Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Nod to the Big Guy

Generally, I find Hall of Fame debates to be silly. They're a great way to fill up column inches, but the guys doing the voting generally don't read those columns, and so they end up being a way to incite readers to frothing because their favorite players have been left out of the discussion. Never mind that those guys might be bobblehead-worthy at best; everyone's got rabid supporters who want to be heard RIGHT NOW. These are the folks who think that Omar Vizquel holds a candle to Ozzie Smith; who think Don Mattingly = Lou Gehrig, who are thumping that Jeff Reardon candidacy (and yes, they're out there) as hard as they can.

But tonight, I join them when I say Jim Thome is a Hall of Famer. 535 homers, no matter what era, matters. Say what you want about the time in which he played, you still don't see a lot of guys zooming past ol' double-X in the career homers rankings. Besides, there's never even been a whiff of performance enhancers associated with Thome; the dude's just big.

The arguments against him, near as I can tell, consist of A) He played at a time when lots of people hit home runs, B) he played lousy defense before he was a DH and C) he's not David Ortiz. The only answers to this are So, Yeah, and So what? The guy has hit 535 home runs, and he's not done yet. He has taken reasonable doubt and clubbed it into the fourteenth row of the left-center field bleachers. Based purely on the merits of his career, he should go in.

Of course, he won't be judged just on those merits. He'll be dinged for relatively few postseason appearances. He'll get nicked for relatively low batting averages and MVP election results. He was never flashy, but he always was good, and Dewey Evans and Bert Blyleven and Ron Santo can tell you that's no way to get into the Hall of Fame.

But he's hit 535 homers, and he's not slowing down much. It's a cold hard number that even the Bill Plaschkes of the world can understand (assuming it's presented in a one-sentence paragraph), and it's a number that says "I'm one of the best. Ever."
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