With a pair of home runs in Monday’s game, Minnesota Twins slugger Jim Thome became baseball’s eighth member of the 600 home run club. If 3000 hits, 300 wins, and 500 home runs are considered automatic plateaus for the Hall of Fame, then just what are 600 home runs considered to be?
Like it or not, baseball does have a lot of those magic numbers. Only three members of the 3000 hit club aren’t in the Hall of Fame; Derek Jeter is still active, Craig Biggio hasn’t yet been eligible, and Pete Rose is serving a lifetime ban.
Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine, and Randy Johnson are the only 300 win pitchers not in the Hall. All three are still within the five year waiting period. Of the players who have hit 500 home runs, only Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa are not in there. You can blame that entirely on steroid use.
In some ways, reaching a magic number seemingly gives you an automatic ticket to the Hall of Fame. The converse of that is players who are Hall of Fame talents will go on to put up those kinds of numbers.
Even though he was never considered to be the best player in the game, he was very good for a very long time. This season marks his 21st in the majors. Over that time he’s averaged 40 home runs over 162 games and has a lifetime batting average of .277.
He’s been ranked on the MVP voting nine times. Included is last season where, in only 108 games and used mostly as a DH, he still ranked 18th in the vote.
Despite his play on the field, he never received much love from All-Star game votes. From 2001-2003 he averaged over 49 home runs a season. All three years he finished in the top 10 for the league MVP – and finished as high as fourth in 2003 when he had 131 RBI’s. But he wasn’t an All-Star in any of those seasons. In 21 seasons, he’s only gone to the game five times.
On one hand you have one of the better power hitters of our generation. In the generation of steroids, he managed to put up his numbers without even a sniff of steroid rumors. He now stands in an exclusive club with Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr, and a couple of steroid users. That is a major resume he has.
At the same time, he was continually passed over for the All-Star game, and at no time ever separated himself as being an elite player. Take away the 600 home run plateau and you’d have a player people would fondly remember. It actually surprised a lot of people when they heard how close he was.
600 home runs came and it went – there wasn’t a whole lot of fanfare either way on it. Most baseball fans realize the accomplishment is a great one, they just haven’t thought of Jim Thome as being that player who would do that.
His accomplishment will send him to the Hall of Fame. Not for his solid career numbers, not for playing the game cleanly in an era of cheating, not for being looked over for 21 seasons, but for finally making a headline.
Of the players who are in there, he certainly deserves recognition. Whichever the reasons behind it finally happening, he’s earned it.