Frank Thomas is the most underrated hitter ever

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Frank Thomas officially announcing his retirement has me thinking about his place in baseball history and preemptively worried that the Baseball Writers Association of America may not fully appreciate him when he appears on their Hall of Fame ballots in 2014.

Thomas was my favorite player growing up, which is admittedly an odd
sentiment for a Twins fan. However, when The Big Hurt was at his
baseball-crushing best my beloved Twins were finishing in fourth or
fifth place for eight straight seasons, so they were barely worth
following and the White Sox were on WGN just about every day when
baseball-watching options were limited.

A 6-foot-5, 250-pound mountain of a man who played tight end at
Auburn and was a massive slugger from the moment that he arrived in the
majors as a 22-year-old in 1990, the sheer magnitude of Thomas’
physical size and offensive numbers made a fan in me immediately.

And
now, two decades later, I’m here to tell you he’s the most
underrated hitter in baseball history. Seriously.

Because of what has happened to power numbers and power hitters
during the past decade or so Thomas is often talked about as just
another great slugger from this era, but that misses the boat in a big
way. Albert Pujols is the best player in baseball and surely everyone
would agree that at 29 years old he’s on track to be a first-ballot
Hall of Famer, but look at his numbers compared to Thomas’ stats at the
same age:

               G       PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     OPS+
Pujols 1399 6082 .334 .427 .628 172
Thomas 1076 4789 .330 .452 .600 182

Pujols has hit .334 with a 1.055 OPS, whereas Thomas hit .330 with a
1.052 OPS through the age of 29. Plus, Thomas’ twenties came in a
slightly lower-scoring era, which is why his adjusted OPS+ of 182 tops
Pujols at 172. Pujols has three MVPs and one batting title while thrice
leading the league in OPS. Before his 30th birthday Thomas had two MVPs
and one batting title while leading the league in OPS four times.

Frank Thomas was Albert Pujols before Albert Pujols. And while it
remains to be seen what Pujols does after turning 30, Thomas hit
.276/.389/.515 with 264 homers and a 134 OPS+ in 1,246 games. To put
that in some context: Jim Rice had a 128 OPS+ for his entire “Hall of Fame career.” Add his amazing twenties to his very good
thirties and Thomas is a career .301/.419/.555 hitter with 521 homers
and a 156 OPS+.

Thomas ranks ninth all time in walks, 18th in homers, 21st in RBIs,
25th in extra-base hits, 29th in times on base, and 37th in total
bases. Among players with at least 7,500 career plate appearances,
Thomas ranks 11th in on-base percentage, 17th in slugging percentage,
12th in OPS, and 13th in adjusted OPS+. He’s also one of just 11
players to win back-to-back MVP awards.

And now that he’s officially finished playing, Thomas becomes just the seventh
hitter in baseball history to retire with 500 homers and a .300 batting
average, joining Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Jimmie Foxx, Ted
Williams, and Mel Ott. He also joins Ruth, Williams, and Ott as the
only players with 500 homers, 1,500 RBIs, 1,500 walks, and a .300
average.

Whether you choose to focus on peak dominance or career longevity
Thomas is quite simply one of the greatest 20 or so hitters in the
history of the sport and if that doesn’t get him into Cooperstown then
what use is there in even having a Hall of Fame?

San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus asks for fired DJ to be reinstated

SAN DIEGO - APRIL 06:  The grounds crew works on the field before the start of the game between the Colorado Rockies and the San Diego Padres during Opening Night at Petco Park on April 6, 2007 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
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OK, I lied. Earlier I said we had the final word on the National Anthem dustup in San Diego from over the weekend. The final word, it seemed, was the Padres apologizing, the revelation that the screwed up Anthem thing was a mistake by a DJ hired to run the music and the DJ then being fired. Oh, and then the DJ apologizing.

Now a new twist! The San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus said today that they’d like to see the DJ rehired by the Padres! Their statement, in relevant part:

We also would like to publicly accept the sincere apology of DJ ARTFORM and recognize his support for the LGBT community and equality for all people. We do not wish to see him lose his job with the San Diego Padres and kindly ask the Padres to reinstate him. Everyone deserves a second chance.”

That’s quite a shift in the past few days, as all of this was came into the public eye via a Facebook post by a Gay Men’s Chorus official saying that this whole thing was part of a pattern of troublesome homophobia. Now we’ve come full circle. Or maybe around the circle a few times and back again. I don’t know. I’m dizzy.

Whatever the case: everyone’s all happy now, and that’s way better than everyone being all mad.

Great Moments in Dealing with Hecklers: Bartolo Colon edition

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - MAY 7:  Bartolo Colon #40 of the New York Mets pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on May 7, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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Last week the news broke that a lawsuit was filed against Bartolo Colon for back child support for two children he apparently fathered out of wedlock. As we noted repeatedly at the time, the case was sealed and the facts were mostly unknown. Still, the possibility at least exists that Colon has been a deadbeat dad to some degree. And the underlying facts are no doubt a sensitive matter to his family, right? I hope we can all agree on that.

As we’ve all seen in the past, this sort of stuff is what hecklers thrive on. Ask Chipper Jones or any other athlete who have been caught up in scandal, especially sexual scandal, in the past. Fans of the opposition are going to pounce on it. And the fans in Washington for the Mets-Nationals series are no different in that regard:

I wish fans didn’t use stuff about the personal lives of ballplayers like this, especially when it involves their families, but I suppose it’s inevitable. And hey, Colon got him back right? Quickly showed the heckler that he couldn’t be gotten to. The first impulse in reading this is to laugh for just that reason. Indeed, the first impulse in reading a lot of things dealing with Colon these days is to laugh because he’s become a pretty popular and affable figure.

