Jim Thome

Is 600 home runs “magical?”

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Danny Knobler asks that question in light of Jim Thome’s signing and his inevitable 600th home run:

Thome is entirely likeable, by teammates, fans and writers alike. A whole bunch of people will be happy for him when he gets to 600. But will it feel magic?

I’m not so sure it will.

This just isn’t the same as when 600 belonged only to Aaron, Ruth and Mays. Thome has been a fine player, but he’s not Aaron and he’s not Ruth and he’s not Mays — and I imagine he would happily admit that. That’s not to say 600 is now meaningless, not at all. It’s a great accomplishment, and even after the steroid era, it’s not a common accomplishment … That’s a good thing. If 600 home runs is going to be special, we can’t be having a run at 600 every year … Now, is it still special? Is there any magic left in it? Jim Thome will tell us.

I don’t think anyone would ever claim that Jim Thome was as good as Ruth, Aaron or Mays, and if they did they’d need to get their head examined.  But why do we insist that numbers are somehow “magical?”

If Jim Thome hit 600 home runs, it means that in the home run department he did exactly what the other 600 home run hitters did.  Don’t we diminish Thome if, the second he hits 600, we declare the feat to be no longer “magical?”  Kind of insulting, ain’t it?

How about this: it always was just a number. It always will be just a number.  There’s nothing magical about it. Indeed, there’s nothing that the number 600 tells us beyond the fact that 600 home runs have been hit.  We can assess Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and yes, even Jim Thome just fine without wondering if one of their achievements is merely special, extra special or — gasp! — magical.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.