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February 12, 2010

Frank Thomas is officially "done"

With “The Hurt Locker” up for nine Academy Awards and the retirement of the “Big Hurt” both making news, only an idiot would try to connect the nominated movie to Frank Thomas.

Ladies and gentlemen…I’m that idiot.

This year, the Academy expanded their Best Picture category from five to ten to seemingly accommodate such favorites as “Up”, “District 9” and the all-time money getter…”Avatar”.

Now, I’m not suggesting that when Thomas is up for the Hall of Fame in 2014, the BBWAA does their part by expanded the number of players they elect (please start your “big Hall” versus “small Hall” debates now)…but given the depth of the ballot, they might want to consider it.

I’m telling you, gang…2014 is going to be the year that Cooperstown implodes assuming the steroid tinged ballot of 2013 (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa) doesn’t do it first.

Consider this, with the official retirements of Thomas and Tom Glavine (he hung it up for good Thursday), first timers now include Greg Maddux, Jeff Kent, Mike Mussina and Jim Edmonds. Throw in Luis Gonzalez and Moises Alou (not Hall of Famers…but potential vote getters) and you’re looking at the potential of there being the most first ballot inductees ever.

And since you’re wondering…what year had the most? In 1999, there were three…George Brett, Nolan Ryan and Robin Yount, but I digress.

Living just outside of the Windy City…I get inundated with news about the White Sox and Cubs whether I want to hear it or not. Problem is, unlike most of the people I associate with…I DON’T want to hear about them. Ever.

That was until, Thomas made it official that he was, without a doubt, NOT coming back this year.

Sure, he didn’t play last season, but the "I'm done…I'm happy where I'm at right now” he delivered to a packed Chicago hotel ballroom Thursday night appears to be the definitive end of a storied career.

Before the “Pale Hose” envoked their horsebleep “diminished skills” clause following their Championship run in 2005…the “Big Hurt” was already one of a very, very elite group of players.

Currently, Thomas is one of FOUR players to have a .300 average, 500 home runs, 1500 RBIs, 1000 runs and 1500 walks during their career.

Who are the other three? Mel Ott, Ted Williams and Babe Ruth…not too shabby.

Matter of fact, Thomas has a handful of goofball records like that…records that no one REALLY knows how to put into context.

For example, Thomas is the ONLY player in baseball history to have seven consecutive seasons of a .300 average, 100 runs, 100 RBI, 20 home runs and at least 100 walks.

Did you know that he was only the seventh member of the .300 average and 500 home run club and is one of six players to have amassed 1600 walks and 500 home runs?

How about this gem? Thomas was the first player to win two silver slugger awards each at two different positions.

Here’s my favorite…Thomas is the ONLY player to hit more than 90 sacrifice flies (he has 121) and not collect a single sacrifice hit.

Okay, so we know (or at least we’ve been told) how good Frank Thomas was. His stats stack up favorably to some old school Hall of Famers that we’ve all heard of…but frankly, they are merely footnotes in history.

Who here actually saw Mel Ott play? How about Jimmie Foxx?!? Case rested.

So, let’s talk about how good the “Big Hurt” was compared to those he played alongside.

You know that “Thomas is the ONLY player in baseball history to have seven consecutive seasons of a .300 average, 100 runs, 100 RBI, 20 home runs and at least 100 walks” I referenced earlier? Well, Thomas did this to START his career and it includes the strike shortened season of 1994.

The only other cat who has come close to that…Albert Pujols.

Yes, THAT Albert Pujols.

Minus the walks (Pujols doesn’t have the knack to frustrate pitchers the same way Thomas did) and one season where he had 99 runs scored…we’ve got virtually identical players at the plate.

Let’s take a look at their first seven seasons.

Both finished in the top ten in MVP voting each of those seven seasons. Thomas brought home two awards…Pujols one, although he did add back-to-back awards in 2008 and 2009. All in all…both now have nine top ten finishes.

Let’s get back to the numbers.

Going into 2008 (Pujols’ eighth season), “Prince Albert” had 4054 at bats. At the same point in HIS career, Thomas had 3821…but remember the walks, people.

Pujols does have the edge in runs (847 to 785), hits (1344 to 1261), home runs (282 to 257), RBI (861 to 854) and average (.332 to .330), but one could argue that we’re in more of a power era than 1991 to 1997 when Thomas was in his heyday.

As an aside (and I am not insinuating in the least that Pujols touched “the juice”), look at Thomas when he broke in and look at him now…he’s pretty much the same size…a far cry from Barry Bonds or Jason Giambi.

Here’s a guy was the ONLY active baseball player interviewed for the Mitchell Report. He was so sure of his cleanliness…he did so voluntarily.

So why has Frank Thomas seemingly been forgotten up until now? Is it because he was mostly used as a DH?

Possibly. But the idea is to help your team win ballgames, right?

Thomas did just that…and did it better than a large percentage of the players ever to put on the cleats.

So again…why is Thomas forgotten?

Fifteen years ago, I would have said that Thomas got lost in the fanfare surrounding Bo Jackson, Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. Simply put, he just didn’t have “it”.

Fast forward to today…David Ortiz has a hard time stringing together more than a few words of broken English, yet he has more endorsement deals than I can count. Outside of a 1995 Super Nintendo game, I couldn’t tell you one other time that I saw Frank Thomas being celebrated and as I referenced earlier in this diatribe, I live near the belly of the beast…the one city that SHOULD recognize excellence when the have it.

I guess we’ll have to wait four years to find out how Thomas was viewed on the national level.

I'm hoping that the "small Hall" mentality doesn't win out.

BallHype: hype it up!

1 comment:

MikeDYankees said...

Frank Thomas was a great ball player. This coming from a yankees fan, if that shows you. He'll get in no problem.