Wednesday, February 5, 2014

1993 TOPPS FINEST: #102 FRANK THOMAS


FEW COULD MASH LIKE THE BIG HURT.



WHEN YOU HIT THAT WELL, YOU DON'T SWEAT DEFENSE.



DEFINING THE PLAYER

  • Having the privilege to watch Frank Thomas' career from start to finish, I'm on record as saying he was The Best Hitter of My Generation. Thanks to Ken "Hawk'' Harrelson, he also had the best nickname. The Big Hurt administered some hurtin' to pitchers' egos during his 19-year career: a science fiction-like slash line of .301/.419/.555, 521 homers and 1,704 RBI. And he did it the right way: without PEDs. Was he a model teammate? Who knows? Was he lousy on defense? Maybe. That shouldn't keep him out of the Hall of Fame, and it didn't. He was elected on the first ballot last month.

DEFINING MOMENT

  • On July 15, 1995, in the Los Angeles Times, Thomas went on record as saying he supported drug testing for baseball players because of the ever-growing PED epidemic. He was the first to join the crusade, and he got a lot of flak from his peers. Was this perhaps behind the "bad teammate'' rap? His support of drug testing led him to voluntarily cooperate with the Mitchell Report in '07.

DEFINING SEASON

  • Thomas followed up his first MVP season in '93 with an encore better than the first. That '94 MVP stat line in Baseball-Reference is a study in bold type: A slash line of .353/.487/.729, combined with an OPS of 1.217, an OPS+ of 212 and 106 runs scored. All this in 113 games in a season cut short because of the players' strike.

FIVE FINAL FACTS

  1. Thomas' 10-year peak was quite stupendous: .320/.439/1.020, 337 home runs, 1,152 RBI.
  2. Swung a rusted piece of rebar on the on-deck circle that was found when Old Comiskey Park was renovated. Maybe there was magic in Ol' Rusty.
  3. Harrelson, longtime White Sox homer but knowledgeable announcer, gave Thomas his nickname in '92 after watching him club a 450-foot homer: "He's putting a big hurt on baseballs.'' Fortunately, it stuck.
  4. After two off seasons in '98 and '99, Thomas won the AL Comeback Player of the Year in '00 with a .328, 43-homer, 143-RBI year. He was runner-up to PED-user Jason Giambi for AL MVP. 
  5. Thomas is the only player in history to have seven straight seasons ('91-'97) of hitting .300, walking 100 times, driving in 100 runs and hitting 20 homers. Ted Williams is second, doing it in six seasons.


BIG HURT SAYS IT ALL.

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