Monday, October 02, 2006

Frank Thomas Receives A Dozen Grammy Nominations

So I took about six weeks off from following baseball, as I've done from time to time, and came back to discover that Frank Thomas is being seriously considered by some as an MVP candidate. Will Leitch describes Thomas as "having one of the best years of his life."
Leitch is the best internet sports scribe not named Jon Weisman, but this is just like Santana sweeping the Grammies with Supernatural. Like Santana, Thomas is a 'first-ballot' Hall-of-Famer with an unimtigated string of brilliance to start his career, with each debuting brilliantly at age 22, coming right out of the gates as one of the greatest ever. Each had a marvelous and quite steady peak of just under a decade in duration, with the strike-shortened Love, Devotion, Surrender as the standout (er, strike-shortened 1994 season). Then they trailed off, Thomas fading with age and some injuries and Santana getting lost in the awful pop-rock aesthetics that bubbled to the fore with Van Halen and his former bandmates in Journey. They both clearly remained above the fray, with Thomas contributing a second decade of excellence relative to AL DH's and Santana contributing material over the ensuing two decades that clearly bested the bulk of his contemporaries, but they were nothing to be excited about. And while Thomas had been on playoff contenders before, and Santana had collaborated with major artists before, all of a sudden they both found themselves paired up with an all-new group and in the limelight. Santana released Supernatural, pairing him with all sorts of popular young artists, and it sold like hotcakes. Sure, the music wasn't really that good, and it looks like driftwood compared to his early catalog, but it got him in the news and got him the big Grammy night. Thomas found himself similarly surrounded by his own crew of youngsters with promise who didn't bring as much to the table as would be expected, and his mundane excellence was cast in a completeley different light. The A's were really only a mediocre team, and the players underachieved but had enough fortuitous timing to convert a negative Base Runs differential into a cruise to the division championship; Supernatural, while having the same problems with listenability that the 2006 A's had with watchability (brilliantly documented by the best non-Weisman baseball blogger, Ken Arnseon), ultimately lucked out by being given constant airtime and having inane competition (other 1999 album of the year nominees included the Backstreet Boys and Dixie Chicks).

Of course, Thomas ultimately will lose to a different hype archetype, the long-overrated veteran who was never good enough to justify the big award before but is now having a career year. They nearly always give the complementary award to this type, even though kids like Joe Mauer and Travis Hafner are having an objectively better year. Jeter, the Bruce Springsteen to Frank Thomas' Santana, will probably win with his The Rising while Mauer's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and Hafner's One Beat aren't even nominated.

And in case you were wondering, I care as little about the Grammies as I do about who wins MVP awards.


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