Sunday, June 13, 2004

Frank And Remembrance

There is no question that Frank Thomas is having a terrific season this far (at his current pace, it's probably his 2nd or 3rd best season ever). But I just can't get this nagging feeling out of my head that Frank's game isn't different somehow in a meaningful way from his 1991-97 heyday. He seems to look for walks nowadays, where in the old days, his walks were more the result of his selectiveness. He only really pulls the ball, even with yesterday's opposite field shot. I get the feeling that this is about as hot as he is going to get.

Franks' current excellence just makes his previous performance even better. It makes me think back to those mid-90's days, when it seemed like every time the opposition actually pitched to Frank, he hung a rope somewhere. The opposite field homers. The screamers whistling past shortstops. Frank still hits the ball hard, but it's not every time up, like it used to be.

It's actually kind of surprising that Frank's career high batting average was only .353 in 1994 - when he was still just 25/26 (just think - he was ruining AL pitching at about Joe Crede's age), it seems like he should have hit about .380 or .390 in some of those years - he was just that good. And he made contact - he only struck out 54 times in 1993, and only 70 in 1996 when he hit .349.

Frank's clearly a hall of famer, but one has to wonder how he would be regarded if his career had taken a normal trajectory - with his best years in 1998 and 1999 during his 29/30 and 30/31 year old seasons. He might have entered the "Pantheon" of the top 10 hitters of all time - he's probably going to be thought of in the top 50 or so right now - up there with Gehrig and Hornsby, etc. He should have had 500 homers by now, and should have a career batting average over .320. It's a shame that Frank wasn't everything he could be, due to a variety of factors - injuries (1999 and 2001) and headgames (Jerry Manuel's tenure, 1998-2002). I would have nice to have a White Sox become one of the all-time greats. It would have been even better had the White Sox picked up a World Championship or two along the way. I hope the latter still happens.

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