Thomas is players' comeback choice
A's designated hitter honored for sparkling 2006 season
OAKLAND -- When A's designated hitter Frank Thomas heard that the man who replaced him in Chicago, White Sox DH Jim Thome, beat him out in fan voting for MLB.com's American League Comeback Player of the Year Award, he admitted to being "a little bit shocked."
"We both had great years," said Thomas, who led the A's with 39 homers and 114 RBIs. "I thought we both deserved an award."
They did. And now they both have one. Thomas, 38, on Wednesday got his own AL Comeback honor -- courtesy of his peers -- when the winners of the annual MLB Players Choice Awards were announced on the Baseball Channel.
"For what he did for us down the stretch, he deserves any recognition he gets," then-manager Ken Macha said in September. "Every good team has to have an impact player, and Frank was certainly that for us."
Thomas, who missed most of the 2004 and 2005 seasons with Chicago while battling foot and ankle injuries, signed a one-year, incentive-laden deal with the A's after a nasty divorce from the White Sox that featured several rounds of public verbal sparring with Chicago general manager Kenny Williams.
After sitting out most of Spring Training, Thomas struggled through the first two months of the regular season, leaving him with a .178 batting average, seven home runs and 20 RBIs with a .300 on-base percentage through May 21. He turned his season -- and that of the A's -- around the following day, however, when he went 3-for-5 with two home runs in his first game back in the Windy City.
Through his final 100 games of the season, Thomas batted .302 with 32 homers, 94 RBIs and a .408 on-base percentage.
"He carried us," A's third baseman Eric Chavez said last month. "Simple as that."
Thomas spent two weeks on the disabled list (June 15-29) with a strained quadriceps, but after being activated on June 30, he played in 79 consecutive games through Sept. 26 -- the night the A's clinched the AL West title.
Thomas batted .333 in August, and after being named the AL Player of the Week for Sept. 4-10, when he went 12-for-26 (.462) with five homers and 13 RBIs in six games, he started to draw MVP attention.
"Why not?" said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski. "Look at what he's done and what he's meant for that team. Is Frank Thomas an MVP candidate? Sure."
Thomas homered and drove in four runs in Oakland's final game of the regular season to finish September/October with an AL-high 10 homers and 31 RBIs.
"I've been blessed," Thomas said after homering twice in Oakland's AL Division Series opener against the Twins. "I knew what I was capable of when I'm healthy, and I've shown it. I'm proud of the season I've had, but more important, it's been a hell of a season for the Oakland A's."
Thomas, who earned $2.6 million on top of his base salary of $500,000 by hitting all of the incentives in his contract, filed for free agency after the World Series. A's general manager Billy Beane has been negotiating with Thomas' agent, Arn Tellem, to bring the slugger back, and Beane last week expressed optimism that they'll be able to make it happen.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.