What Is Jim Thome’s Legacy?

Twins first baseman designated hitter Jim Thome is a mere four home runs away from one of the benchmark statistics in baseball; 600 home runs.  There are only a handful of players in the history of the game who’ve reached 600, and as of late it seems more like an indicator of who was on steroids in the past decade instead of who was a premiere power hitter.  Guys like Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez, and Barry Bonds have reached this mark in the past decade and arguably none of those guys will ever reach the Hall of Fame.  So what about Thome?

Thome has never had his name thrown around in the HGH/steroid discussion.  While it’s tough to be 100% sure that any player during the past two decades was completely clean, Thome has never had his name surface.  One would assume that, because of this, it’s pretty clear that Thome should go to the Hall because he’s been clean and he’s reached a landmark in 600 homers.  But not so fast.

The Hall of Fame is a distinction reserved for the best of the best.  It’s not the Hall of Very Good.  It’s not the Hall of Consistent.  It’s the Hall of Fame, a place reserved for guys who have significantly impacted the game of baseball.  Have you ever seen Jim Thome as a benchmark player?  Have you ever looked at Jim Thome and thought, without a doubt, he was the premiere first baseman in the game?  Or has Thome plugged along for his lengthy 20 year career hitting 30 homers a year?  These are the questions that baseball will now have to answer to while we sort out the steroid era.

Unfortunately the list of benchmark players over the past twenty years has a lot of overlapping names with the Mitchell Report.  Guys like Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, and Roger Clemens were the notable names of the 90′s.  They were the sure-fire Hall of Famers.  Until they cheated.  So now, who gets in?  Does the Hall of Fame take a dip and turn into the Hall of Very Good?

I’m not denying Thome’s career and overall body of work.  600 homers is 600 homers.  The question I ask is this; despite reaching this mark, does the name Jim Thome instantly strike you as a Hall of Fame name?  Or is he simply going to get there because of longevity?

15 comments… add one

  • Francisco Rodriguez July 19, 2011, 4:38 pm

    I think he does. Other than 2005 he's posted above average WAR numbers in each season (not counting his part time seasons before 1993), and his career WAR is on part with Bench, Gwynn, and Fisk.

    The way I see it, if someone like Andre Dawson can get in, then there's no reason why Thome shouldn't be in. Will he be first ballot? Not a chance. But I think after a few years he gets in.

  • Guest July 19, 2011, 7:00 pm

    Rich, arguably you are an idiot. If Jim Rice is in, then so is Thome.

  • BigT July 19, 2011, 7:11 pm

    He is in easily. Take away the steroid players and you would be fearing the likes of Thome more than just a very good player. Somethings need to count for consistecy and not cheating, especially if your gonna punish for cheating and steroids.!

  • Chris 'Shock' Hair July 19, 2011, 11:43 pm

    His bust needs to be a tater tot.

  • Frank July 20, 2011, 8:00 am

    Of COURSE he's a HOFer!

    It's almost silly even to ask the question.

  • jlbaehl July 20, 2011, 9:08 am

    McGwire did not reach 600

  • Barkley Pontree July 20, 2011, 9:14 am

    Yea, he and Frank Thomas should both go in. Sometimes, you look at players and think about a decade of their career. Think about Kiner or Joe Morgan. Morgan had a stretch with the Reds where he was one of the best in the game, but he had a career before and after the Reds that was just average. Thomas was the most feared hitter and put up numbers very similar to AP did in STL a decade later. Thome was a premier 1B in the 90's with one heck of a great team, though they never won the WS. He's also the nicest guy in baseball since Stan the Man and Harmon retired.

  • Paul J.Bosco July 20, 2011, 2:33 pm

    Had he played in NY or LA he would not have had as "quiet" a career. Before Palmeiro & McGuire, 600 HR was automatic HoF. Can it be that SIX HUNDRED, w/o steroids, is not enough?

    I wonder about Craig Biggio, with his 3000 hits. 20 years averaging 150 hits is more middling than 30 years w/30HR. But Thome? Why not on the first ballot?

    –Paul J. Bosco

  • jeff lieber July 20, 2011, 4:25 pm

    While Jim Thome played for a brief period of time with the Whitesox, there were a few Game winning Home runs that he hit ti win games for the Team, not to mention the only run two propel the Sox into the playoffs against the twins in a one game playoff winner goes to the playoffs. Of course he is supposed to be in the Hall. One criteria for getting into the hall is how you played the game. Did you play the game with integrity, and respect? Jim Thome plays that way everyday, he is a class act that we very rarely see in a player anymore. I say first ballot.

  • offset printing July 23, 2011, 12:16 am

    Thome is a nice guy in their team. On January 14, 2011, Thome accepted a one-year, US $3 million contract with incentives to continue playing for the Twins.

  • joeg July 24, 2011, 11:00 am

    As a Twins fan, I can say it seems that Jim Thome provides leadership and is an example of sportsmanship and off field conduct to the younger players, as compared to many of the showboaters with more homeruns than him with the aid of steroids. If he hit only 400 homeruns in his career I would say he still deserves to be remembered as a prime example as what it means to be an athlete and an example to the many young fans watching baseball.

  • SenorPlaid August 16, 2011, 6:32 am

    I wouldn't say "arguably," Guest …

    Yeah, you're right, Rich. Thome doesn't deserve to sniff the jocks of Hall of Fame legends like Fred Lindstrom, Jesse Haines, Rick Ferrell or George Kelly (among dozens of others) — you know, the "Best of the Best."

    Sorry, dude. Google and baseball-reference.com are your friends. There's no excuse these days for writing something as totally uninformed as this post. The Hall of Fame has NEVER been reserved only for "the best of the best." Look at the roster. Therefore, barring an expose, there is absolutely no precedent for excluding a player of Thome's accomplishments.

  • SenorPlaid August 16, 2011, 6:42 am

    Seriously, the last time–in fact the ONLY time–that the Hall of Fame was truly reserved for "the best of the best" was after the first ballot in 1936: Ruth, Cobb, Wagner, Johnson, Matty. The next year it was irreparably soiled when the voters elected Morgan Bulkeley. Who's Morgan Bulkeley, you ask? Well, as Rich can tell you, he's among "the best of the best" and company that Jim Thome isn't worthy of keeping, but to the rest of us, he was a figurehead who is in the Hall only because he was in the right place at the right time.

    In 1937, the Hall wanted to induct Ban Johnson, who was the first president of the American League and a bona fide pioneer of the game. Things being more separated back then, the N.L. demanded equal treatment and thus Bulkeley, who was the first president of the N.L. and served for one year — 1876 — was elected to the Hall of Fame. It took the Hall 58 more years to finally get around to induct the guy who actually founded the National League (and therefore Major League Baseball) — William Hulbert.

    So, please, save me the nonsense about the Hall of Fame being "only for the best of the best."

  • clevelander August 16, 2011, 12:11 pm

    Jim Thome was the one unselfish non-head case on the powerful Indians teams of the 90s and early 2000s. All he is remembered for is hitting huge meaningful homers and driving in tons of key runs. Also for learning first base so the Tribe could add Williams then Fryman. HOF? Yes, of course, along with Omar Vizquel.

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