing a pretty good job of that myself.

:KW
Don't forget me. Anybody out there wanna trade?

KingXerxes
08-06-2002, 04:27 PM
If Reinsdorf triggers this "diminished skills clause" I predict the White Sox will not be able to sign a free agent for the next ten years (see - Chicago Bulls) because none will want to work for Reinsdorf.

Reinsdorf should offer Thomas an upfront buyout for a mutually agreed upon amount.

Jerry_Manuel
08-06-2002, 04:31 PM
Originally posted by KingXerxes
If Reinsdorf triggers this "diminished skills clause" I predict the White Sox will not be able to sign a free agent for the next ten years (see - Chicago Bulls) because none will want to work for Reinsdorf.

Reinsdorf should offer Thomas an upfront buyout for a mutually agreed upon amount.

If your Thomas why would you accept a buy out? He's got 40 million coming his way no matter what. He'd have to offer at least 25 million to buy Frank out. He's not going to pony up that kind of cash.

They'll be able to sign guys. Even now they can't/won't go after big names, they'll always get the middle of the road players.

KingXerxes
08-06-2002, 04:43 PM
I wouldn't think JR would have to pony up $25mm - if that was the price, then forget it.

I may be the only one who thinks this, but Thomas seems obsessed with this "Diminished Skills Clause" hanging over his head like the Sword of Damocles. Being that there is no real way Reinsdorf can invoke this clause, he should either rid Thomas' contract of it, or terminate Thomas' employment with some sort of buyout. As I understand it, Thomas has made some catastrophic investments, can't sell his $11,000,000 home, and was just killed financially in his divorce settlement - he's crumbling under the weight of nonbaseball issues IMHO, and as soon as they're fixed he'll return to his old form. With the White Sox if JR gets rid of the clause, with somebody else if JR buys him out.

Jerry_Manuel
08-06-2002, 04:53 PM
Originally posted by KingXerxes
I wouldn't think JR would have to pony up $25mm - if that was the price, then forget it.

I may be the only one who thinks this, but Thomas seems obsessed with this "Diminished Skills Clause" hanging over his head like the Sword of Damocles. Being that there is no real way Reinsdorf can invoke this clause, he should either rid Thomas' contract of it, or terminate Thomas' employment with some sort of buyout.

Why wouldn't he? If your saying Frank and Jerry should work out a buy out of his contract, he should get atleast 20.

His swing is the problem. I won't deny that the clause maybe in his mind, but it's not his biggest problem. Why is there no real way for him to invoke. I think it's a lock that he will invoke it.

voodoochile
08-06-2002, 06:59 PM
Originally posted by KingXerxes
I wouldn't think JR would have to pony up $25mm - if that was the price, then forget it.

I may be the only one who thinks this, but Thomas seems obsessed with this "Diminished Skills Clause" hanging over his head like the Sword of Damocles. Being that there is no real way Reinsdorf can invoke this clause, he should either rid Thomas' contract of it, or terminate Thomas' employment with some sort of buyout. As I understand it, Thomas has made some catastrophic investments, can't sell his $11,000,000 home, and was just killed financially in his divorce settlement - he's crumbling under the weight of nonbaseball issues IMHO, and as soon as they're fixed he'll return to his old form. With the White Sox if JR gets rid of the clause, with somebody else if JR buys him out.

What's the present day value of $40 million over the length of the payment schedule. Some of the money is already deferred anyway (about $3 million a season) as I understand it...

RKMeibalane
08-06-2002, 07:37 PM
The clause should be invoked. There is some question as to whether Thomas will bounce back next season. Furthermore, it is important that the Sox prepare to resign Ordonez and Konerko, as well as Mark Buehrle, who has apparently shown some interest in playing elsewhere.

However, Reinsdorf needs to start thinking about his reputation, which has taken a nosedive in recent years. After the 1994 strike and the fall of the Chicago Bulls, it has become obvious that Reinsdorf is content to allow his teams to remain in the "also-ran" category.