But I also wish Colon, even if this was meant flippantly in order to deflect a jerk, didn’t respond this way in this situation. Why? Because it seems to diminish what, for his family and the woman with whom he fathered a couple of children out of wedlock, is a pretty serious and personal situation. And possibly one with some negative legal consequences in the offing. At the very least Colon’s comment will bring him an extra question or two at a deposition from the lawyer for the mother of his children, putatively to probe him for any other similar situations but, in reality, just to get under his skin. For that reason it was kind of a dumb comment.

More broadly, however, it just doesn’t look great to treat this whole situation flippantly. Maybe Bartolo Colon gets away with this way easier than someone else might because of his current popularity, but how would we feel if another, less popular player were accused of something unseemly and he treated it as a joke like this? I feel like the knives would be out for him in ways they’ll likely never be out for Bartolo Colon based solely on how we feel about the player in question.

It all goes back to what I wrote about all of this last week: we have a sliding scale for behavior for certain athletes and public figures based on their preexisting popularity. We shouldn’t have such a sliding scale. Personally, I think we should be far more hands-off and lenient when it comes to judging these men than we currently are because there is so little we truly know and so little of it is truly the business of fans. But if we do get in the business of judging these guys, we need to be fair about it.

I don’t think we should have the knives out for Colon over this, especially given how little is known about his case and his situation. But I feel like we’d treat someone who was not Bartolo Colon very differently under the same exact facts and that it would do us well to contend with that some.

Report: James Loney’s representatives to contact the Mets

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - MARCH 14:  James Loney #21 of the Tampa Bay Rays swings at a pitch during the first inning of a spring training game against the Atlanta Braves at Champion Stadium on March 14, 2016 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images
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Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that representatives of Padres first baseman James Loney are expected to contact the Mets, who are in need of first base help after losing Lucas Duda to a back injury on Monday.

Loney, 32, has spent the season with the Padres’ Triple-A affiliate in El Paso. In 155 plate appearances, he’s hitting .333/.368/.417 with a pair of home runs and 23 RBI. Loney hit slightly below the league average last year with the Rays and has generally played a solid first base defensively. He wouldn’t begin to replace Duda’s power, but he would be a good stopgap on short notice.

Loney has the privilege of opting out of his deal with the Padres if he can find a major league job elsewhere. The Rays are paying the balance of his $8 million salary, so the Mets would only need to pay the prorated major league minimum.

Duda is dealing with stress fractures in his lower back and said “it will be a while” before he returns. The Mets had Eric Campbell start at first base on Monday, and he figures to be the club’s short-term solution.

What’s on Tap: Previewing Tuesday’s action

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 20:  Manager Joe Girardi of the New York Yankees watches batting practice before a game against the Oakland Athletics at O.co Coliseum on May 20, 2016 in Oakland, California.  The Yankees won 8-3.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Brian Bahr/Getty Images
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Last Wednesday night, Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner gave a vote of confidence for manager Joe Girardi. The Yankees entered the day 16-22 in last place in the AL East. They beat the Diamondbacks that night to salvage the series. Starting on Thursday, the Yankees would go on to complete a four-game sweep of the Athletics in Oakland and enter tonight’s action in third place at 21-22, on a five-game winning streak.

The Yankees have been hitting well lately, but it’s the pitching that’s responsible for the turnaround. The starting pitcher in four of those five wins went at least six innings and yielded exactly one run, which gave the Yankees the privilege of handing the game off to Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman for the final three innings. That’s exactly the way the Yankees want to win ballgames — play to their strengths.

Nathan Eovaldi will toe the rubber for the Yankees tonight, opposing Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey at Yankee Stadium starting at 7:05 PM EDT.

The rest of Tuesday’s action…

Arizona Diamondbacks (Shelby Miller) @ Pittsburgh Pirates (Francisco Liriano), 7:05 PM EDT

New York Mets (Matt Harvey) @ Washington Nationals (Stephen Strasburg), 7:05 PM EDT

Chicago Cubs (Jason Hammel) @ St. Louis Cardinals (Michael Wacha), 7:10 PM EDT

Colorado Rockies (Jorge De La Rosa) @ Boston Red Sox (David Price), 7:10 PM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers (Jimmy Nelson) @ Atlanta Braves (Julio Teheran), 7:10 PM EDT

Philadelphia Phillies (Jeremy Hellickson) @ Detroit Tigers (Justin Verlander), 7:10 PM EDT

Los Angeles Angels (Jhoulys Chacin) @ Texas Rangers (Martin Perez), 8:05 PM EDT

Baltimore Orioles (Chris Tillman) @ Houston Astros (Doug Fister), 8:10 PM EDT

Cleveland Indians (Josh Tomlin) @ Chicago White Sox (Chris Sale), 8:10 PM EDT

Kansas City Royals (Edinson Volquez) @ Minnesota Twins (Ervin Santana), 8:10 PM EDT

Cincinnati Reds (Daniel Wright) @ Los Angeles Dodgers (Mike Bolsinger), 10:10 PM EDT

Oakland Athletics (Kendall Graveman) @ Seattle Mariners (Nathan Karns), 10:10 PM EDT

San Diego Padres (Andrew Cashner) @ San Francisco Giants (Jeff Samardzija), 10:15 PM EDT