This Day in Transaction History: Blue Jays release Frank Thomas
Recently, I remarked -- much to the chagrin of Blue Jays fans -- about how weird it is to realize that José Bautista’s last at-bat in the majors came as a Phillie. Bautista played in the majors for eight different teams, but he’s remembered almost exclusively for his performance as a Blue Jay. Over 10 years with the club, he was a six-time All-Star, finished in the top-10 of AL MVP Award voting four times, and had arguably the most famous bat flip in baseball history.
The Blue Jays let Bautista go after the 2017 season as his health and performance waned into his late-30’s. Bautista would spend 2018 with three NL East teams: first the Braves, posting a .593 OPS over 12 games. Then the Mets, with which he had a .718 OPS across 83 games. He finished out the season with the Phillies, hitting .244/.404/.467 across 27 games. Bautista’s last home run came in a Phillies uniform against Rockies pitcher Antonio Senzatela. He struck out in the final at-bat of his career, also against Senzatela.
I thought about this phenomenon again after looking up Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, who was released by the Jays on this day in 2008. Thomas didn’t actually finish his career with the Jays; he finished it with the Athletics, his second stint with the club. Everyone remembers Thomas as a White Sock as he blasted 448 of his 521 career homers with them. But in ’08, his final season at the age of 40, he hit three dingers with the Jays over 16 games, then went to the A’s and hit five homers over 55 games.
Pedro Martínez is another one. Most people remember him making a name for himself in the mid-1990’s with the Expos, then rising to superstardom with the Red Sox. A smaller percentage of people might remember he started his career with the Dodgers and had a four-year stint with the Mets towards the end of his career. Fewer still remember his final year came in 2009 with the Phillies. Martínez made nine starts in ’09 for the reigning champion Phillies, all occurring in the final two months of the regular season. He was solid, posting a 3.63 ERA over 44 2/3 innings. He made an outstanding start in Game 2 of the NLCS against the Dodgers, tossing seven shutout innings on two hits and no walks. In the World Series, the Yankees rode a pair of solo home runs against Martínez en route to a 3-1 win. Martínez also started Game 6 of the World Series but lasted four innings, yielding four runs in what would be the final start of his career.
Remember Hall of Famer Larry Walker’s time as a Cardinal? The Rockies traded Walker to St. Louis in August 2004 at the age of 37. He missed the first 68 games of the season due to a groin injury, but stayed healthy and productive for the Cardinals down the stretch, posting a .953 OPS over 44 games. He finished out his contract -- and his career -- with the Cardinals in ’05, batting .289/.384/.502 in an even 100 games.
The final two stops of closer Billy Wagner’s career were with the Red Sox and Braves, which might make for a good trivia question. Even more surprising that Wagner was dominant until the day he called it quits, yielding just three earned runs in 13 2/3 innings with the Red Sox in 2009, then putting up a 1.43 ERA with 104 strikeouts across 69 1/3 innings with the Braves in 2010.
Does anyone remember Manny Ramírez ended his major league career wearing a Rays uniform? Ramírez appeared in only five games, banging out a lone single in 17 trips to the plate as a 39-year-old. How about that Hall of Fame closer Trevor Hoffman spent the final two seasons of his career in Milwaukee?
Who are some other prominent players who ended their careers wearing some odd-looking uniforms?