One of baseball's most hallowed achievements is 600 career home runs. It is a milestone reached by very few, namely Hall of Fame players Willie Mays and Babe Ruth. Most recently, fan favorites Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey, Jr. also reached that plateau.
Last night, the 600 Home Run Club found its eighth member. Minnesota Twins designated hitter Jim Thome blasted two home runs against the Detroit Tigers to reach 600 dingers for his career. Given how Thome has been one of the greatest power threats in all of baseball throughout his career, not to mention one of the nicest guys in the game, it's a surefire bet that he will soon be getting a call from the Hall of Fame.
Yet, is Thome good enough to gain enshrinement on the first ballot? That seems like an easy answer, but let's analyze all factors. We'll start with the marks against Thome.
First, in a 21-year career, Thome has never won a World Series. He appeared in two with the Cleveland Indians in 1995 and 1997, but walked away on the losing end each time.
Even more surprising, while he has been highly considered for the award multiple times, Thome has never once won a league MVP award. Keep in mind, this is after 21 years of effective production with the Cleveland Indians, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and most recently, the Minnesota Twins.
Yet, this is the Hall of Fame we're talking about and when push comes to shove, to deny one of the greatest players of all time admittance based on accolades alone is flat out ridiculous. Jim Thome should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and anyone who thinks otherwise is just being ridiculous.
Look at it this way: Despite being relegated to a DH role for the past six seasons, slowing down with age and various aches and pains nagging him, Jim Thome has still been one of the most productive hitters in all of baseball. He has only played in 64 games this year and is batting an average .254, but his on-base percentage is an impeccable .359 and his OPS is high at .857.
In terms of career stats, Thome's numbers more than meet the requirements. Besides his home runs, his .277 career average, 1,662 RBI and .403 career OBP are simply incredible considering how many thought him to be done after suffering an elbow injury in 2005.
However, while those stats are well and good, Thome deserves to be in the Hall-of-Fame based on one factor alone: his personality. In a 2007 survey that Sports Illustrated conducted among 464 MLB players, Thome was ranked the second-friendliest player in baseball, second only to former Cincinnati Reds and Detroit Tigers first baseman Sean Casey.
Considering how today the game is full of egotistical players who, more often than not, could care less about the fans, Thome is truly a rarity.
That all being said, is Jim Thome a first ballot Hall-of-Famer? Absolutely. He is not only one of the game's greatest players, but also one of its greatest men.
When he makes his way to the podium at Cooperstown, the fans will roar not only at his contributions as a player, but at his commitment to class and relationship with those who love him both on and off the field.