Now that Alex Rodriguez has reached the 600-home run club, it’s time to look at who’s next.
Jim Thome, you’re up.
The Minnesota Twins slugger, who turns 40 on Aug. 27, has 13 home runs in 74 games this season and 577 over the course of his 20-year career. At his current pace, he should finish with about 584 or so this season, putting him in 600 territory at some point next season.
But will that be enough to put Thome into Cooperstown? Tyler Kepner of the New York Times delves into the topic, pointing out that Thome was never perceived as dominant in his era despite his impressive power numbers.
He also notes that Thome – unlike Rodriguez – is perceived to be a player who was clean during the steroid era, though none of us really know that for sure. This is truly murky territory, and will only make Cooperstown voting more complicated/controversial/entertaining over the next several years. Kepner, though, has some solid advice.
The most logical thing for voters might be to ignore the use of steroids altogether – at least as it pertains to the era before testing – and accept the idea that a large percentage of pitchers and hitters were using drugs and that we will never know exactly who was and who was not. Yet the Hall of Fame ballot specifically instructs voters to consider sportsmanship and character.
These are thorny issues with no clear answers. But, as we can see with Thome, a lot of cases are fascinating — for a lot of reasons.
Amen, Tyler. By the way, the next closest active player to 600 is Manny Ramirez at 554, so things aren’t going to get any clearer any time soon.