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White Sox Thu Jan 09 2014

No Problem Here: Thomas Elected to Hall of Fame

Sox_200.pngI was worried about the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Not because of all the many problems with it, what with the voting issues and negative historical contexts. No. I was worried about an enshrinement in Cooperstown becoming less meaningful.

In recent years Goose Gossage, Jim Rice, Andre Dawson and Bert Blyleven were a few of the most notable names elected. All are fine ballplayers, some of the better players of their era. But Hall of Famers? I'm not sure about that. And really, the voters weren't too sure either, because each had been retired for at least a decade and had spent multiple years on the ballot before getting voted in.

Things were different this year. Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas got the Hall of Fame nod yesterday, and all are sure-thing, zero-debate, first-ballot candidates. I'm happy those three, especially Thomas, got in.

The Big Hurt clearly had Hall-worthy numbers. He was an OPS and OPS+ machine and was good for at least 35 home runs a season. He's thought of as a slugger, but he was a remarkably well-rounded offensive force. He seldom struck out more than he walked, and he would routinely finish with high batting average and OBP marks. No small feat.

Thomas compiled numbers over his career (like 521 home runs and over 2,400 hits and 1,700 RBIs), but Thomas dominated individual seasons as well. He twice won MVP awards and finished in the top 10 nine times (including seasons 15 years apart!). When Thomas was in his prime he was a five- to seven-win player. He was one of the best ballplayers of the 1990s, and his 1994 season (.353/.487/.729 with 38 HRs in a strike-shortened season) was absolutely sublime. While a few seasons were cut short due to injury later on (2001, 2004 and, most unfortunately, 2005), he was still was excellent in 2003 (42 HR, .952 OPS) and with the A's in 2006 (39 HR, .926 OPS).

Despite being a 113-year-old organization in a major market, the White Sox haven't had the luck with franchise guys the same way the Yankees or even the Cubs have. Thomas was homegrown, drafted by the Sox in the first round of the 1989 draft. The next season he made his debut, and he played 16 seasons on the South Side. He was the Sox for several seasons, and it's difficult to think of a more popular, more talented, more meaningful White Sox player during the last half century.

Thomas was a legit baseball star. Not to sound all Grantland-y about this, but Thomas was a household name and that mattered just as much as his on-field performance. He had his own video game, he played in an MTV Rock n' Jock game and he had a splendid cameo in "Married... With Children." He even has his own beer (uh, never mind the taste). Fans flocked to New Comiskey to see him in person and they watched from afar on WGN and SportsChannel. Kids loved him.

Thankfully for us, Thomas was a classy man worth the adulation. He attained 500 home runs by playing, in his words, "the right way," he's always opposed PEDs and he doesn't like the idea of PED users entering the Hall. So while the merits and actions of guys like Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro and Mike Piazza are being endlessly debated, Thomas stands apart.

The baseball world -- from fans to media members to Frank himself -- is ecstatic that Thomas will be enshrined this summer. He was an easy choice and well deserving of the honor. It's a great day for Sox fans, Thomas fans, and baseball fans everywhere.

If and when more guys like Thomas get in, I'll worry less about the Hall of Fame.

 
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Ronell Haney / March 8, 2015 1:07 PM

I love Frank Thomas because he did it the right way. No steroids or drugs used during his career. He was a true Sox icon and his numbers bear out his record.

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