First, Pat and I will discuss whether we would vote for each player, then what we think of their chances of actually getting in. I’ll go first.
Personally, I think Thomas is a no doubter. For the first half of the 90s, he was arguably the best hitter in baseball. He won back-to-back MVPs in 1993 and 1994, the latter thanks to an absurd .353/.487/.729 battling line. That year, Thomas hit 38 homers despite the strike shortened season. That year was one of four where Thomas led the league in both OBP and OPS. From 1991-2000, his first 10 full years, he averaged 33.7 homers a season and hit .320/.439/.581 as a whole.
Thomas fell off from that insane peak in the next decade as he aged and started to suffer injuries. He had also long since become a DH after breaking into the bigs at first. When healthy though, Thomas showed he could still hit, such as the 146 OPS+ he posted in 2003, and the 140 OPS+ he hit his first year in Oakland in 2008. That year Thomas finished 4th in the MVP race at the age of 38. Overall, he retired with 2468 hits and 521 home runs for his career, with a batting line of .301/.419/.555. His OPS is 14th all-time, and he’s 18th all-time in homers, 22nd in RBIs (for those that care), and 10th in walks. Statistically, there is no legitimate case against him.
In addition, it should be noted that no star from the 90s was more vocal against PEDs than Frank Thomas. Does that mean he definitely was clean? No, as we have no way of knowing for sure either way, but given how flimsy the evidence is on guys the writers aren’t putting in, it’s worth pointing out Thomas at least talked the talk on the subject.
My vote on Thomas is an unequivocal YES.
Will He Get In: I want to say yes, because really, what’s the argument against? However, with the crowded ballot and the perception that Thomas is only the third most deserving newcomer (as if that matters), I can’t say it’s a lock. My guess is he’s within 5% of the cut line in either direction, with a total between 70-80%. If it’s less, just blow the damn institution up and start over. Hopefully I’m just being overly cynical.
Pat: Like Eric said, Frank Thomas should be a no-doubter. I'm not 100% convinced that's enough for him to actually get inducted on his first try, but there's really no reason he shouldn't. The Big Hurt was one of the most dominant hitters of the 1990s, and after slipping a bit in his mid-30s, was an MVP candidate again at age 38.
Between 1991 and 1997, he finished in the top 8 in MVP voting every season. He made the All Star team 5 times, which seems alarmingly low, to be honest, and won the Silver Slugger award 4 times.
Thomas' career totals of 2,468 hits and 521 HR are solid HOF-caliber numbers, and his career OPS+ of 156 is phenomenal. He led the league in that category 3 times, and finished second 4 times.
Will He Get In: I'd be shocked if the writers managed to find a way to snub Thomas, but it happened last year with Jeff Bagwell so I wouldn't be terribly surprised. Still, I'm predicting he gets inducted this year, and deservedly so.
Eric: Well, that one was relatively painless, but it's sure to get harder as we go on. We'll be back this afternoon with a look at Craig Biggio. Don't like our picks? Don't forget to vote for yourself in our poll.