Jim Thome’s 600th Home Run: A Baseball Moment You Can’t Not Feel Good About
The Twins' Jim Thome became the eighth player in MLB history to hit 600 career home runs last night, completing his underhyped chase against the Detroit Tigers in a 9-6 win. Here's video of the moment:
Now, we mentioned Thome's chase was underhyped. This is understandable for a few reasons: one, the steroid era leaves us skeptical of any home run milestone. Second, Thome's chase just wasn't particularly exciting: he's had an injury-plagued season, and missed a third of 2010 as well. As with most players in their 40s, he's not the player he once was (though when he was healthy last season, he was tremendous). And as good and consistent as Thome's been through the years, he was never one of baseball's greatest star attractions. Maybe he was seen as one of baseball's best hitters, but never one of its marquee personalities the way another guy who recently hit a big milestone was and is.
On the other hand, considering the outpouring of pure goodwill Thome's way - the way no one at all familiar with him seems to have anything but a positive impression of the guy - it's a little amazing this all wasn't a bigger deal. Watch the clip above again: listen to how the announcers gush. Thome hit last night's home run on the road: check out the way the opposing crowd applauds a home run that ultimately made a big difference in their team losing the game.
Check out this piece from ESPN's Tim Kurkjian, that lauds Thome as "a good dude" who's achieved all he has through, among other traits, "tremendous strength" and "an equally strong work ethic." Quickish compiled some of the first reactions to Thome's accomplishment: note the praise from media members and baseball contemporaries alike.
And lest we forget: Thome is a great player. All those home runs aren't an accident. Neither are all those walks (over 1,700 in all, the eighth-most ever). Combine those skills, and you've got a guy whose career adjusted on base plus slugging percentage (which controls for things like the era and ballpark in which one plays) at the top 40 in baseball history - ranking up there with guys like Mike Schmidt and Willie McCovey, ahead of the likes of A-Rod, George Brett, and Ken Griffey Jr. For that prodigious hitting skill, SI's Joe Posnanski said Thome is "a slam-dunk, first-ballot, no-doubt Hall of Famer hitter." Not too shabby.
So yeah, Thome played during the steroid era. He also played exceptionally well, and his adjusted numbers suggest he would have played exceptionally well during any era. And even if you doubt his numbers, there's no doubting, based on every single Thome account we've seen, that he's been an unfailingly good guy through it all. In a sport with so much of the feel-good aspect washed away, this is one moment - and one person - it's hard not to get a good feeling about.
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