Upon first hearing the story that Frank Thomas was announcing his retirement, this writer was a bit baffled. Wasn't he already retired? Apparently not. He didn't play in 2009 because no one offered him a job, which is a rather ignominious way to end what was a brilliant career. The previous sentence is even more stark in the little news that covered the slugger's absence from the game. After all, for a ten year period, he was one of the best batters in baseball. At least his formal announcement will give the baseball world some time to catch up and encapsulate his career, something that wasn't happening last year when he didn't play and very few people noticed. And it was a career worth talking about.
By any of the current player measurements, Frank Thomas was a great player. He led the league in OPS four times and OPS+ three times. He finished with a .974 career OPS. His career line finished at: .301/.419/.555. The .419 for On Base Percentage is what everyone will remember. Frank Thomas walked a LOT. He walked more than he struck out in his career. He walked over 100 times in a season ten times, including eight years in a row.
But he also hit the crap out of the ball when he did swing. He finished with 521 homers and had eleven seasons where he drove in more than 100 runs. And Frank Thomas was big. He was six foot, five inches tall and played close to 265 pounds. He led the league in doubles once and hit over 30 homers nine times.
Frank Thomas finished in the top ten for MVP eight times. He won the award twice. His career WAR (wins over replacement) finished up at 75.9. To get some perspective on that number, Jim Thome sits at 66.9 and Hall of Famer, Eddie Murray finished at 66.7. Of course, that figure would have been higher if he hadn't been a first baseman/DH. Thomas wasn't much of a first baseman. His counting stats also suffered from three lost seasons in 2001, 2004 and 2005 when he missed most of those seasons.
Thomas had one last great season for the Oakland A's in 2006 and a very good campaign for the Blue Jays the following year. But in reality, he was never the force after 2001 that he was from 1991 to 2000. His slow and gradual decline, broken by a few over the top seasons after 2000 probably accounts for his low profile and lack of recognition from the average fan. In that regard, his career most compares to Harmon Killebrew whose career path was very similar.
Is Thomas a Hall of Fame candidate? Count the Fan with a resounding YES. His career exemplified power and patience and few ever did it better. By the way, there was another Frank Thomas who played when the Fan was growing up. He was also big (6' 3") and had a nice career from 1951 to 1966. He hit 286 homers. So the combined total of 807 homers by the pair of Frank Thomases has to be a record for any one name.