As far as most baseball players would go, Frank Thomas had an amazing career. The Big Hurt played nearly his entire career with one franchise, where he is now beloved, and he retired as the White Sox all-time leader in home runs (448), runs (1,327), RBIs (1,465), on-base percentage (.427) and slugging percentage (.568). He was a two-time MVP, a five-time All-Star and a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
But even with all that glory, Thomas might have deserved more. He’s well-known as one of the few sluggers to come out of MLB’s steroids era with a clean reputation, and many wonder how he would have been remembered if he had played his entire career on a level playing field.
Thomas has long been one the biggest critics of his colleagues who took performance enhancing drugs, but he took it a step forward in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times. The 50-year-old Thomas claimed he was “the most hurt” player in the steroid era.
“I was the most hurt in that era,” he said. “My career was stepped on. I had an incredible career, and some of the guys on steroids passed me up in one year. To dominate for seven straight years like I did, and then overnight go back to 15th in home runs, it’s alarming.
“Back then, I was naïve. I thought guys were just getting better workout programs and were really killing themselves. It wasn’t the case, as it panned out. That wasn’t the case, as we found out later. That’s OK. I got what I deserved.”
You’d think some pitchers might have a claim to the title of Player Most Hurt by the Steroid Era, but Thomas certainly has a point when you consider which players rank ahead of him statistically.
Where Frank Thomas ranks in MLB homers of the 90s
Here are MLB’s total home run leaders between 1990 and 1999.
Mark McGwire, 405
Ken Griffey Jr., 382
Barry Bonds, 361
Albert Belle, 351
Juan Gonzalez, 339
Sammy Sosa, 332
Rafael Palmeiro, 328
Jose Canseco, 303
Frank Thomas, 301
Matt Williams, 300
Other than Griffey and Thomas, the top 10 is made up entirely of known cheaters. You have McGwire (admitted steroids user), Bonds (admitted steroids user) Belle (no steroids, but he was caught with a corked bat), Gonzalez (linked to steroids and named in the Mitchell Report), Sammy Sosa (tested positive for steroids and caught with a corked bat), Palmeiro (tested positive for steroids) and Williams (linked to steroids).
When you look at those leaders, it’s very easy to see where Thomas is coming from. There’s no way to know what that list would like if no MLB player ever touched performance enhancing drugs, but it must be a bitter pill to swallow when you look at that list and see only cheaters and Ken Griffey Jr. ahead of you.
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