Jim Thome's Quest for 600: Coverage Sums Up Everything Wrong With Sports Media
Jim Thome isn't getting a documentary on HBO. He isn't getting a segment on ESPN every single hour.
Every single one of his at-bats has not been shown on MLB TV or ESPN leading up to his milestone.
There likely won't be any collectable bats in which to remember his moment.
New Era won't be making any hats for his milestone.
And a shot in the dark but I'm pretty positive, whomever catches the milestone ball will not be made into a baseball card.
He is Jim Thome, a shoo-in to the Hall of Fame, the perfect guy to cheer for and a guy who is four home runs away from his 600th career home run.
But I'm guessing you didn't know about Thome's home run chase or just plain forgot about it, since you just had a sigh of relief regarding not seeing Derek Jeter on ESPN every microsecond.
I'm sure before you even finished that sigh, ESPN started a countdown to 4,000 for Jeter.
Why would Thome get the attention? He's only going to become the eighth player in baseball history to surpass 600 home runs instead of becoming the 28th player to have 3,000 hits.
And he didn't Sammy Sosa or Jose Canseco 600 either, meaning he's a great hitter, not just a swing-for-the-fences guy. He's a career .277 hitter with a career on-base percentage of .403.
No big deal. It's the perfect storm for media excuses to silence it.
Thome is in Minnesota, so there's the small-market excuse.
Thome is quiet and loved around the league, so there goes the villain/oddball excuse.
Thome hit in the steroid era, so there goes the guarantee he was clean excuse.
Derek Jeter's 3,000 hits, in their opinion, was the perfect storm for media reasoning to over-glorify it.
Jeter is in New York, ESPN'S baseball mistress in its marriage to Boston.
Jeter is also quiet and loved around the league, but see above reason for reasoning to over-publicize him rather than publicize Thome at all.
Jeter also hit in the steroid era, but see above reasoning for reasoning to over-publicize him rather than publicize Thome at all.
God forbid we have a quiet player not in New York or Boston do something spectacular.
It isn't like a guy like Thome, who is putting all 10 of his nieces and nephews through college, hit two home runs in a game after his nephew, Brandon, was paralyzed when Brandon requested one and in 2007, was voted the second friendliest player in baseball next to Mike Sweeney, deserves praise.
It's truly sad that because of guys like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sosa, who not only stole the spotlight, but the glory around home run milestones, the milestones of guys like Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Thomas and now Jim Thome disappear into the wind without a whisper.
After hitting a home run milestone, the non-taboo players, who have earned but not received our attention, perhaps get the main picture on ESPN.com, a graph showing their home run progression through the years and a debate on whether or not they should be in the Hall of Fame in which John Kruk is usually wrong and Steve Berthiaume drops some reference to the Red Sox on Baseball Tonight.
And, of course, some talk of steroids.
Steroids or no steroids, try and find a scenario where hitting 600 balls nearly 400 feet is harder than finding 3,000 holes in a defense, especially, in Jeter's case, when you've had an amazing lineup surround you your entire career.
Any ballplayer can get a hit, not every ballplayer can hit a home run.
Most importantly, this is not hate toward Jeter. He is a great baseball player, a Hall of Famer and amazing for baseball.
But if he were on the Oakland Athletics, would he be getting all this attention and would he have been surrounded by All-Stars his entire career?
This is hating on the thought process of sports media, mainly ESPN, and the way it can cast characters in its sports Broadway show and try to tell you, the viewer, who you should and should not cheer for and what you should and should not care about.
Unless Jim Thome starts getting arrested, wearing a uniform featuring pinstripes or a pair of red socks or gets caught with steroids, you'll be told, based on the coverage, not to care about his quest to 600 home runs.
You should care, and the baseball world should celebrate.
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