I can’t help notice that Jim Thome’s chase for 600 home runs is getting a tad less coverage from the national press cough ESPN! cough than Derek Jeter’s quest for 3,000 hits that left him mentally and physically unable to board a plane for Arizona last week.
I have nothing against Jeter, many things against ESPN, and much respect and admiration for Thome. The damn thing is, we all do. Always in the good-guy top 10, the joke is that he’ll kill a deer and dress it out for you, knit you some doilies, charm your Grandma and be ready to mash come February.
You’ve never heard that joke? That’s because I just made it up, as an amalgamation of sunny feelings about Thome’s character and behavior. I may start a blog about him called Goodass of the Week, a summary of what he did every week of the year.
There is no slugger of the past 20 years I would be more gobsmacked to find out had enhanced his performance with chemicals than this Peoria boy. Wait, maybe he does boost his game with chemicals: apple pie sugars and whatever’s in pine tar.
Far fewer men have whacked 600 home runs (7) than have hit safely 3,000 times (28). So Thome has made fans and friends in five stops and Jeter has never been anything but a Yankee. So Thome has been a lumberjacky third baseman, designated hitter and first baseman his entire career while shortstop Jeter flies into seats and flips baseballs to catchers to tag out A’s. So Jeter has 5 World Series titles and Thome none. Those facts must be what’s keeping the nation uninformed as to just who Thome has been banging the past decade.
Let me save you from going to NiceGuypedia for these awesome Thome facts that by post’s end will have you wondering why the MLB logo isn’t Thome pointing his bat at the pitcher (a habit stolen from The Whammer in The Natural):
*He fought Chipper Jones in the minors.
*Maybe this is why he pays tribute to The Whammer (scroll down, look to the left). Some folks get excited by pics like this.
*A Plain Dealer fan poll in 2003 proclaimed Thome the most popular sports figure in Cleveland history.
*He once heard boos, when he returned to Cleveland in 2006, for the first time since leaving after the 2002 campaign.
*Thome has won many titles associated with good eggs, like the BBWA Man of the Year, the Roberto Clemente Award, the Lou Gehrig Award, the Frank Gibbons/Steve Olin Good Guy Award, two Marvin Miller Man of the Year Awards, and something named the Gordan Cobbledick Golden Tomahawk Award.
Now for the really good stuff: Thome is the all-time leader with 12 walk-off home runs, and not only that but he is the first to hit a walk-off for his 500th home run, and not only that, but that walk-off 500th was on Jim Thome Bobblehead Night.
And the best stuff: he is putting all 10 of his nieces and nephews through college and when he promised a paralyzed nephew he’d hit a home run for him, he hit two.
No need to argue whether Thome is a Hall of Famer: along with the inevitable 600 hom
e runs, Thome was a .994 fielder before injuries relegated him to DH, and through 2010, his batting average was .278. Though he is second on the all-time strikeout list, he also is in the top 10 on the all-time walks list. Fifth on the list of lowest ratio of at-bats to home runs, top 20 all-time slugging percentage. The most damning data against Thome is a lukewarm postseason record (.217-17-37 in 67 games).
Any argument against Thome other than statistical is covered by who is already in the HOF–MVP/no MVP, world champ/no world champ.
ESPN Stats and Information calculated that it took an average of 12 games for Thome to hit the 5 home runs leading into each of his century milestones. Based on that, his 600th should be July 27, when the Twins visit Texas. To be fair, live look-ins and constant crawls on The Bottom Line about Thome’s at-bats should not happen until he reaches 599.
I will not be surprised if we don’t get even that.