The Chicago White Sox held their annual “SoxFest” this weekend, and former slugger Frank Thomas used the forum to plead his Hall of Fame case for 2014.
“I think my resume speaks for itself”, Thomas was quoted as saying. “Losing a third MVP to a guy (former Oakland Athletics first baseman Jason Giambi) who admitted he was (using) PEDs, 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.”
The comments by Thomas were right on the mark, and anyone who’s been following baseball during the last twenty years would almost certainly agree. Unfortunately for Thomas, though, the BBWAA, the collective voting body guarding the gates to Cooperstown, doesn’t seem to be paying attention to such things.
That’s strike one.
The latter part of Thomas’ statement could very well have come out of the mouth of Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell or Mike Piazza; all three of which have been bypassed for entry into the Hall. While the BBWAA may think that they have a valid case to deny players like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Roger Clemens, there is not a shred of legitimate steroid-related evidence against any of the others.
To that point, Biggio retired with 3,060 hits (21st all-time) and scored 1,844 runs (15th all-time). Bagwell is the only first baseman in MLB history to hit 400 home runs and steal 200 bases. Piazza has more homers as a catcher (396) than any other backstop in history. But unlike Thomas, these guys were all position players. Thomas spent the majority of his career as a designated hitter, playing about 58 percent of his games in that role.
Thomas finished his career with a .301 batting average and 521 home runs. His career OPS of .974 ranks 14th in baseball history. He won two MVP awards and one batting title, and he was selected to five all-star games. He’s a Hall of Famer. There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind. The problem will be getting the BBWAA to recognize this fact.
Considering his résumé, Thomas has every reason to be optimistic about his chances in 2014, but it remains to be seen how the BBWAA will view his career. Though he’s never been linked to PEDs, Thomas did attempt to skip the congressional hearings in 2005 (his request was denied).
Will that be strike three?
Thomas vehemently insists that he played the game clean. But so did Craig Biggio, and look what the BBWAA did to him. By failing to elect Biggio this year, the BBWAA has added him to an exclusive group with Pete Rose and Rafael Palmeiro as the only three eligible players to amass 3,000 hits without getting to Cooperstown.
Thomas will appear on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time in 2014. All any of us can do at this point is hope that the BBWAA gets it right—a tough task considering their track record of late. It seems that rather than focusing on sending the best players in baseball history to Cooperstown, right now the BBWAA is more interested in making statements and desperately searching for reasons not to elect new members.