It's a true historian vs. geek argument, the kind that has been putting wives and philosophy students alike into nap-like states since the beginning of time.
As for credentials, awards, and intangibles, I can only guess at what a voting committee might think.
Yeah, Thome has no MVP, no ring and only a handful of All-Star appearances—a total lack of the key ingredients that make up a dominant player.
But when you use the right numbers, Thome could be A-Rod—if it weren't for Barry.
Take a gander at these stats for Thome vs fellow 600-plus man and Cooperstown-lock Alex Rodriguez when we chop off the first three years of Thome's career (thereby conceding the completely inarguable fact that the velocity of A-Rod's upward mobility is meteoric) and discount this current year, as well, as we're still playing it out.
Let's call this these players' "prime."
Beyond the basic symmetry of the trajectory of the numbers, you'll note that games and home runs are very close on a per-season basis (134 and 34 vs 135.5 and 36). Sure, A-Rod has more RBI, runs, and extra-base hits and also a better batting average.
OK, so right before I talked myself back out of this argument, I asked: If A-Rod were that much better at the plate, why is Thome's on-base plus slugging (OPS), so much higher than A-Rod’s (.964 to .916)?
Simple enough: It's the walks.
Thome was in the MLB top 10 for walks 10 times from 1995 to 2006.
A-Rod was in the top 10 once, in 2005, one of only two years Thome wasn't. Furthermore, Thome led that top 10 in home runs in 2002 and 2003 and would have led it in 2001 and 2000 were it not for Barry Bonds.
That sounds dominant.
This should be figured out by the first ballot. The numbers show that Jim Thome was feared and, in the prime of his prime anyway, as feared as Barry Bonds.
Combine that with 600 home runs, and he's a lock. If he picks up a ring on his way out, he's a first-ballot lock.
Statistically speaking, of course.