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The reactions to Jim Thome’s 600th are just as interesting as the feat itself

Aug 16, 2011, 12:30 PM EDT

Jim Thome Getty Images

I offered to my congratulations to Jim Thome on his 600th home run in the recaps this morning. In response, my Twitter friend Ross offered the following:

You say congrats to Thome but with your way [i.e. my not liking the DH]  he would have never got 600. This is why I like the DH, hitters keep hitting.

My response:

Hey, we can simultaneously (a) wish the world was different; but (b) appreciate the joys that result from the way it is.

To which Ross responded:

I think you inadvertently explained the popularity of Jersey Shore in a profound way.

Yikes. My apologies for providing intellectual cover for more bad TV.  I feel kinda dirty now.

But it’s OK, because this is all part of a greater “what we’re supposed to feel about Jim Thome’s 600th home run” conversation that has been brewing today.  On the one hand, we have a lot of the expected “Jim Thome is a great guy who is corn-fed and country strong and isn’t this all swell stuff.”  We also have some “man, I’m tired of this ‘Jim Thome is a great guy who is corn-fed and country strong and isn’t this all swell stuff'” stuff. The whole idea/backlash thing is pretty much what the internet is made for, so this isn’t unexpected.

And of course some are trying to put it in statistical context, which inevitably takes some of the magic away, which some of you will think is awful and some of you will like just fine.

At times like these — milestones, I mean — I’m more and more inclined to remember the beer and think more in terms of celebrations than assessments.  We’ve had the chance to assess Thome’s career and character for the past 20 years. When it’s time to start talking about his Hall of Fame case, we’ll have the chance to assess it objectively then too (though, as the link makes clear, we should remember the beer some then too).  But on the day after something happens, hey, good on the guy.

But not Ryan Howard. I’ll go after that guy until I draw my last breath and make a point to never celebrate his accomplishments no matter how lofty they are.*

*Note: may be an exaggeration

  1. kopy - Aug 16, 2011 at 12:39 PM

    Wow, people are tired of the “Thome is a great guy” stories? People barely even talked about it because of where he has played, and the build-up was almost non-existent since he went from 598 to 600 in about 30 minutes. Just wait until the “JIM THOME 6H” documentary on HBO.

    • 12strikes - Aug 16, 2011 at 12:59 PM

      HBO would never do that …..Jim is a Republican*

      *I don’t know that, but I needed it for the joke.

    • Utley's Hair - Aug 16, 2011 at 1:10 PM

      Well, to qualify the statement, Craig only cites Heyman as being tired/sick of them, so there’s that…

    • nudeman - Aug 16, 2011 at 3:19 PM

      OK, so I know I’ll get killed for this, but I’ve got to say it anyway. I think Thome was a juicer.
      I have no photos of him with a needle in his arm; I’ve never heard his name in the discussion; and I don’t think he was on the famous list of 104 who tested positive back in 2003, or whenever that was.

      But none of those things exclude him either.

      1) His numbers were just too prolific for me. Between 2001-2008, his HR totals were 49, 52, 47, 42, 7 (obviously injured), 42, 35, 34. This was right during the heart of the steroid era.

      2) How many clean guys in the history of the game hit 111 HRs between the ages of 35 – 37?
      Mays hit 82
      Killebrew hit 59
      Ted Williams hit 81
      Ernie Banks hit 70
      Jimmy Foxx hit 7
      Mickey Mantle hit 40
      Frank Robinson hit 77

      Only Ruth, who played in a much hitter friendly era with smaller parks, and Aaron who played in a preposterously HR friendly park exceeded 111. Thome played those years with the White Sox, and I don’t think that park has ever been considered a homer paradise.

      3) His production dropped precipitously in 2008 to 23. I don’t know when the more rigorous testing kicked in, but know that every year around then it got tougher and tougher to cheat the system.

      4) No, I didn’t include Bonds, McGwire, Sosa or Griffey in this analysis. Clean players only.

      Is this absolutely 100% definitive that Thome juiced? No. Is there evidence to suggest he MIGHT have? Definitely.

