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Last week Gary Sheffield
whined
about his contract, griped about respect
, and completely negated his
team’s ability to abide by his wishes and trade him by stating he’ll
only go to one of three teams, and that he doesn’t want to be traded for
a superstar. Now, Frank Thomas has gotten into the act, missing
five straight "optional" workouts with the White Sox while
publicly bitching about how underpaid he is in light of Alex
Rodriguez
‘s gigantic contract.

There are lots of people who don’t get to play a game for a living who
find this sort of thing obnoxious. Maybe someone should tell Thomas
that.

Anyone who is paying attention is looking at the part of Thomas’s
contract he’s already fulfilled:

Year      EQA     EQR
1998     .300     105
1999     .303      84
2000     .340     130

2000 is an argument in the Big Hurt’s favor–he was one of the top
three hitters in the AL. But in 1998 and 1999, considering the fact
that he’s a defensively challenged first baseman/DH, Thomas was not
an extraordinary hitter. He was good, but there’s quite an argument
that he wasn’t worth nine million dollars per year for those
two seasons.

Funny how that works. When you aren’t as good as the money you’re
getting paid, you keep quiet (unless you’re Devon White, when
you somehow convince your current team to trade you for a similar
player who is guaranteed twice as much). When the market passes you
by because of the long-term deal you signed, you bitch, you moan,
and you expect your team to pick up the tab.

Before such a contract is signed, both the player and the team
have to make some assumptions about the direction of the salary scale
of baseball and the relative value of the player compared to his peers;
the longer the contract, the larger the assumptions. Sometimes the
player does a better job of this than the team–White’s deal with Los
Angeles is a great example of this. Hell, Sheffield’s about the
only player on the Dodger roster who hasn’t run rings around
management in this respect.

But for all the ways in which baseball’s ownership is addlepated,
you sure don’t hear them doing as much whining about a contract they
had full control over signing.

What’s most annoying about this is that Thomas isn’t delivering his
statements with any discernable humility or acknowledgement of
responsibility–"you know, I realize now that signing a long-term
deal wasn’t a great idea. I just had a good year for the White Sox, and
I expect to have many more in my future. I made a mistake, and I’d like
to renegotiate." Like most spoiled brats, Thomas wants it both ways: the
long-term deal in case he tanks, and a renegotiation to bring his contract
up to market value when he doesn’t. And in addition to deserving it all,
he’s not about to take any responsibility for his current situation.

Giving Frank Thomas more money is probably a lost cause anyway, if how
he’s handled his affairs in the past are any indication. Un-D-Nyable
Entertainment Inc., Thomas’s eminently deniable record label, could
use a quick infusion of cash: this time around, that fly-ass Chi-town rap
scene is gonna break nationwide wit’ a quickness that’ll make Seattle
grunge look like Zamfir, G. Thomas’s label having the
means to sign Bud Bundy of Married With Children‘s alter-ego
Grandmaster B
to a exclusive recording contract isn’t something that needs to happen.

If Thomas has a problem with someone else, it should be with whoever
represented him when the contract was signed (and that’s making the
assumption that he didn’t sign against his agent’s wishes, which is a
story floating around Chicago). And why wasn’t he talking
about this with the Sox during the lengthy offseason? I don’t know if
something about a seven figure balance in the old bank account causes some
people to lose all sense of perspective (and thanks to the mushroom cloud
hanging a mile or so above NASDAQ, I’ll probably never find out), or if
brain-mouth detachment runs in Thomas’s family. Whatever the case, I’m
rarely on a team’s side more than I am in this situation. I’d love to see
the Sox refuse to renegotiate, and watch Thomas play out his current
contract to the best of his ability while learning how to make do with
nine million dollars a season.

After all, according to a contract he signed of his own volition, that’s
exactly what he’s obligated to do.

Dave Pease is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Contact him by
clicking here.

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