Even though he is the greatest hitter in White Sox history and has long been a vocal critic of major-league players either being caught or suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs ("Draw the blood!"), Frank Thomas knows he is no sure thing to gain Hall of Fame enshrinement on the first ballot.
The Baseball Writers' Association of America votes on Hall of Fame candidates, and the 2014 ballot was officially announced on Tuesday. Along with fellow first-timers Greg Maddux (four-time Cy Young winner and former Cubs player) and Atlanta ace Tom Glavine, Thomas is one of 19 new candidates eligible for Cooperstown, and his eye-popping career numbers strongly suggest he'll get 75 percent or more of the vote needed to make the Hall.
But after seeing voters shoot down deserving first-ballot candidates such as Roberto Alomar and Craig Biggio -- along with Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza -- in recent years, Thomas isn't quite sure what to expect when the vote total is announced on Jan. 8.
"I think I've done enough to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but it's not up to me and you never know what's going to happen," Thomas said at SoxFest last January. "Watching all the nonsense unfold and not really knowing what was going on, it makes me much more proud of my career. I competed in that (steroid) era. I played at a high level in that era. There are a lot of great players but as it unfolds, a lot of it was not the real deal. I know 100 percent I was the real deal."
Thomas played 19 major-league seasons, 16 with the White Sox, and had a career .301/.419/.555 hitting line. He's also tied for 18th place all-time with 521 home runs, is 22nd with 1,704 RBI and 10th with 1,668 walks.
Selected by the White Sox on the first round of the 1989 draft (No. 7 overall) out of Auburn, Thomas won back-to-back American League MVP honors in 1993-94, he won his lone batting title in '97 (.347) and was a five-time all star.
Thomas played for the Oakland A's and Toronto Blue Jays following his messy split with the White Sox. He retired following the 2008 season.
"Everyone who enjoyed watching Frank Thomas perform during his outstanding career with the White Sox quickly realized we were watching one of the greatest offensive players of all-time, a player destined to rewrite our club's record books," Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement after Thomas called it quits. "When your career comes to an end and your body of work is compared to Hall of Famers like Mel Ott, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams, you truly rank among baseball royalty. I believe it is only a matter of time until Frank receives the game's greatest honor in Cooperstown and he unquestionably deserves the honor of being recognized among the elite White Sox players in this franchise's history by having his No. 35 retired."
Thomas' number was retired at U.S. Cellular Field on Aug. 29, 2010.
Hall of Fame voters might not be impressed with Thomas primarily being a designated hitter his final 11 seasons, and he was frequently involved in contract squabbles that ultimately led to a heated public exchange with former White Sox general manager Kenny Williams.
But unlike Bonds, Sosa, Mark McGwire and other tainted offensive stars from his era, Thomas said he could always look in the mirror and not see a cheater.
"Any time you look at the PED situation, you look at the Lance Armstrong situation, you look at stuff like that, it's serious out there," Thomas said. "Thank God I'm blessed and I did it the right way. I had a good family base that made me outwork everybody else because that's the only way I made it to the big leagues."
Mike Mussina, Hideo Nomo, Kenny Rogers, Jeff Kent, Moises Alou and Luis Gonzalez also are among the players eligible to be voted on for the first time by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
The 36-player ballot will include Armando Benitez, Sean Casey, Ray Durham, Eric Gagne, Jacque Jones, Todd Jones, Paul Lo Duca, Richie Sexson, J.T. Snow and Mike Timlin, the Hall said Tuesday.
Players elected along with choices announced Dec. 9 by the expansion era committee (1973 and later) will be inducted July 24 at Cooperstown. Among those on the committee ballot are retired managers Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre; late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner; and late players' union head Marvin Miller.
Last year, the BBWAA failed for the first time since 1996 to produce any inductees. Craig Biggio came closest to receiving the necessary 75 percent, falling 39 shy with 388 (68.2 percent).
Jack Morris, who will be on the ballot for the final time this year, was second with 67.7 percent, followed by Jeff Bagwell (59.6), Mike Piazza (57.8), Tim Raines (52.2), Lee Smith (47.8) and Curt Schilling (38.8).
Ÿ Associated Press contributed.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.