      You decide.

      • nudeman - Aug 16, 2011 at 3:29 PM

        Addendum to my post about Thome juicing:

        The reason I cited HR totals between 35-37 is that one of the things we’ve learned is that ‘roids and HGH definitely allowed players to be highly productive well into their late 30s and even early 40s. This is the time when clean players start slowing down significantly.

        If you want to look at Thome’s numbers earlier in his career, they are equally as compelling. He hit 190 HRs between 2001-2004. This was the ‘roid era at its peak. Tough power parks too; Cleveland and to a lesser extent Philadelphia. Never hit less than 42 in that atretch.

      • Utley's Hair - Aug 16, 2011 at 3:40 PM

        The 23 you refer to was in 2009, not 2008, and he only appeared in 107 games as a regular player before he was shipped to McCourtville, where he played sporadically as a pinch hitter, so it was not such a large drop.

        As for Williams’ production, he missed considerable time due to Korea and a broken collarbone during your randomly chosen age span, so there’s that, too.

        Based on just those two tidbits, your evidence is flawed.

      • Utley's Hair - Aug 16, 2011 at 3:43 PM

        Well then, I guess you can strike the “randomly selected” part of my comment, but only due to semantics.

        And what do you define as a “tough power park?”

      • nudeman - Aug 16, 2011 at 3:55 PM

        Utleys Hair: Your stuff is flawed.

        1) Period chosen was NOT random, as I explained it follow up post. I chose it because his power numbers were still prodigious at an age where almost every slugger in the history of the game has tailed off; most tailed off significantly .

        2) Correct, 23 HRs was in 2009. Simply a typing error on my part. That was outside the 3 years of my analysis though. 2006 – 2008 when he was 35 – 37 years old

        3) Still had 434 ABs in 2009, so not like he missed half the season.

        4) Williams was in Korea BEFORE he hit 35 years of age. Yes, he was hurt in one of those years, but never had fewer than 417 Plate Appearances and never hit more than 29 HRs. Feel free to extrapolate the numbers based on full seasons. He wouldn’t have come close to 111 that Thome hit.

      • nudeman - Aug 16, 2011 at 4:00 PM

        As far as a tough power park, let’s look at it individually:
        Comiskey: Not brutal, but not considered a HR haven. Probably more of a pitcher’s park
        Jacobs: I think that qualifies as difficult with the very high fence in the OF.
        Philadelphia: Probably on the tough side for HR hitters based on high OF walls all the way around.
        Fenway: Tough for a lefty pull hitter, which Williams was. Unless you hit it right down the line. I don’t know though if he used the Monster or not.
        Dodger Stadium: Don’t think that’s considered a HR friendly park; particularly at night.

      • Utley's Hair - Aug 16, 2011 at 4:16 PM

        I did not see your followup prior to my comment, hence my almost immediate followup.

        I have never seen any reference to the Bank as being tough for home runs. As a matter of fact, I’ve seen people refer to some being “Citizen’s Bank Park” home runs, i.e., only happen there due to the park dimensions (and that would only describe a handful of Fiorentino’s Mr. Lucky, who tends to hit them rather far).

        And he had 362 at bats (69 walks, don’t know how many HBPs or sacrifices, which don’t count toward AB numbers anyway, see http://espn.go.com/mlb/player/stats/_/id/2604/jim-thome ) in 2009, which I was just contesting your assertion that it dropped off “precipitously,” and not the 35-37 span.

      • randomdigits - Aug 16, 2011 at 4:22 PM

        There is more evidence that Aaron juiced then Thome. How about you go back and look at Aaron, Darrell Evans and Davey Johnson’s numbers in Hotlanta in ’73 and see if anything pops out at you?

      • FC - Aug 16, 2011 at 5:18 PM

        Dodger Stadium: Don’t think that’s considered a HR friendly park; particularly at night

        I don’t think it’s considered a friendly park period!

