Aug 15, 2011, 11:18 PM EDT
Jim Thome joined an elite club on Monday night when he became the eighth player in MLB history to hit 600 home runs. Now that the Minnesota Twins designated hitter has reached such a special milestone, be prepared to hear the question: “Does this make Jim Thome a Hall of Famer?”
I’ve got news for you: Thome didn’t need the milestone. He was already worthy of Cooperstown.
This has nothing to do with Thome being a good guy both with the media and in general (he’s one of the best), and it has nothing to do with his charitable contributions to society (he’s paying for all 10 of his nieces and nephews to go through college). Plenty of players give good interviews and do nice things for people.
No, this has to do with the sheer numbers and impact on the game. It has to do with quietly putting up strong statistics year after year for 21 seasons, compiling one of the most impressive power hitting resumes in baseball history.
Knock Thome, if you will, for spending the bulk of his career as a DH. After all, it’s only fair to give more credence to players who can hit and play defense. Give him demerits for striking out more than 2,400 times, for only being an All-Star five times, for never winning an MVP award or a World Series.
But then remember the 1,700 walks (eighth all time), the .403 on-base percentage (better than Rickey Henderson), and the respectable .277 batting average (better than Joe Morgan). Thome’s hulking presence might remind one of Paul Bunyan, but he was never an all-or-nothing axe-wielding hacker a la Dave Kingman or Rob Deer.
In examining the numbers, Baseball-reference says Thome’s career compares most closely to those of Frank Thomas, Sammy Sosa, Mike Schmidt, Harmon Killebrew, Mickey Mantle, Willie McCovey, and Willie Stargell. All of those players are in Cooperstown except for Thomas, who will be once he gains eligibility, and Sosa, a fellow member of the 600-homer club whose career has been tainted by a connection to steroids.
Thomas is an interesting comparison because like Thome, his career was spent mostly at DH. He was rightly feared as one of the best hitters of his era, notching three seasons with an OPS over 1.000, including the monster 1994 campaign of 1.217. Thomas’ career OPS is an impressive .974, but Thome’s is just a notch behind at .960. Thomas’ OPS+ is a whopping 156, but Thome’s is 147. The gulf between the players is not as wide as you might imagine.
As far as the steroids era, there is no way Thome can escape it. Type “steroids Thome” into Google and the search engine spits out more than 700,000 entries, some of which cite the steroids era as dampening excitement for the slugger’s march to 600 home runs. While Thome has never been connected to performance-enhancing drugs, it’s impossible for any player, particularly a power hitter, to avoid being tarnished by the era. It’s not fair, it’s just the way it is.
But until there is some evidence of cheating – remember, Thome’s name did not come up in the Mitchell Report, the BALCO scandal, or in any other PED investigation – we’ve got to take the man and his legacy at face value.
Prepare a place in Cooperstown, because Jim Thome has earned his place in the Hall.
Jul 30, 2015, 12:39 PM EDT
The Blue Jays have their ace and now have their sights set on catching the Yankees.
Jul 30, 2015, 11:52 AM EDT
Bidding war, baby!
Jul 30, 2015, 11:15 AM EDT
Money? Health? And what the hell is a “hip doctor” anyway?
Jul 30, 2015, 10:47 AM EDT
“If I wait to be 100 percent, it’s going to be season-ending.”
Jul 30, 2015, 10:31 AM EDT
We should totally have live “Jeopardy!”
Jul 30, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT
Houston made a run at him.
Jul 30, 2015, 9:56 AM EDT
A playoff rotation of Kershaw, Greinke and Price would be reDONKulous.
Jul 30, 2015, 9:37 AM EDT
The Cardinals may be small market, but they’re certainly not small revenue.
Jul 30, 2015, 9:15 AM EDT
Moss is hitting just .217/.208/.487 this season but he has a line of .254/.340/.504 over the previous three years.
Jul 30, 2015, 8:45 AM EDT
Even if the deal wasn’t done, the Mets should’ve taken Wilmer Flores out of the game.
Jul 30, 2015, 7:33 AM EDT
Trades are judged twice: when they’re made and a couple of years later when we see how they turned out. For now, however, this is a win-win deal for Texas and Philadelphia.
Jul 30, 2015, 7:02 AM EDT
The Astros regain the lead in the AL West by taking another one from the Angels.
Jul 30, 2015, 1:12 AM EDT
In a bit of an oddity, two World Series contenders made a trade.
Jul 30, 2015, 12:05 AM EDT
Unique situation Wednesday night at Citi Field.
Jul 29, 2015, 11:31 PM EDT
Houston defeated Anaheim 6-3 to jump back into first place in the American League West.
Jul 29, 2015, 10:46 PM EDT
It’s a massive two-team, eight-player blockbuster deal that will net the Phillies a frontline starter for this year and years to come while injecting more young talent into the Phillies’ under-construction minor league system.
Jul 29, 2015, 9:31 PM EDT
It’s now even more imperative that St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak secures a first baseman before the July 31 trade deadline.
Jul 29, 2015, 9:01 PM EDT
What a crazy night.
Jul 29, 2015, 8:58 PM EDT
Troy Tulowitzki struck out swinging in his first Blue Jays at-bat Wednesday night against the Phillies, but he unloaded on this Jerome Williams pitch in his second trip to the plate …
Jul 29, 2015, 8:12 PM EDT
There’s been a lot of speculation that these two could be a fit, and now it may be close to happening …
- Breaking: The Blue Jays acquire David Price from the Tigers 11
- Both the Phillies and the Rangers did well in the Cole Hamels trade 60
- Rangers land ace left-hander Cole Hamels from Phillies 104
- Mets, Brewers call off reported Carlos Gomez trade 74
- Dodgers, Marlins, Braves trade involving Mat Latos “simply being held up by paperwork” 75
- The Tigers are going to “reboot;” plan to trade Price and Cespedes 74
- Why do managers wear uniforms anyway? 49
- And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights 51
- The MLBPA is considering withholding cooperation with ESPN, Fox over Colin Cowherd’s comments (157)
- The Cubs are in discussions with the Phillies on Cole Hamels (146)
- Colin Cowherd wonders how baseball can be considered “complicated” if Dominicans can understand it (129)
- Major League Baseball rips Colin Cowherd in an official statement (123)
- Settling the Scores: Wednesday’s results (106)