Worse, Reinsdorf's loyalty to those who have served him well is questionable at best. If he allows Thomas to leave, a large chunk of the already-small White Sox fan base would be driven to change their rooting interests. It would also scare off potential free-agents and alienate current Sox players. I would hate to see Magglio Ordonez wearing a Yankees uniform when it becomes apparent that the Rondell White experiment has failed.

Allowing Thomas, the franchise's most popular player over the past decade, to remain with the Sox, would be a step in the right direction. Frank was, and could be again, the best hitter in baseball. If he leaves and goes to say... Atlanta or Boston and produces as he is capable of doing, MLB officials will have yet another reason to laugh at Reinsdorf as he runs a once-proud franchise into the ground.

:reinsy

"I don't care about my reputation. I care about one thing: money. Frank Thomas can go wherever he wants. I don't care if he wins another MVP award. Sox fans don't deserve to watch MVP-caliber players for eighty one games a season."

Jerry_Manuel
08-06-2002, 07:51 PM
The clause should be invoked. There is some question as to whether Thomas will bounce back next season. Furthermore, it is important that the Sox prepare to resign Ordonez and Konerko, as well as Mark Buehrle, who has apparently shown some interest in playing elsewhere.

The problem is that they shouldn't have to unload Thomas to pay for the core of the team. Either you have the money to pay these guys or you don't. If you don't, then sell the team.

However, Reinsdorf needs to start thinking about his reputation, which has taken a nosedive in recent years. After the 1994 strike and the fall of the Chicago Bulls, it has become obvious that Reinsdorf is content to allow his teams to remain in the "also-ran" category.

'94, '97, I'll give you those. Any baseball player that doesn't want to come to the Sox because of how the Bulls ended is a bozo.

If he allows Thomas to leave, a large chunk of the already-small White Sox fan base would be driven to change their rooting interests. It would also scare off potential free-agents and alienate current Sox players.

I don't think so. A good portion of WSI would be upset, outside of here I doubt it. Fans have been tired of him for quite awhile now. If he isn't here next season, a lot of things will come out about his behavior in the clubhouse.

Allowing Thomas, the franchise's most popular player over the past decade, to remain with the Sox, would be a step in the right direction. Frank was, and could be again, the best hitter in baseball. If he leaves and goes to say... Atlanta or Boston and produces as he is capable of doing, MLB officials will have yet another reason to laugh at Reinsdorf as he runs a once-proud franchise into the ground.

What if he's hitting this poorly again next year as well. Would it still be a step in the right direction? I don't think so. That would kill any value he had at all. Atlanta is going to be in some money trouble this off-season. They've got pay Maddux and Glavine some big time paper. AOL isn't exactly is the postion to be forking over a lot of money. Turner isn't running the show there anymore. I'm not sure they'd want to have Thomas in the field for 155 or so games a year anyway. Boston would be a good place for him.

KingXerxes
08-07-2002, 10:46 AM
Does anybody know exactly how the deferred payments under Thomas' contract would work if Reinsdorf invoked the diminished skills clause? I myself have no idea, but I know exactly how a buyout would be calculated.

EXAMPLE:

If the clause deferred Thomas' compensation to a 10 year stream of $4 million dollars per year (that's an assumption), and they wanted to terminate this deal mutually, then a discount rate upwards of 20% would be used. Keep in mind that after accepting the payout, Thomas would be free to sign with whomever wanted him because he'd be a free agent - therefor a 20% discount rate on the payment stream would probably be a bit conservative. So let's say they agree to discount the contract payment stream at 25%, the buyout amount would then be about $14 million. A 20% discount would yield a payout amount of $16.8 million. In order to get to a $25 million dollar payout, Reinsdorf would have to agree to discount the payment stream at 9.5% - and there is absolutely no way he would or should do that deal.

My point is that he should at least be trying to work this whole thing out with Thomas. The White Sox have got themselves into a HUGE bind on this deal. Is Thomas washed up, or is he showing the effects of not playing last year? Only time will tell, so the White SOx should buy themselves that time. If they invoke the diminished skills clause, then I guarantee you that Thomas retreats further into his shell and shuts it down - and they have to pay him anyway, just over time. If he were 40 years old, I agree they should cut their losses and show him the door, but that isn't the case here - at least not yet. They should give a legitimate shot to trying to work this out.