Aug 15, 2011, 11:18 PM EST
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.
Dec 9, 2013, 12:16 PM EST
Along the same lines as David Price‘s tweet about female drivers right before Thanksgiving, here’s Logan Morrison just now: I dont think Rachel ray is attractive. Then she started cooking, got slightly attractive. she stopped cooking. she stopped being attractive — Logan Morrison (@LoMoMarlins) December 9, 2013 Sigh. (Last year Morrison tweeted criticizing mothers for…
Dec 9, 2013, 12:04 PM EST
You won’t be shocked to hear that baseball’s union leaders, past and present, issued statements late this morning condemning the Veteran’s Committee for not electing Marvin Miller. First up, current MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark: “Words cannot adequately describe the level of disappointment and disbelief I felt when learning that once again the Hall of…
Dec 9, 2013, 11:58 AM EST
Roy Halladay‘s shoulder let him down in the end, but not until after one of the best 10-year runs in memory. From 2002-2011, Halladay went 170-75 with a 2.97 ERA and 1,699 strikeouts in 2,194 2/3 innings. He went to eight All-Star Games, won two Cy Young Awards and finished second twice more. During that…
Dec 9, 2013, 11:33 AM EST
Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Dodgers have contacted the Rays to discuss a potential David Price trade. But don’t get too excited, as Hernandez says the Dodgers “don’t plan to aggressively pursue Price” because they don’t want to completely deplete their farm system. Still, you can’t count the Dodgers out…
Dec 9, 2013, 11:08 AM EST
Three years ago Roy Halladay was arguably the best pitcher in the National League, going 19-6 with a 2.36 ERA while finishing runner-up in the Cy Young voting to Clayton Kershaw after winning the award the previous season. And now, as Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly tweeted, Halladay is retiring at age 36 after struggling…
Dec 9, 2013, 11:03 AM EST
I think Tony La Russa, Joe Torre and Bobby Cox are no-brainer Hall of Famers. Congrats to them and to the Committee for voting them in. I think that the rest of the Hall of Fame ballot contained mostly borderline selections. I’d vote for Ted Simmons. I’d consider Steinbrenner for historic reasons. But I shed…
Dec 9, 2013, 10:47 AM EST
Jorge Cantu, who played eight seasons in the majors, has signed a one-year deal with the Doosan Bears of the Korea Baseball Organization. According to the Yonhap News Agency he’ll earn $250,000 up front, plus another $50,000 in potential incentives, which is about the middle ground between what he’d earn at Triple-A in America and…
Dec 9, 2013, 10:20 AM EST
This should super-charge the Matt Kemp trade speculation: Kemp’s agent, Dave Stewart, told Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times that he’d “be surprised” if the outfielder isn’t traded by the Dodgers. “I haven’t heard a player’s name floated around like that and something not happen,” Stewart noted, adding that “Matt wants to be a…
Dec 9, 2013, 10:14 AM EST
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL — For the first time in a long time we have living, breathing inductees for the Hall of Fame. The Veteran’s Committee has elected Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre. They will be inducted next summer in Cooperstown. La Russa – unanimously elected by the sixteen member Veteran’s Committee…
Dec 9, 2013, 9:28 AM EST
Yesterday we learned that Orel Hershisher is leaving ESPN to take a job broadcasting Dodgers games. Because, for some reason, ESPN thinks that a three-man booth is good for baseball (it isn’t) they felt obligated to fill Hershiser’s spot. And because, for some reason, ESPN thinks Curt Schilling is someone people want to listen to…
Dec 9, 2013, 9:19 AM EST
Fox’s Ken Rosenthal reports that ”teams are pushing Chicago to consider” trading Chris Sale. Intriguing, but it seems to me unlikely. Mostly because I have found it useful in life to go back to the idea that if people keep telling you that you should do something you weren’t already considering, it’s more in their best interests…
Dec 9, 2013, 8:59 AM EST
Tim McCarver retired as Fox’s leading analyst after the World Series. But he’s not dropping the mic just yet: Fox Sports Midwest is about to hire him to do a limited number of Cardinals games next season. The idea is for him to do 20-25 games, with opportunities coming as a result of an expected reduction…
Dec 9, 2013, 7:56 AM EST
The Hall of Fame will gain a few members later this morning as the Veteran’s Committee will vote on inductions this morning. The official announcement will take place at 10AM. The nominees: Dave Concepcion Bobby Cox Steve Garvey Tommy John Tony La Russa Billy Martin Marvin Miller Dave Parker Dan Quisenberry Ted Simmons George Steinbrenner…
Dec 9, 2013, 7:40 AM EST
Munson. Martin. Mariano. Mattingly. Mandela. Wait, what? During a triumphant visit by Nelson Mandela to New York in June 1990, shortly after he had been released from a South African prison, one of his most memorable stops was a rally and concert at Yankee Stadium, where he put on a team cap and jacket and proclaimed, “I am…
Dec 8, 2013, 10:50 PM EST
Though Chase Headley‘s name has been found in trade rumors every now and then, you can expect him to stay in San Diego for the time being, writes Bill Shaikin for the L.A. Times. Headley is eligible for arbitration for the fourth and final time and is expected to get a bump over last year’s…
Dec 8, 2013, 9:55 PM EST
Speaking to the media earlier today, Mets GM Sandy Alderson said he expects to start the 2014 season with Ruben Tejada at shortstop, tweets Jorge Castillo of the Star-Ledger. The Mets were reportedly interested in Jhonny Peralta before he signed with the Cardinals. With Stephen Drew leading the class of remaining free agent shortstops, the…
Dec 8, 2013, 9:00 PM EST
You’re never too old to start learning how to play first base. Delmon Young, shockingly only 28 years old, has never played a single inning at first base in his entire professional baseball career, but he has been working out at the position lately in order to make himself more attractive as a free agent,…
Dec 8, 2013, 8:10 PM EST
CC Sabathia was among the many observers shocked to learn that second baseman Robinson Cano will be donning a Mariners uniform, rather than Yankee pinstripes, when the 2014 regular season begins. Sabathia had been Cano’s teammate for five years, ever since he signed a seven-year, $161 million contract to join the Yankees on December 11,…
Dec 8, 2013, 7:35 PM EST
Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times caused a bit of a stir after publishing a scathing takedown of the culture within the Mariners’ front office, quoting various former employees. Among them were ex-manager Eric Wedge and former special assistant to the GM Tony Blengino. In the report, Baker writes that Blengino prepared a job application…
Dec 8, 2013, 7:00 PM EST
If you thought the Mariners were going to call it an off-season after signing second baseman Robinson Cano to a ten-year, $240 million contract, think again. They’re only just getting started. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that the Mariners could use some of their young talent, such as middle infielder Nick Franklin, to bolster…
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