August 18, 2011

Jim Thome: The Real King Of The Home Run

Move over Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, and Babe Ruth; another player is now more deserving of the nickname “The Home Run King”

The player who now inherits that name earned it after he hit a moon shot in the seventh inning of a game played between the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers on August 15th, 2011. Having already clobbered one beyond the fences in the sixth inning, Jim Thome’s second bash gave him 600 total in his career and eighth all-time among career home run leaders.

Certainly, being only number eight in that category may not officially anoint an individual as the best power-hitter of all time in baseball; but given the type of player Thome has been and the differences in comparison to those in front of him in that group, he is an exception to the rule.

If there is one tool that has been a part of the slugger’s 20-year repertoire in Major League Baseball, it’s his ability to hit the long ball.

Thome will never be known as an exceptional athlete who can run all over the field and make plays that are worthy of being a web gem on Baseball Tonight. Although he was an everyday first baseman throughout most of his career, he hasn’t manned the position since he was on the White Sox in 2007.

He’s not an Ichiro-style player who can slap hits in various directions and hit for a high average. He is a career .277 hitter and has only three seasons in which he’s eclipsed the .300 mark. As for speed, well, let’s just say that the current MLB stolen bases leader, Michael Bourn, has over twice as many bags stolen in 2011 than Thome does in his whole career.

In actuality, all the man can do is drive balls out of stadiums. In twelve of his 20 seasons, he’s belted 30 home runs or more. This special talent is what allows him to stand out and be special, as well as serviceable for other franchises throughout his career, in the MLB. Despite not being a stud with all-around ability like many other great players, the Illinois-native has been around for the past 20 years because of that superior strength he possess that allows him to rack up high numbers in the home run category.

Along with that special, personal quality he has in crushing balls out of the ball park; the reason Thome is more deserving of the title as “Home Run King” is based upon the list of hitters who stand atop him in the career home run category.

There are seven other individuals in front of him on that list: Bonds, Aaron, Ruth, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa. All of these players have that similar ability to hit the ball just as hard and consistently as Thome, but that attribute is either only a small portion of their whole resume as a baseball player or their totals are tainted.

It’s easy to assume that Griffey would be a great hitter, as he was labeled a prospect with unlimited potential when he entered the league. Yet, to think he would be top-of-the-line home run hitter is a concept that most would find unbelievable early in his career. Power was only a small facet to his supreme, all-around talent with more notable defensive performances in center field.

Bonds, Rodriguez, and Sosa were cut from the same fabric as Griffey was, as they were all also touted as promising, five-tool players with power as the quality least discussed about these players. Yet, they started to reel off home runs at high rates per season as their careers rolled on. They can thank performance-enhancing drugs for that, as all three have admitted, been accused, or unknowingly taken steroids and eventually became the poster boys of the dreaded “Steroids Era” in baseball.

While the previous four entered baseball as highly regarded players who could do it all, it was two of the others on this list who should be credited for the definition of five-tool. Aaron and Mays are two of the most heralded baseball players and are virtually gods in the eyes of the baseball public today. They both had that same ability as Thome does in taking pitchers deep, but Aaron was a much more polished hitter with more consistency as hitter and Mays is world-renowned for his speed and top-level defense as an outfielder.

Finally, there is that man named Ruth.

Baseball and the home run is forever synonymous with the name Babe and Ruth simply because of the numerous nicknames directly related to his swing. “The Sultan of Swat”, “The Colossus of Clout”, or “The King of Swing” are only just a few that’s been tagged to the former Yankee. The term home run could even change its name to Babe Ruth simply because that’s what he did many times when he stepped into the batter’s box.

Yet, Ruth was more than just a home run hitter. “The Great Bambino” actually started his career as a pitcher, and was very dominant during that stretch from 1915-1919. After he fully concentrated on playing the field and hitting, he became one of the best pure hitters in the game and finished his career with .342 lifetime batting average. Simply stating him as a great home run hitter would be an understatement; Ruth is the true embodiment of baseball as the most complete player to ever step foot on a diamond.

Being atop any category in baseball tends to define that player as the best in that specialty. Rickey Henderson leads the MLB in most career steals and is, arguably, the greatest thief in the history of baseball. The player to accumulate the most hits in baseball, Pete Rose, is also known by many to be the greatest hitter of all time. Yet, labeling the player as the best simply because he leads a category occasionally skews the views of others who contain a more pure and natural talent in that classification.

Jim Thome is one of those players and that ability is bashing home runs, which we should now crown him as the greatest of all-time in regards to that skill.

By Norcal JW with No comments


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