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.
Aug 23, 2014, 12:05 PM EDT
Xander Bogaerts was hit in the head by a Felix Hernandez pitch on Friday night, but the rookie says he is fine. He is not in Saturday afternoon’s lineup.
Aug 23, 2014, 12:04 PM EDT
The Reds have lost seven straight and are currently on pace for their worst season since 2008, but Walt Jocketty is expected to return as general manager next season.
Aug 23, 2014, 11:05 AM EDT
Nationals right-hander Doug Fister revealed last night that he had skin cancer removed from the left side of his neck this week.
Aug 23, 2014, 10:12 AM EDT
Many around the game were underwhelmed when the Rays acquired Drew Smyly, Nick Franklin, and Willy Adames in the three-team David Price deal last month. It will probably take years before we can make a fair assessment, but the early returns are positive for Tampa Bay.
Aug 23, 2014, 9:32 AM EDT
The Tigers turned to infielder Andrew Romine to pitch in a blowout last night.
Aug 23, 2014, 8:56 AM EDT
A quick recap of a busy Friday around MLB, including an important AL West battle.
Aug 22, 2014, 11:55 PM EDT
Garrett Richards had surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon in his left knee, meaning he’ll be out between six and nine months.
Aug 22, 2014, 11:05 PM EDT
The frustrating blackout restrictions could come to an end as early as 2015, according to Maury Brown of Forbes.
Aug 22, 2014, 10:10 PM EDT
Felix Hernandez has struck out 200-plus batters in each of the last six seasons, something no other starting pitcher will have done when the season is over.
Aug 22, 2014, 9:17 PM EDT
Mike Minor is on point in Cincinnati against the Reds on Friday night.
Aug 22, 2014, 9:15 PM EDT
The Giants don’t have any plans to move Buster Posey out from behind the plate just yet, even though his numbers are much better as a first baseman.
Aug 22, 2014, 8:20 PM EDT
The Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate will reportedly move from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma for the 2015 season.
Aug 22, 2014, 7:25 PM EDT
Kyle Lohse was dealing with a sore right ankle, but is expected to rejoin the Brewers’ rotation on Monday to start against the Padres.
Aug 22, 2014, 6:33 PM EDT
Manny Machado’s season is likely over, as he is expected to undergo season-ending knee surgery within a week, according to a report.
Aug 22, 2014, 6:20 PM EDT
According to Peter Gammons, the Orioles and Yankees are “claiming everyone” on waivers, which will make it difficult for the Angels to improve their starting rotation after losing Garrett Richards.
Aug 22, 2014, 5:28 PM EDT
His latest, a solo shot off Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman.
Aug 22, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT
Sometimes the life of a player with a minor-league option remaining just isn’t fair.
Aug 22, 2014, 3:36 PM EDT
One window doesn’t work and there is no air conditioning. It has 166,000 miles on it. Which, actually, isn’t that bad. Hmmm . . .
Aug 22, 2014, 3:19 PM EDT
Oakland’s outfield depth just got a little stronger with Craig Gentry coming off the disabled list after missing the past month with a broken hand.
Aug 22, 2014, 2:57 PM EDT
Seven games in ten days for the AL West leaders
- Settling the Score: Friday’s results 7
- Mike Minor loses his no-hit bid with two outs in the eighth 5
- Manny Machado to undergo season-ending knee surgery 32
- The Cubs grounds crew was short staffed because the Cubs were trying to avoid Obamacare 240
- Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to sign with the Red Sox for $72 million 96
- And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights 31
- The Nationals extend their winning streak to 10 games with another walk-off victory 12
- Garrett Richards out 6-9 months with torn patellar tendon 14
- The Cubs grounds crew was short staffed because the Cubs were trying to avoid Obamacare (240)
- Mike Matheny addresses turmoil in Ferguson: “It’s a sad situation. It’s a tough situation for our city” (127)
- Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to sign with the Red Sox for $72 million (96)
- A pitch clock in Major League Baseball? No thanks. (92)
- Even if he’s reinstated, does Pete Rose make the Hall of Fame? (86)