Frank Thomas was among the three players voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday. It's his reward for a career of excellence that he says was in no way enhanced by steroids or other forms of performance drugs. To this point, there has been no reason to cast any doubt over the legitimacy of Thomas' claims or his numbers. But even still, it's a topic he couldn't avoid talking about on his big day as members of the media peppered him with questions about the accused PEDs users who didn't receive the votes.
Here's how Thomas responded to the onslaught, according to ESPN Chicago's Doug Padilla:
Toward the end of a long day of multiple interviews, Thomas was asked if he was sick about having to discuss baseball’s tarnished era.
“It’s getting old,” Thomas said. “I think you don’t speak for others but I can speak for myself. I’m 100 percent clean and I’m so happy and proud of that. It’s something I prided myself in because I came from an Auburn University program and there were no shortcuts. You got to the weight room at 6, 7 o’clock in the morning, basically killing yourself, or you weren’t going to get any better.
“I was taught early, I took that through my career and every year I tried to work harder and harder and harder to be the best player I possibly could be.”
Not surprisingly, PEDs are a sore subject for Thomas, just as they are for every other player who remained clean and achieved success through hard work. But that doesn't qualify as Thomas' most interesting comment of the day. As questions about PEDs continued, Thomas went so far as to suggest his athletic build and consistent, dominant production may have served as motivation for other players to start cheating the system.
“As for the others, I’ll be honest, I think I was one of those guys that made a few guys go that direction, because of the size and the strength of a football player playing baseball,” Thomas said. “For a seven-year run there, no one basically could compete. There were only one or two guys who put up numbers that could compare. But I don’t fault anyone for what they did, but hey, I did it the right way.”
The Chicago White Sox didn't pay Thomas to be humble, but there may actually be some truth in his comments. At some point there had to be an individual player or small group of players who set the standards so high, the only way others believed they could keep up was through PEDs. It's not far-fetched to believe Thomas was among that group setting the standard.
Thomas called it a seven-year run, but when healthy over about a 15-year stretch he was among the toughest outs in baseball. His numbers were gaudy at their best, but never quite unrealistic as we'd see when Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds were re-writing the history books. The consistency of Thomas' production makes it easy to believe he was always clean. When looking back at the timeline of his greatness and the prevalence of PEDs in the game, it's also easy to believe he could have been the guy his peers desperately aspired to equal or surpass.
It's big talk from the Big Hurt, but it makes more sense than one might think.