From Left Field: Why Does Frank Thomas Get A Pass In Steroid Era?

An article by posted on January 9, 2014 0 Comments

Growing up, my two favorite non-Mets were Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Thomas.

So when the Big Hurt was voted into the Hall of Fame yesterday, naturally I was very happy for him.

Frank ThomasBut I can’t help but wonder: In an era dominated by performance-enhancing drugs and the fact that many voters have been skeptical to cast votes for any players during this era, how could Frank Thomas be elected and not some other players?

Let’s be honest, you know who I’m talking about: Mike Piazza.

Before we go further, I believe 100 percent that Frank Thomas never once used steroids in his baseball career. The man was just a huge physical specimen at six-feet, five inches tall and 240 pounds.

It’s no wonder he crushed 521 home runs in his career. In fact, Thomas is one of only nine players ever to hit 500 home runs while maintaining a .300 batting average (Can you name the others?).

mike-piazza-1-single-image-cutWe know he’s been adamant against the pervasive use of steroids in the game, and he was never linked to any of the lists floating around.

But we do have to acknowledge something about Frank Thomas that is an absolute fact: For the bulk of his career, Frank Thomas played in the so-called Steroid Era.

How could a writer with a vote take a stance against players in the Steroid Era and yet still vote for Thomas? That’s hypocritical if you ask me.

So let’s now look at Piazza. He admitted to using some legal substances in his career, but other than that, there is no indictment on the abuse of illegal drugs, unless the writers know something we don’t know.

I want to now look at these two players’ numbers side-by-side:

Thomas: 19 years, 2,322 games played, 8,199 at-bats, .301 batting average, 2,468 hits, 521 home runs, 1,701 RBI, 495 doubles, .419 on-base percentage, .555 slugging percentage, 4,550 total bases, two-time AL MVP (1993, 1994), four-time Silver Slugger, five-time All-Star.

Piazza: 16 years, 1,912 games played, 6,911 at-bats, .308 batting average, 2,127 hits, 427 home runs, 1,335 RBI, 344 doubles, .377 on-base percentage, .545 slugging percentage, 3,768 total bases, Rookie of the Year (1993), 10-time Silver Slugger, 12-time All-Star.

Instead of analyzing each individual stat, here is my simplest takeaway: If Mike Piazza was an everyday first baseman or DH, his numbers would be easily just as good if not better than Frank Thomas’ stats.

No question.

Think of the wear-and-tear Piazza’s body took over the years. Meanwhile, Thomas had a few innings to regroup after each at-bat.

Don’t get me wrong: Frank Thomas is a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

But if that’s the case, Piazza – a player with similar numbers in a similar era – should have also been a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Now we have to hope that Piazza will at least be a third-ballot Hall of Famer.

About the Author ()

Jim Mancari hails from Massapequa, N.Y. He earned a Master's degree in journalism from Hofstra University. He is a devout Mets fan and takes pride in his team, despite their lack of success over the last few years. Like all Mets fans, Jim has plenty of hope. He also writes as the sports reporter for the Brooklyn Tablet newspaper and the senior editor of metroBASEBALL Magazine. Be sure to visit http://www.jimmancari.com/