Vintage Frank Thomas returns after signing with Athletics

Written by: Craig Muder

After 16 record-setting seasons with the White Sox, Frank Thomas took his talents across the country to Oakland.

But no matter where he called home, Thomas remained The Big Hurt.

On Jan. 31, 2006, Thomas officially agreed to a one-year deal with the Athletics worth $500,000 plus incentives. It turned out to be a bargain, as Thomas regained his mid-career form by hitting .270 with 39 home runs and 114 RBI in his age-38 season – leading the A’s to the American League Championship Series.

“Frank Thomas is a presence,” Athletics general manager Billy Beane told the Associated Press following the announcement of the deal. “Not only would he be our type of offensive player, he would be everybody’s type of offensive player.

“If Frank is healthy, he’s been good against everybody.”

Thomas was not healthy the previous two seasons, playing in just 108 games combined, including 34 during the White Sox’s World Series-winning campaign of 2005. An ankle injury limited him to 74 games in 2004, and a foot injury virtually wiped out 2005.

But the vintage Thomas returned in 2006 with a .545 slugging percentage and a .926 OPS en route to a fourth-place finish in the American League Most Valuable Player voting. He also fit the Athletics’ offensive style by drawing 81 walks – a total actually below his impressive 162-game career average of 116 bases on balls.

Thomas and Beane met at the Winter Meetings following the 2005 season, and Beane came away impressed by Thomas’ drive to succeed.

“There was a real sense of determination in talking to him,” Beane said. “You could get carried away with superlatives with Frank Thomas. Arguably, he is one of the greatest offensive players of his generation.”

Thomas left the Athletics following the 2006 season, signing a two-year deal with the Blue Jays.

He hit .277 with 26 homers and 95 RBI for Toronto in 2007, then played for both the Blue Jays and Athletics in 2008 in the final season of his career.

In 19 big league seasons, Thomas hit .301 with 2,468 hits, 521 home runs, 1,704 RBI and 1,667 walks. From 1991-97, Thomas he totaled seven straight seasons with at least 20 home runs, 100 RBI, 100 walks and a .300 average.

No player in history has ever matched that string.

During that run, Thomas won the AL MVP Award in both 1993 and 1994.

He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2014.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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