      • Kevin S. - Aug 16, 2011 at 6:12 PM

        Yeah, actually, the Cell is very much a homer-friendly park. In the three years mentioned, it was ranked 2nd, 4th, and 2nd in supporting home runs by ESPN. Nice try, though.

      • nudeman - Aug 16, 2011 at 6:14 PM

        Well, I’ve been roundly booed out of the park on this topic. I am frankly surprised at such a negative reaction. Is it because Thome is supposedly such a great guy? Or because his name was never mentioned in this light?

        Either way, let me conclude by saying this:

        1) I am not saying definitively that he juiced. Of course, I have no knowledge.
        2) I AM saying his numbers are suspicious, particularly in the later career period I cited.
        3) I don’t think ANY stock can be put in his name not being on the list of 104 juicers. Does anybody really believe there were only a little over 3 juicers per team? MLB’s testing was in its embryonic stages then, and there are all sorts of ways to beat tests, particularly when you KNOW the test is coming, as they did then.

        I simply think it’s naive to automatically dismiss the possibility that this guy juiced.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 16, 2011 at 7:14 PM

        I am frankly surprised at such a negative reaction.

        Could be for a bunch of reasons:

        1. You cite HGH as if it’s a performance enhancer. There’s zero medical evidence that healthy individuals gain any benefit from HGH.

        2. You cite his ’09 numbers but provide no context. He hit 23 HR in 417 AB with CHW, prorate that over his AB’s the previous year and he hits 33. One less than the previous year.

        3. Oh yeah, ’09 he was 38 years old

        4. As for the comparison to the other players, they had way more health related issues than Thome. Go back and check, none of them were full time players. Thome wasn’t the model of health either, but he got more AB’s.

      • nudeman - Aug 16, 2011 at 7:36 PM

        churchofthe …
        Sorry, your post is borderline insane.
        1. HGH is NOT a performance enhancer? Why do so many athletes take it then? Are they trying to get slower and weaker? And don’t say “Where’s the proof so many athletes take it?”. Come on man.

        2. Re: 2009, I think he was with the Dodgers, bud. And yes, you’ve proved my point, so thanks. Pro rate his numbers and we’ve got a 38 year old guy hitting 38 home runs. That doesn’t stick out to you, just a LITTLE? See my stats on what other 500+ HR hitters hit between 35 – 37.

        3. Oh yeah: 38 HRs at 38 years old. Shoot, everyone does that.

        4. His health: Yes, thanks again. HGH helps people recover and stay sharp.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 16, 2011 at 9:49 PM

        Why do so many athletes take it then?

        Many take it to recover from injuries. In fact, here’s a doctor saying so:
        http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/the_bonus/08/02/nitkowski/index.html

        quoting the doctor:
        He said in a case like Pettitte’s, HGH therapy made perfect sense. There is no performance-enhancing involved, just an aid in injury recovery.

        Read more: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/the_bonus/08/02/nitkowski/index.html#ixzz1VFLu6Iaf

        Also name 2 athletes who have been caught using HGH if it’s so widespread.

        Re: 2009, I think he was with the Dodgers, bud.

        107 games, 417 Plate Appearances with the CHW
        17 games, 17 Plate Appearances with the Dodgers

        I really hope this is the dumbest thing you said. Oh wait….

        Pro rate his numbers and we’ve got a 38 year old guy hitting 38 home runs

        Nope, this is. 23(HR)/434(PA)*602 (PA previous year) = 31.9 or 32. Not 38

      • mjanik25 - Aug 16, 2011 at 11:19 PM

        Mr. Nude, while I disagree with your argument for many of the reasons already mentioned by others, you are at least attempting to find data to back up your opinion, so I respect you for that (though, I also think tossing around PED allegations does no good for anybody).

        That said, I must take issue with you statements of Thome hitting in “tough power parks” in 2001-04, for it is simply inaccurate. In 2001 and 2002, he played at Jacobs Field, which featured multi-year park factors at the time that were mostly neutral or skewed slightly toward the hitter (that is, in favor of power). In 2003, the Phillies were still at Veterans Stadium, which was a launching pad. I didn’t check his whole career, but it is, by far, the best hitting park he played in during those four years, with multi-year park factors leaning significantly towards offense. The 2004 one is your best case, as Citizen’s Bank Park seemed to favor pitching for that year. On the other hand, park factors tell almost nothing after just one season, and the numbers for Citizen’s Bank have receded back to mostly neutral over time.

