So we’re living in a juiced ball era (alledgedly)…I can accept that.
By my count, we’ll have 24 members of the 500 club and of the Hall eligible, all but one (Mark McGwire) is enshrined and another (Rafael Palmeiro) will be the unfortunate poster child for the steroid era given he tested positive.
Over the next couple of years, more players will hit the 500 mark then every before, but it’ll drop off. It’s kinda like the early 80s when, if you sneezed hard enough, another veteran pitcher hit his 300th victory.
Milestones are milestones, and they’re great, but let me ask this…is the 500 home run mark watered down? More specifically…is someone like Jim Thome a Hall of Famer? Now, by living in the Midwest, I’ve had the conversation with my peers…I’ve heard it talked about on the radio. People LOVE this guy.
I’m not convinced. The guy hit a bunch of bombs in an era when EVERYONE did. Confused by that statement? Let me put it in perspective…Jim Thome has led the league in home runs ONCE. If anything, Thome is the Webster’s Dictionary definition of “consistent”…not dominant. Never once, have I thought of dominant first basemen and come up with the name “Thome”.
Jeff Bagwell…sure. Todd Helton…most definitely. Frank Thomas…without a doubt.
The case for Thome reads like this:
- He is a prolific power hitter that could very well end up in the top 12 on the home run list by the time he retires.
- Nine 100+ RBI seasons, six 40+ home run seasons.
- Career on base percentage over .400…not too shabby.
- While he has no Gold Gloves to show for it, this converted third baseman is VERY overlooked as a fielder. Thome has a career fielding percentage of .994 at first base.
The case against:
- Less than 2000 career hits is VERY underwhelming. Edgar Renteria has more hits than Jim Thome.
- No MVP awards, only one top five finish (fourth in 2003).
- Third on the all-time strikeout list.
- No rings in two World Series appearances...a career .229 post season batting average. Heck...he wasn't even the best player on the Indians during his days in Cleveland.
- There will be FAR too many more qualified first time inductees by the time Thome becomes eligible.
There you have it...Thome is very good, not great. Hall of Famer? Perhaps…but not on the first couple of ballots. In short, we’ve got a guy who smacked the Hell out of the ball, but was never the most dominant, much less feared, player of his era. And because of that, he'll get lost in the mix. Also, a fifth of his games played have been as a DH…and ask Harold Baines how that has helped HIS case to get into Cooperstown without having to open up his wallet.
***Note: The "is Jim Thome a first ballot Hall of Famer?" poll garnered the following results...Yes-41% (23 votes), No-59% (33 votes). I guess a number of you agree with me!***