It is for that reason that he signed with the A's after being released by the Blue Jays in April, and despite Oakland's injury-accelerated slide from contention this summer, it's why he wants to return to the team in 2009.
"When we were intact, we were a good team -- a very good team," Thomas said on Tuesday, before the second of a three-game series against the Twins at the Metrodome. "But we had four or five major injuries at the same time, and that's why we're where we are right now; that's baseball. That kind of stuff happens, but it doesn't change the fact that this is a good young team that's only going to get better.
"So yeah, I do want to be back here."
Thomas, who turned 40 in May, said he wants to play at least one more season -- possibly two.
"I've always said I want to play until I'm 41 or 42," he said. "That hasn't changed, either."
A free agent at the end of the year, Thomas didn't talk financial specifics about returning to Oakland, but he suggested that he won't be looking for huge money. He's been on the disabled list twice this season, and he conceded that it's getting harder to bounce back from injuries as he gets older.
"All I can do is work as hard as I can to keep this old body in shape," he said while riding a stationary bike in the clubhouse before batting practice. "But the desire is still there, the hunger to be a great player. I'm not playing this game for money. Never have."
Asked if he might look first to latch on with a team that appears closer to winning a championship than the rebuilding A's, Thomas, who was batting .270 with a .367 on-base percentage, five homers and 18 RBIs in 45 games with the team through Monday, said Oakland is closer than most people think.
"I see the pitching here, and that's what it's all about," he said. "That's what I saw when I was with the Blue Jays, and the potential is still here. We've got good, young arms in Smitty [Greg Smith], Gio [Gonzalez], [Sean] Gallagher, and the other lefty, [Dana] Eveland; he'll be back up here. And we've got Duke [Justin Duchscherer] and some good young arms in the bullpen.
"I love it here. I loved it when I was here in 2006, and I still do. All the young guys here, it keeps me young, too."
Thomas added that he's talked to fellow veteran Mike Sweeney, who is on the disabled list, and has a feeling that Sweeney also wants to come back to the A's.
"I think so, yes," Thomas said. "He sees the same things I see."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less