MLB’s Silent Destroyer: An Open Letter to Jim Thome


Dear Jim,

Congratulations on doing what only a few men have done, and even fewer will do in the future. You climbed Mount 600 with the consistency most could only dream of. Your 600th home run showed up more as a footnote than breaking news.

Maybe I am wrong, but it seems that when Junior Griffey went after 600, much hullabaloo and fanfare followed his every move. At the end I believe ESPN would show at bats live in “break-in” mode.

Well you sure showed ‘em my good man. You are the first man to ever hit his 599th and 600th in the same game. That in itself demands applause.

You played with much pain over the years yet earned the reputation of the nicest guy in the game. Not a grumbler or a complainer you went about your business as any master craftsman would do.

You sir, are the oldest man to climb Mount 600 and yet you did it in the fewest number of at bats except for Babe Ruth. Now, that is some elite company.

Now, all of the talk commences about whether or not you are worthy of enshrinement into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. I do not see how a clear-minded fellow, who calls himself a baseball fan can argue for a moment that you are not.

Yet, right after your lofty accomplishment, ESPN’s Skip Bayless tweeted ,” Congrats to Jim Thome for 600th homer. Great guy, very good player for 21 seasons. But – my standards are high – not a Hall of Famer to me.”

I had to read that tweet two or three times before I could see that he was not joking. That provoked me to reply with a tweet of my own. “You cannot be serious. 600 HR, 1662 RBI, .403 OBP. Dude.”

It is not like you were just a power hitter like the great Harmon Killebrew (got rest his soul). Forget the fact that you hit more homers than he did, your current career average of .277 is 21 points higher than his.

I do not understand the separating of the wheat and chaff in this situation. Should you be penalized because there are more power hitters in the game now than they were in the sixties. Not just now, but during the past 20+ years.

It has been said that since you had no MVP awards you were not worthy. In 2003 you finished fourth in the voting. That doesn’t sound as impressive as it does when you realize that two of the three men in front of you have been linked to steroids.

The only player who beat you out that year and had a clean stream was the great Albert Pujols, who finished behind Barry Bonds and ahead of Gary Sheffield.

You are one of only 26 men in the history of the sport to hit 50 or more home runs in one season. That was a magical season for you. In 2002 you cracked 52 HR, 118 RBI, with a slash line of .304/.445/677. You also led the league in walks with 122 and OPS+ with 197.

Some say you didn’t win a world series. I am not going to take the time to research it, but I bet there are many on that tattered scroll who never even saw a world series. I know of one on the top of my head, Ernie Banks. He is there and yes, he deserves to be there.

Winning a series is hardly a personal achievement. It takes much work, cohesion and synergy, men working together to pick up slack, carry the weight, and stay the course.

One man can not a championship team make.

From 1996-2004 you averaged 45 HR, 122 RBI, 114 W, 114 R, and a line or .285/.416/.588.

Usually when a man puts up extraordinary numbers and falls short of the HOF, it is because he was quarrelsome or didn’t get along with the media. That was certainly not the case in your story.

I do not know who Bayless thinks is worthy of Cooperstown, unless it would be just Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Ty Cobb. I would like to see his voting record over the years.

All of this just screams for some type of benchmarks to be set for players to get into the hall of fame. It should not just rest on a few hundred writers who sometimes seem to hold grudges or personal vendettas.

In closing, I thank you sir for all the excitement and enjoyment you have given me, and all true baseball fans in an era that has been tarnished by cheaters and liars. Thank you for standing tall in the face of adversity.

Your fan,

 

Cliff Eastham

 

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