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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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April 21, 2008 11:18 AM

Heading home

Posted by Geoff Baker

A look above at what a "getaway day" can be like for baseball writers who have to cover a game, then catch a flight home right afterwards. Don't forget, we have to have all of our newspaper stories and notebooks written before getting on the plane. Some of us even update our blogs. The half-hour it took to play the bottom of the ninth did not help at all. Enjoy the footage.

So, you want to talk Frank Thomas? OK, fine. Wonder what's running through Bill Bavasi's head right now? Bavasi is going to look at Thomas, just as every team looks at every potential waiver dump this time of year. Here's the thing, though. Remember how badly the 2004 season set Bavasi back? All of those veteran bats who went off the cliff on him at once? If you don't, here's a recap. I'll list the bigger-name veterans and their impressive 2003 numbers. Then we'll look at their 2004 totals. I'll use the OPS+ stat. Remember, that's the park-weighted on-base-plus slugging numbers. A score of 100 is league average, so anything below that is percentage points below league average while above it would be the opposite. A score of 105 is five percent above, 95 is five percent below. Capisce?

2003

John Olerud, age 34...107
Bret Boone, age 34...140
Edgar Martinez, age 40...141

Not bad, huh? And remember, these guys all had serious track records of productive hitting. But then...

2004

John Olerud, age 35...90
Bret Boone, age 35...94
Edgar Martinez, age 41...92

And so, if you're Bavasi, I'd think you'd have to be a bit skittish about going after Thomas.

It took me a couple of phone calls to find out that the Blue Jays are worried that Thomas is simply "done'' as a hitter. And when you're done, you're done. Some guys do go to the NL and keep their careers alive, depending on their positions (like Rich Aurillia, Scott Speizio). But this is the AL and the M's are looking for a pure power hitter if they go after Thomas. But is he done? That's the big question. I also know, from years covering the Blue Jays, that they tend to be cheapskates at the craziest of times. So, is this strictly a move to avoid shelling out $10 million to Thomas via his 2009 option? That's for the M's to decide.

Some of you have mentioned, correctly, that Safeco Field doesn't favor right handed power hitters.

For me, it's not as big an issue with a guy like Thomas. Just like Richie Sexson, if you can rake, you can rake. But if he's "done'' then none of the simulated numbers projections, or peripheral numbers from last year (or this year, in what is a very small sample size) will be worth a hill of beans. As with the three guys above, when you're done, you're...well, you've figured it out by now.

So, this is not just a matter of looking at some stats. Some true digging and homework would have to be done before taking this guy on. Phone calls would have to be made. Hitting folks talked to. Videos studied. Thomas will want guarantees for next year, since multiple teams are expected to sniff around him. If this was a simple case of paying him the major league minimum for 2008 and that's it, then it would be a no-brainer. It's not. Real life is a lot more complicated. Thomas had an OPS+ of 125 last season. But the last thing Bavasi needs is another "done'' veteran coming in, posting an OPS+ of 92 and sucking up more millions in 2009. If that happens, and the M's fall out of contention, Bavasi might not be around to see Thomas collect the last of those payments. This is where a judgement call is needed. This is where the good GMs come up with the true gems, or know when to pass on coal.

,

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