Congratulations, apologies owed to Thome
The first thing we should say to Jim Thome now, of course, is congratulations.
Then we should say, "Sorry."
Sorry, Jim, that your incredible feat of 600 home runs didn't mean anywhere near as much to us as it should've. Sorry that the cynical, guilty-by-association mentality we picked up last decade clouded our appreciation. And sorry we didn't put more stock in the fact you reached the rarest of history without ever being linked to performance-enhancing drugs.
On Monday, when he hit Daniel Schlereth's breaking ball over Comerica Park's left-field fence in the seventh inning, Thome became just the eighth player in baseball history to amass 600 homers. But for most of the night, his name wasn't even among the Top 10 trending topics on Twitter.
Thome gave this game a lot with his unmatched mix of prowess and kindness.
He deserves a lot more appreciation in return.
"There hasn't been a lot of talk about his 600 home runs, and there should be more talk," Schlereth said, "because that guy is an outstanding player, and he's been great for a very long time."
But the home run has become diluted in the psyches of baseball fans in recent years, to the point where America has become rather bored with it. The evolving world of sabermetrics has depreciated its value, and previous steroid allegations from some of our heroes have greatly diminished its magic.
Thome has always been a victim of bad timing. It's his greatest downfall.
He played in an era of inflated power numbers and supreme talent at his position. And by the time age typecast him as a one-dimensional designated hitter, he was a dinosaur in a game that had become more versatile and athletic than ever.
In his prime, from 1996-2004, Thome hit .285 and averaged 41 homers and 111 RBIs, yet not once did he finish in the Top 3 in Most Valuable Player Award voting. But in no way should that take away from what he just accomplished.
"I tell you what, it's pretty special," even the modest Thome had to admit. "[Michael Cuddyer] and I talked about it on the bench -- 'Six hundred homers, how could you ever imagine that?'"
Thome has gone deep more times than Mickey Mantle, Mike Schmidt and Frank Robinson. He ranks behind only four players -- Mark McGwire, Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds and Ryan Howard -- in fewest at-bats per home runs. And while the rest of his stats aren't as eye-popping -- except strikeouts, which he has more of than every player not named Reggie Jackson -- Thome ranks 27th all-time in RBIs while notching a .403 on-base percentage and a .960 OPS.
He isn't the caliber of player 600-homer colleagues Ruth, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Ken Griffey Jr. were, but he doesn't have the tainted pasts of Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Alex Rodriguez, either.
There should be no doubt he's Hall of Fame worthy.
"Hall of Fame from the get-go," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "He's just a Hall of Fame guy and a Hall of Fame player."
Problem is he never really had that "Fame" part down.
Thome was never an iconic figure. He never made the headlines, he was never attached to one team -- he played for five of them, with most being of the mid-market variety -- and he hasn't really been an everyday player for the last three years.
Quietly and effectively, Thome simply went about his business -- with the power of a lumberjack and the kindness of a patron saint. There isn't an organization or a player that doesn't have great things to say about the way Thome works and, most of all, the way Thome cares.
"He's the nicest guy I know and the best teammate," Twins outfielder Jason Kubel said.
"It couldn't have happened to a better guy," added John Hart, the former Indians general manager who had Thome during his heyday in Cleveland. "Just a special guy, a great teammate, understated, sincere, the whole package of what you would like to see in a player."
For that, we owed him a little more recognition and admiration for a mark that should still be considered extraordinary if done fairly and honestly.
Congratulations, Jim. And sorry.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.