Author: Bob Harkins


600 homers or not, Thome was already Hall-worthy


Jim Thome joined an elite club on Monday night when he became the eighth player in MLB history to hit 600 home runs. Now that the Minnesota Twins designated hitter has reached such a special milestone, be prepared to hear the question: “Does this make Jim Thome a Hall of Famer?”

I’ve got news for you: Thome didn’t need the milestone. He was already worthy of Cooperstown.

This has nothing to do with Thome being a good guy both with the media and in general (he’s one of the best), and it has nothing to do with his charitable contributions to society (he’s paying for all 10 of his nieces and nephews to go through college). Plenty of players give good interviews and do nice things for people.

No, this has to do with the sheer numbers and impact on the game. It has to do with quietly putting up strong statistics year after year for 21 seasons, compiling one of the most impressive power hitting resumes in baseball history.

Knock Thome, if you will, for spending the bulk of his career as a DH. After all, it’s only fair to give more credence to players who can hit and play defense. Give him demerits for striking out more than 2,400 times, for only being an All-Star five times, for never winning an MVP award or a World Series.

But then remember the 1,700 walks (eighth all time), the .403 on-base percentage (better than Rickey Henderson), and the respectable .277 batting average (better than Joe Morgan). Thome’s hulking presence might remind one of Paul Bunyan, but he was never an all-or-nothing axe-wielding hacker a la Dave Kingman or Rob Deer.

In examining the numbers, Baseball-reference says Thome’s career compares most closely to those of Frank Thomas, Sammy Sosa, Mike Schmidt, Harmon Killebrew, Mickey Mantle, Willie McCovey, and Willie Stargell. All of those players are in Cooperstown except for Thomas, who will be once he gains eligibility, and Sosa, a fellow member of the 600-homer club whose career has been tainted by a connection to steroids.

Thomas is an interesting comparison because like Thome, his career was spent mostly at DH. He was rightly feared as one of the best hitters of his era, notching three seasons with an OPS over 1.000, including the monster 1994 campaign of 1.217. Thomas’ career OPS is an impressive .974, but Thome’s is just a notch behind at .960. Thomas’ OPS+ is a whopping 156, but Thome’s is 147. The gulf between the players is not as wide as you might imagine.

As far as the steroids era, there is no way Thome can escape it. Type “steroids Thome” into Google and the search engine spits out more than 700,000 entries, some of which cite the steroids era as dampening excitement for the slugger’s march to 600 home runs. While Thome has never been connected to performance-enhancing drugs, it’s impossible for any player, particularly a power hitter, to avoid being tarnished by the era. It’s not fair, it’s just the way it is.

But until there is some evidence of cheating – remember, Thome’s name did not come up in the Mitchell Report, the BALCO scandal, or in any other PED investigation – we’ve got to take the man and his legacy at face value.

Prepare a place in Cooperstown, because Jim Thome has earned his place in the Hall.

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Giants not planning payback in rematch vs. Marlins

Scott Cousins, Buster Posey

The San Francisco Giants take on the Florida Marlins in a three-game series beginning Friday.

At first glance, this might not seem like much of a series, what with the Marlins entering the weekend on a seven-game losing streak, and the Giants preparing to face the talented Atlanta Braves early next week. But then we are reminded that this is the first meeting between the two teams since late May, a fateful series that saw San Francisco lose star catcher Buster Posey on a controversial play at the plate.

When Scott Cousins barreled into Posey, it knocked the young star out for the season, effectively changed the Giants’ season and also caused Brian Sabean to lose his mind.

So much has changed with these two teams, though. Jack McKeon is running the show in Florida and Cousins has been out since June with a back injury. And the Giants have replaced Posey’s bat – if not his leadership – with Carlos Beltran (who is also now hurt).

So now, with the teams meeting for the first time since then, should we expect some fireworks? In a word, no.

“We’ve moved on,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy told Andrew Baggerly of the San Jose Mercury News. “We have bigger things to be worried about. That’s trying to win and get to the postseason. What happened is behind us.”

More from Baggerly:

Posey, after two surgeries to repair torn ankle ligaments, isn’t looking back, either. He declined multiple interview requests as the Florida series loomed. Posey is only now beginning to put weight on his left foot, but other wounds haven’t healed. He still hasn’t reached out to return Cousins’ apologetic phone call.

“Buster wants to move forward, and I’m proud of how these guys have not dwelled on what happened,” Bochy said. “When you lose your starting catcher and cleanup hitter, it’s devastating.”

In truth, the Giants have a lot more to worry about than the Florida Marlins. With a dramatic victory over the Houston Astros on Thursday night, the D-backs have taken a full game lead in the NL West, and they don’t appear to be going anywhere.

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Larry Bernandez is back, better than ever (video)


OK maybe not, but the Seattle Mariners have brought back Felix Hernandez’s alter-ego in a new commercial promoting – what else? – Larry Bernandez bobblehead night.

The first commercial was amusing enough (if you haven’t seen it, watch here), but Hernandez really shows off his talents in this one, clearly having broadened his acting skills since spring training. He now plays himself and Larry in the same scene, making him practically a poor man’s Martin Lawrence, right? He’s already got a Cy Young award in his trophy case, could an Oscar be far behind?

One thing is for certain: cloning Felix Hernandez might be the best idea the Mariners have ever had. Too bad it’s not that easy.

Check it out. It’s 30 seconds long, it’s amusing and it might even make you laugh. If you don’t at least smile, you probably stole this guy’s sense of humor.

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