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.