Since his retirement in 2008, there has been debate about whether Thomas will or even should be a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee.
The answers are simple—yes and yes.
Honestly, I don't see how you can argue against him.
He was one of the most feared hitters in baseball in the 1990s and well into the 2000s.
And in an era that was tainted with steroids scandals, Thomas wasn't one of those that cheated.
He put up monster numbers, and he did it the right way, which in his case means the numbers don't lie.
Just take a look.
Over his career, Thomas hit .301 with 521 home runs (18th all time) and 1,704 RBI (22nd all time). He also had a career .419 on-base percentage (19th all time) with a slugging percentage of .555 (22nd all time) and an OPS of .974 (14th all time).
Is that all, you ask? Nope, there's more.
Thomas also had 2,468 hits (100th all time) and scored 1,494 runs (71st all time), but what may have been most impressive were his 1,667 walks, which rank 10th all time.
For a power hitter like Thomas to have the kind of eye and patience at the plate that he had is almost unheard of—and, some pitchers might argue, almost unfair.
When Thomas came to the plate with men on base, it was bad news for the opposing pitcher. Over his career, he hit .312 with runners in scoring position and .291 with runners in scoring position and two outs.
In other words, he got it done when it counted.
Early on in his career, Thomas was given the nickname "The Big Hurt" by White Sox commentator Ken "Hawk" Harrelson. If there was ever a fitting nickname, that was it.
Thomas could hurt the baseball for sure, but even more importantly he hurt the other team with his timely hitting and penchant for driving in big runs.
Thomas made five straight All-Star Game appearances from 1993 to 1997 and was named the AL MVP in both 1993 and 1994. He should have won his third MVP award in 2000, but it went to Jason Giambi, whose story we all know by now.
In addition, he took home the Silver Slugger award four times in his career and was the first player in MLB history to win the award twice at two different positions (first base and DH).
Defensively, Thomas played first base the majority of the time until 1998, when he became almost exclusively a designated hitter. He was never known for his slick fielding, but he got the job done and was better than most give him credit for. He finished his career with a .991 fielding percentage.
Many people argue that because Thomas spent more time at DH than at a position, it will hurt his chances of getting into the Hall of Fame, but I don't believe that to be the case. The designated hitter is part of the game (at least in the AL) just like every other position, and he was certainly one of, if not, the best there ever was.
Thomas was also known for speaking his mind throughout his career and had a rocky relationship with the media. He wasn't afraid to say what he was thinking whether he was right or wrong.
He was one of very few players who were willing to speak out publicly about steroid use and was the only player willing to be interviewed for the Mitchell Report, which was an investigation into the use of performance enhancing drugs in MLB released in 2007.
Recently, when he was asked by a group of reporters at the annual SoxFest about the Hall of Fame, Thomas again showed that he wasn't afraid to speak. He discussed the fact that he played in an era that is now tainted, but that he played the right way and deserves recognition.
Watching all the nonsense unfold and not really knowing what was going on, it makes me much more proud of my career because I competed in that era and I played at a high level in that era. There were a lot of great players, but as it unfolds, a lot of it was not the real deal. I know 100 percent mine was the real deal.
When asked directly if he would be disappointed if he were not a first-ballot Hall of Fame selection, Thomas responded:
Of course I would be disappointed, I'm not going to lie to you, I think my resume speaks for itself. Losing a third MVP to a guy (Giambi) who admitted he was PED, I think that would have put me at another level that only a couple of guys have enjoyed ever in this game. The 12-year run I had was incredible, very historical. So, I think I've done enough to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Again, Thomas was never one to keep his thoughts to himself, but in this case I think he's right.
I'm by no means a Frank Thomas apologist because the guy said and did some things over his career that he probably regrets. But the fact is that the guy could hit with the best of them.
In fact, it can be argued that he was the most prolific hitter Chicago baseball has ever seen on either side of town.
And almost certainly over the past 50 years.
My favorite statistic about Thomas is one that should leave no doubt about his worthiness to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
He is one of only four MLB players to have at least a .300 batting average, 500 home runs, 1,500 RBI, 1,000 runs and 1,500 walks in a career. The other three guys on this list are Mel Ott, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams.
That's pretty good company.
And it's company that Thomas should once again join when he enters the Hall of Fame in 2014.
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