The Case For Cooperstown ’14: Frank Thomas

The 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot has been released, and it is one of the most loaded ballots the game has ever seen.

Greg Kaplan and Vinny Ginardi break down the big names on the ballot this year, and give their opinions on who should be in, who should be out and why. 

Previous Analysis: Jeff Bagwell / Edgar Martinez / Greg Maddux / Craig Biggio / Barry Bonds / Roger Clemens / Curt Schilling

frank-thomasFrank Thomas

Year(s) on ballot – First Appearance

The Numbers: 19 seasons (Chicago White Sox, Oakland A’s, Toronto Blue Jays), 2,322 games, .301/.419/.555, 521HR 1,704RBI, 2,468 hits, 1,494 runs, 495 doubles, 156 OPS+, 154 wRC+, 73.6 bWAR, 72.4 fWAR – 5-time All-Star, 4-time Silver Slugger, 2-time American League MVP, seven times finished in top 10 of MVP voting without winning (2000 runner-up to Jason Giambi), 1997 American League batting champion.

VG: As a White Sox fan (yes, we exist), this one hits home for me. I’m already preparing for the possibility of The Big Hurt not getting in this year even though he’s beyond deserving. He has the numbers, but recent years have shown that anyone who has played in the Steroid Era — whether they have links to usage or not — have received hesitation from voters.

But let’s take a look at Thomas’ production.

I’m a big believer that fielding and defense provide value and I realize that Thomas was below average in both of these aspects. But his offensive production far outweighs his liabilities. In his prime, Thomas was one of the greatest hitters to ever step to the plate. From 1991-97, his lowest wRC+ was a 168. To put this into perspective, only Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout had a wRC+ greater than 168 last season. The strike in 1994 put an end to what might have been one of he best offensive seasons of all-time (Jeff Bagwell’s season was ridiculous in ’94, too) when Thomas put up a triple slash of .353/.487/.729, and ISO of .376 (what?!) and a wRC+ of 205. He also had 38 home runs in 113 games. So yeah, the strike robbed us of a historic full season.

Injuries hampered the back-end of Thomas’ career, but even when he played he was still one of the better hitters in the league. He finished with a higher career BB% (16.5) than K% (13.9) which feels absurd for a power hitter. No matter how you look at it, Thomas is one of the best hitters to ever pick up a bat.

Verdict: In

GK: Vinny’s absolutely right on both counts that Frank Thomas easily put up the numbers to be a member of the Hall of Fame and that there is probably a better than 50% chance Thomas somehow avoids election this year. That’s just the hard, cold reality that is the Hall of Fame voting process. And it’s dumb.

But I digress. JAWS has lumped Thomas in with the first baseman historically, and Thomas still stands out as one of the best ever. Thomas compiled a 59.5 JAWS, which is ninth all-time and easily clear of the 54.0 Hall of Fame average. Notable first baseman Thomas places in front of include Eddie Murray, Hank Greenberg and George Sisler. His 521 career home runs put him in a sixth place tie all-time with the great Willie McCovey among first baseman. His 1,704 RBI also place him sixth among first baseman.

All of that should be enough to get Frank Thomas into the Hall of Fame. What gives him a better chance than the other sluggers up for induction this year is that very few former or active players have been as outspoken about PED use than Thomas. His criticism and harsh words for those that have or have been connected to PEDs either show Thomas’s true colors, or he’s one of the most wonderful liars the game has ever seen. Considering the near impossibility to hide anything in terms of drug use these days, I tend to believe Thomas. Then again, I also believed plenty of other players and have been disappointed to find out otherwise.

But again, I don’t agree with keeping players out from the Steroids Era for drug use, or for having played while others used. It’s baseball acting like a spoiled four-year old and pretending like something didn’t happen, even though it clearly did.

Frank Thomas is a Hall of Famer. He deserves to go in on the first ballot. The only question about this actually happening revolves around how dumb the majority of Hall of Fame voters decide to be this year. And that’s a terrible shame.

Verdict: In