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Now that the Toronto Blue Jays have released perennial slugger Frank Thomas for no real good reason, analysts across the country are talking about how much of a lock for the Hall of Fame Thomas is.
One analyst on ESPN Radio claimed, “He is without a doubt a first ballot Hall of Famer.”
Thomas may be one of the best hitters of the 1990’s, but he is certainly not on the same level as Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. (the most recent first ballot Hall of Famers).
Thomas has had a solid career and while many are mentioning him in the same sentence with the likes of Mel Ott, Ted Williams and Babe Ruth, he doesn’t exactly stack up to those legendary players when the whole picture is taken into account.
If a person is looking simply at statistics then Thomas should be in the same sentence as those greats, but when time periods are taken into account, Thomas may not even be in the same paragraph.
With ballparks smaller than ever and an emphasis on the long ball taking hold with nearly every club, one has to wonder if Thomas’ numbers can translate through baseball time periods.
Personally, I would put Thomas in the Hall of Fame and would vote for him every year he was on the ballot. (This is the technique ESPN’s Jayson Stark told me he uses and it makes more sense than anyone else’s.)
The problem for Thomas is that there are many people who do not vote for a person every year they are on the ballot. They believe some players are first ballot Hall of Famers and others are not. Thomas is most likely not going to swing these votes.
The six time All-Star is amazingly forgotten about when talk of the top nineties hitters, or home run hitters for that matter, comes up. The problem with this is that he is one of the few large hitters from the nineties who have not been suspected of taking steroids.
He won the hearts of the baseball writers before when they voted him the MVP of the American League twice, but those times seem forgotten except by those die hard fans on the south side of Chicago.
To be a first ballot Hall of Famer, many believe that a player has to rank very high on the career list of players in many categories.
(Thomas ranks 70 th in runs scored, 39 th in total bases, 53 rd in doubles, 18 th in home runs, ninth in walks, 27 th in intentional walks, 24 th in extra-base hits, 31 st in times on base and fifth in sacrifice flies according to Baseball-Reference.com.) Unfortunately for Thomas, he is playing in an era when hitting 500 home runs (Thomas has 516) does not necessarily punch your ticket to the Hall.
What happened during the past week between Thomas and the Blue Jays says more about the Jays’ front office than it does Thomas.
While it may not be right for a player to complain publicly about how much they are playing or where in the lineup they are slated, a team should not release a player for one incident.
Thomas has no history of being a clubhouse cancer and has always been considered a great teammate.
If Thomas’ career is over and no one else takes a chance on him, he will no doubt have a plaque in Cooperstown within the decade. It’s just a question of whether he can get there in five years.
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