      • Kevin S. - Aug 17, 2011 at 6:27 AM

        I love how you went from “His homers dropped off in ’09! Probably a juicer!” to “He homered at the same rate in ’09! Probably a juicer!” Must be nice to twist any data point to fit your argument, huh?

        Oh, and Hank Aaron hit 40 HR when he was 39. I guess that means he was clearly on the juice, right?

      • nudeman - Aug 17, 2011 at 12:07 PM

        I am really surprised by the defense of Jim Thome and the arrogant nature of some of the posts. I’ve gone out of my way to say I’m not 100% sure he juiced, and that his numbers just appear suspicious. Very suspicious. Here are my final points on this matter:

        1) I stand corrected on the ballpark HR friendliness issue. Sounds like Philly is a bit of a bandbox, and Comiskey is also somewhat HR friendly. These however were tangental points to the main issue.

        2) Someone corrected my extrapolation of his 2009 humbers. I said 38, he said it extrapolated to 31. Fine. Let’s not quibble and let’s look at what some other notable HR guys did at 38:
        Mays: 13
        Killebrew: 13
        F. Robinson: 22
        M. Schmidt: 12
        R. Jackson: 27
        Ernie Banks: 23
        Eddie Matthews: retired

        I could go on. Thome hit more than ANYONE has ever hit at that age, except Aaron and Ruth, both of whom I’ve already noted played in much more HR friendly conditions: ballparks, era, guys batting around them, etc.

        3) Last year he hit 25 in 276 ABs at the age of 39. So he actually got MORE productive as he got older.

        4) HGH is NOT a performance enhancer? Really? It helps your body recover much more quickly from physically strenuous activities. That could be an intense workout with weights, or it could be a day game after a night game, or a long coast to coast to coast trip at tough hours. As such, it helps keep you fresher, stronger, and in the lineup, when you might otherwise need a day off. Sorry, if it looks like a duck and acts like a duck, it’s a duck. HGH enhances performance. Why the hell else would players in all sports take it? Why did Clemens take it? Bonds? Others. Were they trying to get slower?

        5) Final conclusion: Just my opinion, but I think Thome juiced. He didn’t show up on the infamous list of 104 positive ‘roid testers, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt there. That is NOT the same as saying I don’t think he did ‘roids, though.
        If I had to guess, I’d say he’s done BOTH, but since testing got serious has only done HGH.

  2. 12strikes - Aug 16, 2011 at 12:44 PM

    Ryan Howard Bashing…. Now I know why you don’t like to put the Phillies #1 in th power rankings. All those darn ties with Boston, and all the Phillies had to do was cut/trade/demote/shot Ryan Howard.

  3. koufaxmitzvah - Aug 16, 2011 at 12:45 PM

    I don’t see how Thome wouldn’t be allowed to continue playing 1st base. As a fan of him and the team he plays on, one would, I hope, learn to live with the defensive deficiencies he would bring to the position. Teams had made sacrifices of field and bat for decades before the DH was created.

    • okobojicat - Aug 16, 2011 at 1:03 PM

      I don’t think it was his defense as much as his health that drove him off 1B. He simply can’t move around that much and be active with out upsetting his back and then not being able to hit for a month or so. its just smarter baseball to limit the chances of his injuries. When he left the Phillies for the White Sox no one thought he was a great 1B, but he wasn’t horrible…like say Howard. :)

    • dodger88 - Aug 16, 2011 at 1:19 PM

      He may have been able to play 1B for a year or two after leaving the Phillies but he himself admitted back in 2009 that 1B was out of the question. He wanted to be sure the Dodgers, when acquiring him from the Chisox, realized he could only pinch hit for them.

