Thome worthy of enshrinement in Hall of Fame
Underappreciated slugger ranks eighth on all-time home run list
Jim Thome, the eighth member of the 600-homer club, now has his rightful place in history. And though the decision is his and his alone, he might also have enough incentive to call it a career at season's end."I do love the game," Thome told me the other day. "I do still love to play the game. But there is a day that I do look forward to going home and being with my kids. As much as this has given me, it's also very important to know when the time is right to go home to your kids and your family, you know? And they're getting to that age where it's getting close. It's getting close." Health was the prevailing reason Thome opted, at 40 years old, to return to the Twins this season. After a month's break at the end of last season, he felt rested and resilient enough to sign on for designated hitter duties once more. But this milestone undoubtedly had an impact on Thome's decision-making, too. He entered 2011 just 11 home runs shy of the feat, so to walk away from that possibility, with two good legs and two strong arms, would have been a travesty.
"I mean, how do you ever imagine 600 home runs?" he said. "If you'd ever asked me if I'd be sitting where I am at 40 and still playing, you'd have to be pinched. It's really neat. It's cool. And being a fan of the history of the game, I've tried not to think about it, because the task at hand is to perform. But you can get caught up in the history of it very easy. Very easy." This is where Thome stands in history. Not only did he reach 600, he did so in the second-fewest at-bats ever, behind only Babe Ruth. And not only is he eighth in the homer tally, he also ranks eighth in walks, with 1,710. His lifetime on-base percentage of .403 ranks 25th among those with at least 7,500 plate appearances.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, CastroTurf, and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.