J.P. Ricciardi has been caught lying several times during his years as the Blue Jays’ general manager, and so I’ll come right out and suggest that he was being less than truthful again last weekend.
Ricciardi insisted Frank Thomas’ contractual situation did not affect his decision to release the 39-year-old designated hitter.
Well, not true.
A source in the Jays’ front office told me privately back in spring training that the club’s plan was to prevent Thomas from accumulating 369 plate appearances this season. (You can find evidence of that in the March 25 York Report in Metro.) If Thomas reached that number, after all, the Jays would have been compelled to guarantee him $10-million next season.
So Ricciardi last weekend dumped the future Hall of Famer, understandably, but rationalized the move in public by suggesting Thomas was off to “a slow start” this season. He said the release become necessary when Thomas showed he couldn’t handle a demotion to the bench.
Well, Thomas wasn’t buying Ricciardi’s comments then and, judging by what he was telling reporters after re-joining the Oakland A’s for minimum pro-rated wages yesterday, he never will.
Thomas vehemently took exception to Ricciardi’s “slow start” story.
"This year wasn't a slow start at all for me,” said Thomas, who was batting .167 (10-for-60) with three home runs and 11 runs batted in in 16 games for the Jays when he was released.
“It was actually a huge start. I produced 11 runs in 16 games. I hit three balls out. I scored eight runs. I took 11 walks. That's good production."
Thomas, who will still be paid about $6.7-million by the Jays this year, insisted he never really wanted to leave Oakland, where he starred in 2006. But he said the Jays’ offered him a contract that the A’s weren’t willing to match.
Thomas also said he wasn’t holding grudges against the Jays.
“It didn't work out in Toronto, but no hard feelings," he said. “That's the business side of the game. I'm just happy to be back here. I feel comfortable here. ... Hopefully, I can get hot and do what I do."
It didn’t take him long to start producing again for the A’s. In his first game back with the team on Thursday, he walked twice and scored once in an 11-2 rout of the Minnesota Twins.
- Re-signing Thomas produced instant criticism for A’s general manager Billy Beane, who seemed to contradict himself with the move. He had maintained since the off-season that he was in a rebuilding mode after trading popular outfielder Nick Swisher and pitching ace Dan Haren.
"But I don't see this as an infringement on what we started in December when we traded Dan,” Beane said. “We have a responsibility to take advantage of opportunities like this. Are we trying to develop a young team? Yeah, but we are not running an instructional league. We are running a professional sports franchise."
- Speaking of players the Jays cut this season, outfielder Reed Johnson has been excelling for the Chicago Cubs.
In 61 at-bats, he’s averaging .311 and has 9 RBIs. He also has been first-rate defensively.
“Johnson’s an even better player than we thought we were getting,” Cubs manage Lou Piniella said. “He’s fit into our ballclub beautifully. He’s a quality, skilled player who knows and understands the fundamentals of baseball.”
Makes you wonder now why the Jays would dump him.
- There is another ex-Jay who’s struggling conspicuously, and it’s hurting the New York Mets.
Carlos Delgado entered Thursday night batting a mere .208 after 77 at-bats.
Manager Willie Randolph demoted him to the sixth spot in the Mets’ lineup on Wednesday but is confident the veteran first baseman will bounce back to form.
“Everyone needs to be guarded about talking about guys being finished or done, or slumps of that nature," Randolph said. "Carlos still has a lot of hits left in him. We have to be as patient as possible. He’ll snap out of this eventually and then he’ll be back up higher in the lineup again.”