  4. dink53 - Aug 16, 2011 at 12:52 PM

    “Country Strong”? Now you’re quoting Rod Allen!!!

  5. heyblueyoustink - Aug 16, 2011 at 12:59 PM

    Ozzie Guillen = The Snookie of Baseball?

    • Old Gator - Aug 16, 2011 at 3:38 PM

      Ozzie Guillen = the Mr. Creosote of designatedhitterball. In verbal terms, anyway.

  6. proudlycanadian - Aug 16, 2011 at 1:33 PM

    RIP Elvis Presley! There will never be another you.

    • 12strikes - Aug 16, 2011 at 2:52 PM

      I will. Thank you…. Thank you very much!

  7. icelovinbrotha215 - Aug 16, 2011 at 1:58 PM

    Jim Thome ‘quietly’ hit 600 homers. Just shows that how steroids have watered down the excitement of HR records and/or clubs.

    • Justin - Aug 16, 2011 at 4:26 PM

      Say that now but wait until A-Rod gets close to 700. Even though we know he juiced for a few years.

      • FC - Aug 16, 2011 at 5:16 PM

        I think the difference is for the team he plays for.

      • sasquash20 - Aug 16, 2011 at 7:34 PM

        Gayrod cheated! His numbers mean nothing, just like Bonds, Big Mac, Sosa, and all the other juice guys.

      • Utley's Hair - Aug 16, 2011 at 7:43 PM

        Again with the homophobic slurs, sasquash? You put the a$$ in classy.

      • nudeman - Aug 16, 2011 at 8:04 PM

        A-Rod is in the same class as Bonds, Sosa, Manny, McGwire, Canseco, Palmeiro, Griffey and, in my opinion Thome. (Also Clemens, but we’re talking hitters here)

        Cheaters. No credibility. No HOF. Just go away and keep your mouths shut.

      • Kevin S. - Aug 17, 2011 at 6:29 AM

        Griffey used? When?

      • cameron poe - Aug 17, 2011 at 8:40 AM

        nudeman where are you getting this info that Griffey used? I for one haven’t even heard his name mentioned with use. What kind of juice or HGH was he using? The kind that doesn’t allow you to live up to your full potential because you have a multitude of unlucky injuries?

      • sasquash20 - Aug 17, 2011 at 12:31 PM

        Utley’s hair did you come up with that one on your own? Gayrod is a great nick name. I don’t mean to offend any tinkerbells like yourself when I say it. Look the truth is I support you fruits, I see no reason why you shouldn’t be able to marry.

  8. Chris Ross - Aug 16, 2011 at 4:43 PM

    I definitely think Thome is a first ballot hall of famer. Even though it took him 40 years to do it, Jim Thome is part of one of the most exclusive clubs in sports history. The 600 home run milestone is so incredibly hard to reach, especially without the aid of PED’s and Jim Thome is one of the very few who has done it. His on base percentage is above .400 for his career and even though he has struck out only fewer times in the history of baseball than Reggie Jackson, I think that Jim Thome deserves a spot in Cooperstown

    http://chrisross91.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/a-dying-breed/

  9. Chris Fiorentino - Aug 16, 2011 at 6:56 PM

    Any writer who does not vote for Gentleman Jim as a first ballot hall of famer should have their vote taken away. 600 home runs are great but a CAREER .403 OBP in 10,000+ plate appearances should be enough to get in with 100% of the vote.

  10. browniebuck - Aug 16, 2011 at 7:48 PM

    Thome is a traitor and a liar. It’s not about the money, it’s not about the money…then he blames leaving Cleveland on his “rock”? Now he is only hanging on because he wanted to get 600…what a jacka55! You had a LOT of people in Cleveland fooled, Jimmy (myself included). We thought that your hayseed act was endearing…only to find out that you were, more or less, no different than Albert Belle and Manny Ramirez. BUT…thanks for beating the Motor City Kitties for the Tribe!

    • Kevin S. - Aug 17, 2011 at 6:30 AM

      He’s “hanging on” because he’s a viable contributor on a major-league club.

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