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Frank Thomas is a Hall of Famer

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In a perfect world, the end of a fifteen-year stretch as the face of the Chicago White Sox would also mark the end of a remarkable career.

Unfortunately, Frank Thomas is probably going to hook on somewhere as a DH and chase the elusive 500 homerun plateau, making him an over the top sure in for the Hall of Fame.

In my opinion, he already is.

Frank Thomas is probably the least celebrated star of my lifetime. In Chicago, it was always about Jordan and the Bulls. After, it was Sosa and the homeruns. His own city failed to recognize that this guy was the greatest first baseman of the nineties.

And people can honestly say 52 homeruns is what might keep him out of the Hall of Fame. I don’t buy it.

Sadly, Thomas’ main problem is that he was the victim of awful timing. After winning back-to-back MVP’s in 1992 and 93, Thomas was having one of the great seasons in the history of the game before the labor strike canceled rest of 94’ season. The guy’s OPS was over 1.200!

In 2000, the Big Hurt had the finest season of his career: 43 homeruns, 143 RBI, 112 walks. But steroids did him in. A cheater in Oakland stole the MVP from Thomas that season.

Steroids will be a lingering notion in every HOF voters mind during this time period. I hope they remember that while he may have been a jerk at times, Thomas was first in line asking to be tested when steroids became a media issue.

In an era that impurity was the norm, Thomas was clean

There is also this false impression that Frank Thomas was great for a few years and then just faded away. From 1991 to 97, he was the greatest player at his position. During those years, the baseball reference says the player most comparable to Thomas was Hank Greenberg.

In 98’ he had 109 RBI although his homerun numbers decreased.

1999 is the only “bad” season Thomas ever had in which he was not injured. Yeah, bad. He still had an OPS over .900.

The last two seasons have been rough due to injuries, but he is still very capable of being a productive player.

He still proved that he could get on base at an amazing rate.

The only active player who has more walks than Frank Thomas is Barry Bonds and Thomas is behind just Bonds, Ruth, Williams and Lou Gehrig in all time on base percentage.

Two average seasons for Thomas and he will join Gehrig as the only first basemen in the history of the game to score 1500 runs, drive in 1500 runners and walk 1500 times.

Greg Couch summed it up perfect in the Chicago Sun Times: “He wasn’t a borderline player but a borderline superstar.”

Thomas wasn’t always good with the media. He wasn’t a leader. His only World Series ring will be something he really didn’t help his team attain.

But statistics don’t lie.

I was in Chicago this year for one of Thomas’ final games with the White Sox. The game mirrored his career. He homered, he got on base, and he left with an injury.

It was the first time I ever saw him play and I was mesmerized. I was watching a great, great player.

Come to think of it, I was watching a Hall of Famer.

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About Dan McGowan

  • 1994 wiill always be the year in baseball that could have been. Jeff Bagwell is another underappreciated first baseman.

  • … who is a sure Hall of Famer.

  • There was never a greater crop of first basemen than in the 90s, so I think the people at the tail end of that list will sadly become sacrificial lambs.

    Jeff Bagwell
    Frank Thomas
    Mark Grace

  • ClubhouseCancer

    Good point about all the good first basemen in the 90’s.
    Grace clearly doesn’t belong in any Hall of Fame discussion. Thomas and Bagwell are certainly in.

    McGriff is probabaly not in, although he’s much closer than Grace. In this era of huge homer totals, it’s just unclear how the “next tier down” of power hitters will be judged. How much will 35 homers a year count when sooooo many guys were hitting 35 homers a year? Those 35 or so were enough to have him lead the leaue twice and hover around the top five every year early in his career, but when HR totals went up after the strike, he didn’t keep up. Maybe he just wasn’t cheating.

    Speaking of which, I hope Raffy (and Sosa) do not get in the Hall. These two are proven cheaters, plain and simple. Anyone who tests positive or is suspended for a cheating offense (like a corked bat) would never get my vote.

    There were some other fine players at that position during the era, making this a deep crop, too. Grace, Galarraga, Joyner, Hrbek, and Olerud all had long, productive careers. There was also late-period Eddie Murray, and the shorter but totally inflammable careers of Mo Vaughn and Cecil Fielder.

    And McGwire, who was a great athlete and a lying phony cheater of a man. He’ll get in, but only because there was never steroid testing during his career.

  • The reason I put Grace ahead of McGriff and third in the “not-in” list is because he’s the answer to the question: “Which player had the most hits in the ’90s?”

    McGriff is No. 1 in my book, however, in taking a bite out of crime.

  • ClubhouseCancer

    Yes, but of course that’s just a function of timing. He didn’t even get 2500 hits, and wasn’t anywhere near the player Bags or Thomas was.

    I feel like Grace, being good-looking, white, articulate, and playing in a huge market like Chicago, was destined to be overrated, and was.

    FWIW: I once donned a full McGruff suit and rode a float in the Belmar St. Patrick’s Day Parade with a bunch of cop friends. Kids, on that day, McGruff had taken a bite out of a bottle of Jameson’s.

  • Todd Helton may be another first bagger who will get no respect unless he wins somewhere, be it Colorado or elsewhere.

  • Whoa, whoa, whoa, why can’t Grace make it into the HOF? He was a damned fine first baseman, hardly ever struck out and always maintained a decent batting average. I always liked him, at least. In high school, I tried to model my swing after him.

  • RJ

    Grace should go to the HoF too…

  • ClubhouseCancer

    He was surely a fine first baseman for a lot of years, but he’s nowhere near HofF caliber. This is not a put-down; the Hall of Fame is an incredible honor reserved for the top of the top players that have ever played. Grace’s career stats are similar to first basemen like Mickey Vernon, John Olerud, Hal McRae, Bill Buckner, Wally Joyner, and Al Oliver. Fine players all, but none are even close to the HofF.

    He’s clearly inferior to, for instance, Dick Allen, who isn’t in. Steve Garvey has more hits , an MVP, 4 Gold Gloves, and a hundred more homers, and he’s not really that close to being in.

    Saying a guy isn’t a Hall of Famer is not a put-down. Gracey was agreat glove man, too.

  • This story has been chose as a Blogcritics Editor’s Pick for the week, congrats!

    You’ve honored yourself up the right to select your favorite story over the next week for the new column, which will be published on Wednesdays or thereabouts. In any event, please feel free to nominate your fave piece under this week’s column. The time frame will always run between Wednesday (today in this week’s case) and next Tuesday night.

    Thanks and congrats again ~ EB

  • Dont be so ignorant. Did you forget that during the strike season, Griffey Jr was on pace to hit 73 home runs. So don’t give me the “his ops was 1200!” bull s***. Everyone was “supposed” to have the greatest season ever during that year. Griffey is closing in on 600 because he isnt as big of a whiney b**** as Thomas is. He f***ed his career over by b****ing while he was in Chi-Town. He couldve been one of the greatest players ever. But he had to f*** it up.

  • Poop Pancake

    I poop on your idiocy.