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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