OAKLAND, CA: Jim Thome #25 of the Minnesota Twins hits a home run in the third inning against the Oakland Athletics at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jim Thome just hit his 600th home run.
Here is a list of players with 500 home runs who have not been enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame:
Here's the same list, but this time without the players who haven't yet been tainted by specific allegations of steroid use:
Ken Griffey, Jim Thome, Frank Thomas
Three players. Griffey hit 630 home runs and Thomas hit 521 home runs. Thome, you know.
In the absence of specific allegations, Griffey's going to sail into the Hall of Fame. Thomas might have to wait a year or three, but he figures to be elected as well.
And Jim Thome? Also, no specific allegations. But he simply isn't spoken about in the same terms as Junior or The Big Hurt.
Griffey won an MVP Award (unanimously) and also finished second, fourth (twice) and fifth in the balloting. He played center field, and won 10 straight Gold Gloves.
Like Thome, Thomas wasn't much with the glove. But he won two MVP Awards and also finished second, third (twice) and fourth.
Thome's never won an MVP Award, or finished second or third. His best finish was fourth, in 2003. He's finished in the top 10 in the balloting four times, and that's probably just about right.*
* Voters are usually overly impressed by sluggers who drive in a lot of runs. But in Thome's case, not so much. Maybe an actual voter can tell you why they've given so little love to Jim Thome over the years, and so much to Ryan Howard. But I can't.
We generally expect our Hall of Famers to have been dominant, MVP-caliber players for at least a few years, and that's just not what Jim Thome's been.
On the other hand, we also expect our Hall of Famers to have been worth a great number of wins. According to FanGraphs, Thome's currently sitting at 71 Wins Above Replacement. There's a great cluster of players in the 70-72 range.
These guys are already in the Hall of Fame: Goose Goslin, Johnny Mize, Duke Snider, Ed Delahanty, Yogi Berra, Willie Stargell, Ozzie Smith, Zack Wheat.
Just missing the cut (because I'm not rounding up): Edgar Martinez, Lou Boudreau, Billy Williams, Pee Wee Reese, Manny Ramírez, and Alan Trammell. Boudreau, Williams and Reese are in the Hall of Fame. Most observers believe that Ramírez has Hall of Fame numbers; most really intelligent observers believe that Trammell does, too.
I know that's a lot of names, some of which probably don't mean anything to you. The point is that Thome's career, at least according to this particular measure, fits in nicely with plenty of Hall of Famers, or players (Larkin and Biggio, in particular) who will eventually be in the Hall of Fame.
But there's another point, which is that some players with similar contributions are not in the Hall of Fame, and won't be. Nettles, Smith, Evans ... none of them got even a sniff from the voters. Raines hasn't drawn much support, and Torre's fell well short.
But none of those guys hit 600 home runs. Or 500.
My guess is that Thome won't be elected to the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA, at least not early on. Eventually, though, if his reputation remains untainted by scandal, he will get in somehow.
Do you think Jim Thome belongs in the Hall of Fame?
Yes (1016 votes)
No (36 votes)
He's borderline; let's see what else he does. (75 votes)
1127 total votes