Monday, July 18, 2011

600 Ain't What is Used to Be

Jim Thome is on the verge of a milestone that just seven major leaguers have reached: 600 home runs. That's far fewer than the number with 3,000 hits. But somehow the buzz in much lower than it was for Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit.

Jeter, of course, plays in New York for the Yankees, so that accounts for some of the difference. And after steroid era, it seems the value of home runs has diminished. I can remember the hoopla surrounding Hank Aaron's 500th, and Ernie Banks was widely saluted when he reached that mark for the Chicago Cubs.

But Thome's march to the plateau seems to be getting less notice. It's not hard to remember the home run chase put on by Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. Every at-bat was a media event. Batting practice by the sluggers was watches as intently as a World Series game.

After the bubble burst on that era, the numbers seemed more like pinball than baseball. After all, until the steroid era, only Aaron, Ruth and Mays had crossed the 600 barrier. The club will soon have eight members.

Unfortunately, the effect of the steroids era has been to tarnish even those might have never used the substances. Jeter has managed to keep a clean image, and, by all accounts, Thome name has never been associated with the scandal.

Still, for me, and I suspect many others, the distrust has been planted. I love the game, but any sense of innocence about the players has been lost. For me, now, it's hard to take the breaking of these records too seriously.


  1. Thome has always been a class act. Even when Ryan Howard came along and effectively forced him off the Phillies, he took it like a man, moved on, and both the Phillies and the Twins were the better for it. He might be the least heralded player to get elected to the Hall of Fame since Eddie Murray (who nobody realizes has 500 homers AND 3,000 hits) and Paul Molitor (who nobody realizes has more hits than any man under the age of 70).

  2. I have been a big Jim Thome fan since his days with those great Cleveland teams in the 90's. Totally agree with Uncle Mike, he has always been a class act. Not to mention one of the best swings in baseball. Thanks Jim!

  3. It will be more than 4 years before any other player has a shot at getting even close. More than likely 5+ years. This is big news to me - no matter the general disregard in the media.

    He has killed my Tigers and hit more HR's off of us than any other team in the ML. The honest truth is that he is a remarkable HOF player. Hopefully the buzz builds on 598 and 599.

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