02/12/10 7:30 PM EST
Thomas relishes his accomplishments
Slugger thinks numbers validated by the path he chose
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
"I took pride in being the first one at the ballpark and the last one to leave," said Thomas, during the news conference to announce his exit from the game. "I competed at a high level, with all of that stuff going on, so it really shows the career I had."
Thomas was the only player to voluntarily meet with former Sen. George Mitchell to discuss the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. According to reports on his meeting with Mitchell shortly after it took place, Thomas said he didn't know anything about PEDs or see anyone using steroids. On Friday, Thomas reiterated that lack of knowledge, adding that maybe, in hindsight, he was the physical prototype other players were trying to reach.
"Maybe I was the guy they were trying to imitate. Who knows?" Thomas said. "I was a big, strong football player in baseball. At that point, when Bo [Jackson] and I came in, nobody had ever seen guys that big, except maybe Dave Winfield. Guys who were big, strong and fast and who played the game with the strength we played.
"Really, I had no clue anything was going on, and it wasn't one or two players -- it was more than that. People pointed out a couple of guys, like [Jose] Canseco, and they talked about [Mark] McGwire. As a whole, there were a few guys who came through where it was like, 'Whoa, where did that come from this year?' I never spent time worrying about it."
One could hardly blame Thomas if he were bitter. In 2000, Thomas hit .328 with 43 home runs, 44 doubles and 143 RBIs in leading the White Sox to the American League Central title, but he finished second to Jason Giambi in voting for the AL Most Valuable Player Award.
Giambi, without saying what he was apologizing for, basically admitted in 2007 to using steroids, meaning the enhanced 2000 numbers could have cost Thomas his third MVP Award. Yet, the big man is not upset, but confident his lofty career statistics will stand out even more because of the manner in which he accomplished them.
"There were countless hours I spent in the weight room, trying to be the biggest and strongest player in the league," Thomas said. "I tip my hat to the hard work, but I'm not here to talk other people down. I had a lot of great friends in baseball, and I competed against a lot of great players.
"Things are coming out now, and we are all not happy about it. There is a lot of embarrassment, but life goes on."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.