He is not "The Natural," at least to hear Frank Thomas tell it. The game doesn't come that easily to the Chicago White Sox first baseman, not as it does to some of the other greats.
"I'm more of a blue-collar player, a grinder," says Thomas, The Sporting News' Player of the Year. "I'm not like Barry Bonds. He's one of those guys who is naturally gifted. I've had to work for everything I've done. I sit there and watch myself on highlights and see that I don't do it as nice and fluid and sweet as some of these other players.
"I feel more excited about winning this award than I would winning one voted by the media. When you've got other players voting and they tell you you deserve it, it makes you step back for a second."
He will get some argument, of course, about his ability, because his numbers in 1993 are as nice and fluid and sweet as they get: 41 home runs, a .317 batting average and 128 RBI. He was an exceptional player in his two other full seasons, but his power numbers increased significantly in 1993, up by 17 home runs and RBI from '92, making him the best by a vote of his peers.
On a team that showed only average power on either side of his No. 3 spot in the lineup, Thomas stood out as the player around which opposing pitchers worked. And it didn't slow him down.
"The thing that impresses me about him is that he has such an intelligent approach to hitting for being so young," says David Cone, the Kansas City Royals pitcher who faced Thomas and the White Sox in the American League West division race. "He's a tremendously disciplined hitter for a power guy. It's tough to get him to chase bad pitches.
"On the other hand, when he's in an RBI situation, he's learned how to go out of the strike zone. He can hit bad balls for RBIs now. You can just see him evolve as a player."
Of all his numbers, the RBI total is Thomas' favorite. He led the league in RBI per at-bat (one RBI for every 4.3 at-bats); but after missing most of the last week of the season with a bruised triceps, he lost the league RBI title to Cleveland's Albert Belle by one on the final day.