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?