600 home runs

August 15, 2011

Jim Thome becomes the eighth player to reach the 600 career home runs mark when he hits a two-run homer in the sixth (599), followed by three-run blast an inning later off Detroit’s Daniel Schlereth. Needing fewer at-bats to reach 600 than anyone except for Babe Ruth, the 40-year-old Twins slugger accomplishes the feat in his 8,167th at-bat, compared to the Bambino’s 6,921.
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With Alex Rodriguez’s benching by manager Joe Girardi for today’s fifth game of the ALDS against the Orioles, he finds himself connected to Hall of Famer Willie Mays - but not in a way A-Rod would want.

The only other time that a player with more than 600 home runs did not start a playoff game was Game 2 of the 1973 World Series when Mays, in his last season as a ballplayer, was not in the lineup for the Mets against the Oakland A’s. (He would pinch run for Rusty Staub in the 9th. The game would go 12 and Mays would end up 1-2 with an RBI and run scored.)

Random note: Mays final major league at-bat was in Game 4 of the World Series when he pinch hit for reliever Tug McGraw (then of Mets, best known as a Phillie) in the 10th inning. Mays grounded into a fielder’s choice.

Images:

A-Rod, copyright Elsa/Getty Images and courtesy si.com

The Say Hey Kid, courtesy thecrazymetsfan.com

Jim Thome In the Hall of Fame?

I know this is a little late, but I wanted to give my thoughts on Jim Thome hitting his 600th career home run and the argument about whether or not he is Hall of Fame worthy. For me, the answer is a no-brainer: of course he is.

600 home runs. That’s an exlusive club, and that number alone should guarantee Thome’s inclusion into the Hall, upon his retirement. Just think about that for a minute. Throw aside every other stat and just realize that out of the thousands of men who have played in the MLB over the years, only eight have hit at least 600 home runs. Eight. Three of those eight are already in the Hall of Fame, and are considered three of the best, if not the three best baseball players of all time. Two of the eight would be first-ballot Hall of Famers if it weren’t for all the steriod shit. Another is going to be a first-ballot inductee. And A-Rod is still playing. So, just based on the company he is in, Jim Thome deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. I mean, who’s going to hit 600 next? Albert Pujols, probably. And when he gets there, that’ll be another first-ballot Hall of Famer in the mix.

Let’s look at some of Thome’s other numbers. He ranked 8th all-time in walks, and six of the seven guys ahead of him are all in the Hall of Fame. Barry Bonds is the only exception, and I think we can all agree he’d be in Hall if it weren’t for the steroids. 1713 walks overall. That’s insane, and is really telling about just how good of a hitter Thome has been over his career. Add that to the AB/HR ratio, where he ranks 5th lowest, and you get one of the most dangerous power hitters of the last two decades.

There are several arguments for why Thome shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame. One is his extremely high number of strikeouts, which ranks him second all-time in that category. But I don’t buy that. Even with the huge amount of strikeouts, he still has a career average of .277, which isn’t mind-blowing, but is solid. Not to mention he’s tied for first all-time with 12 walk-off home runs. That’s the definition of clutch. The biggest indicator for me of why strikeouts are, or should be, a wash when it comes to Hall of Fame consideration, is Reggie Jackson. He’s the all-time leader in strikeouts, and he’s in the Hall. That’s proof, I believe, that strikeouts can be discounted, if the player in question ranks high enough in other categories.

Then there are the people who bring up the fact that Thome has never really been counted among the best players of his era. It’s true, to an extent. When people mention the best players of the last two decades, you hear names like Bonds, Rodriguez, Griffey, and the like. Thome is rarely mentioned among them. But to counter that, I’d like to point out that he’s had nine seasons where he hit 100+ RBI. He hit 90+ RBI in another two seasons. He’s hit 30+ home runs 12 times. But because he played in an era with so many great players, like Bonds, Griffey, and Rodriguez, his very solid numbers were always overshadowed. Doesn’t mean he was a bad player, or even an average player. He was just not as good as those guys.

And then there’s the fact that he’s basically been nothing but a DH for the last 6 years or so. Which again, I don’t buy. His hitting stats more than make up for the fact that he has essentially no fielding stats since 2005. I’d like to point out that back in the day, when he actually did play first base, he had a fielding percentage of .994, which isn’t too shabby. He never made more than 10 errors in a single season while playing first. But in the end, I don’t think his defensive stats should matter. Thome was and is a power hitter, first and foremost. The fact is, he wasn’t a defensive liability when he played in the field, and when it got to the point where he might start becoming one, due to injury and age, he became a DH. It shouldn’t factor into the decision much, in my opinion.

And there we have it. I don’t think I stated my case, or Thome’s I should say, all that well, but there it is. He is one of the best power hitters of his generation, who was often overshadowed by his great peers. But his hitting stats, his 600+ home runs, decent average, and high number of walks, make him a future Hall of Famer in my eyes.

Later.

Jim Thome Now 1 Of 5 With 600 Homers And No Asterisk

                  

Congratulations to Jim Thome for joining the 600 Home Run Club, one of the all time elite positions in baseball history.

Thome is now 1 of only 5 players to hit 600 home runs and not have any questions, controversies, or asterisks to go with it.  

There are 8 with 600 homers, but Sosa, Aroid, and of course Bonds have all been linked with steroids.

Never once did Thome’s name come up in any allegations of steroid, HGH, or PED use.  Not once.  

If you look at Thome throughout his career, its easy to see that this guy wasnt on anything but red meat and potatoes.  He didnt get more muscular over his career, he got doughy and plump.  He did it the right way.

So congrats to James Howard Thome. 

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On This Day in Baseball History May 8, 1971: Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves and Willie Mays of the San Francisco Giants homer in the same game. In doing so, they became the first members of the 600 home run club to homer in the same game. Aaron hit his 604th home run while Mays hit his 634th dinger. 

Photo credit Getty Images

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