Did PED users cost Frank Thomas four MVP awards?

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Frank Thomas is one of the best hitters of my lifetime and that guy should be in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, no question. He’s also a Hall-of-Fame-level call-out-his-contemporaries-on-their-PED-use-guy. Inner circle. He was at it again the other night at a speaking engagement:

“I was the one player who was hurt the most,” said Thomas, who won back-to-back American League MVP awards in 1993 and ’94. “All those years I finished second, third, fourth behind those guys, I probably could have won four more MVPs.”

Fact check time:

  • Thomas finished third in 1991 behind Cal Ripken and Cecil Fielder;
  • Thomas finished third in 1997 behind Ken Griffey and Tino Martinez;
  • Thomas finished second in 2000 behind Jason Giambi; and
  • Thomas finished fourth in 2006 behind Justin Morneau, Derek Jeter and David Ortiz

I’ll give him 2000 and Jason Giambi, but for Thomas’ claim of four more MVPs to be true, Cal Ripken, Cecil Fieder, Ken Griffey, Tino Martinez, Justin Morneau and Derek Jeter would have to be juicers. Anyone wanting to take up those arguments, be my guest.

Of course, Thomas’ numbers are so ridiculously good that he need not talk about what could’ve been as far as MVP voting goes. Indeed, if one’s only reason for voting Thomas into the Hall of Fame is that he’s some sort of PED casualty, well, you’re simply not understanding baseball very well. The guy was an absolute monster.

I think there’s a better, more logical story about Frank Thomas and PEDs. It goes like this: If we accept — as I do — Frank Thomas’ claim that he never did PEDs, why do we look at all amazing 1990s hitting stats as some phony PED-creation? One clean guy put up those kinds of insane numbers. Ergo, others could have too. And likely did.  The stats aren’t, by necessity, PED-created as many argue.

Could it possibly mean — as I and many others have argued — that the crazy offense of that era had a lot to do with other factors like double expansion, smaller, hitter-friendly ballparks, shrinking strike zones, armor-clad hitters crowding plates with impunity and, possibly, a baseball designed to fly farther? People tend to ignore those things — and ignore guys like Frank Thomas — and blithely chalk up every big number from the 1990s and early 2000s to steroid use, thereby dismissing the accomplishments of those hitters and dismissing the era as a whole.

Frank Thomas did things like hit .353/.487/.729  in a season. And, if we take his word for it, he did it clean. As such, even if Frank Thomas was better than just about everyone else on the planet at what he did, it suggests that others who posted crazy numbers in the 1990s could have done it clean too.  Or that, even if they didn’t, their numbers weren’t necessarily leaps and bounds better than they could have achieved without PEDs. It was in the realm of the possible.

Yet no one ever seems to account for that. Funny.

Erasmo Ramirez to be shut down with a minor lat strain

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Mariners right-hander Erasmo Ramirez has been shut down for two weeks with a minor lat strain, reports Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. It’s a precautionary move, as Ramirez felt some tightness in his arm and could not complete his scheduled bullpen session on Saturday.

There’s no word yet on whether Ramirez will be able to recover in time for the start of the season, though he’s expected to claim a rotation spot again this spring. The 28-year-old righty has been dogged by injuries throughout his six-year career, but finally managed to piece together a full season on the mound in back-to-back stints with the Rays and Mariners in 2017. He went 5-6 in 19 starts for the two clubs and turned in a cumulative 4.39 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 through 131 1/3 innings.

The Mariners are no stranger to pitcher injuries, either. They lost a number of their top arms to various elbow, arm and shoulder injuries last year and cycled through 40 total pitchers as they limped toward a 78-84 finish. Comments from club manager Scott Servais indicate that the team will keep a close eye on Ramirez throughout his recovery, though Divish notes that right-hander Andrew Moore and lefty Ariel Miranda could also slot into the no. 5 spot if Ramirez experiences further setbacks.