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Jim Thome is the most boringly prolific power hitter of all time

August 17, 2011

(I started this post yesterday when it was a bit more relevant. Things happened, and I didn’t finish it. Here it is today instead…)

Jim Thome hit his 600th career major league home run on Monday. It’s a fantastic accomplishment, and one that guarantees him induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He’s only the 8th player to ever even reach this milestone, but I couldn’t help notice that it came with little fanfare. I think the main reason for this is pretty simple: he’s just too boring.

Today I’ll take a look at the other all time Home Run leaders and compare.

  1. Barry Bonds (762) He’s the current all time champ, and for most of the last half of his career he was constantly in the media and plagued by accusations (for good reason) of rampant steroid use. The baseball writers loved to hate the guy. Whole careers have been made around stories about him. He was also a damn good baseball player, no matter what you think of him. And he has a huge head, but a rather small voice – this makes for comedy gold in my book.
  2. Hank Aaron (755) Hammerin’ Hank is one of baseball’s all time iconic players. Played for 23 seasons, and is still the all time leader in RBI’s. Adoring fans bum rushed the field when he passed Babe Ruth for first place on the home run list in 1974, but death threats had been made previous to that. Some people obviously didn’t want him passing the Babe. Scary stuff.
  3. George Herman “Babe” Ruth (714) Look, I know who Babe Ruth is, you know who Babe Ruth is, pretty much everyone knows who Babe Ruth is. He’s not only a baseball icon, but a cultural icon as well. Probably the most famous baseball player who has ever lived. Nuff said.
  4. Willie Mays (660) He’s considered by many to be the greatest baseball player of all time. He played for 22 seasons and was an All-Star in 20 of them. He was the epitome of the “5 tool” player. He could hit for power, hit for average, run, field, and throw with the best of his day. From all that I hear, he was simply an electric player to watch.
  5. Ken Griffey, Jr. (630) Another 5 tool center fielder, and one who I know was electric to watch. For my money, he was the best player in baseball for close to a decade, and is still probably the most complete player I’ve ever seen. Beyond all that, he’s a guy with an infectious smile and often found his way into the new media culture of the 1990’s and 2000’s.
  6. Alex Rodriguez (626) He’s the first active player on this list, and so there’s almost no doubt he won’t soon move into 5th or even 4th place pretty soon. It’s entirely possible he’ll find his way to at least 700 homes runs before his career is over. Beyond his baseball accomplishments, he’s often found his was into the news for other reasons as well. Steroids, illegal poker games, dating Cameron Diaz – he’s not just a sports star, he’s a celebrity too.
  7. Sammy Sosa (609) To me, Sosa is the least talented member of the 600 home run club. There’s little doubt that a great deal of his major league success is a direct result of performance enhancing drugs like steroids. He also had a corked bat incident that people tend to forget about, suggesting to me he was cheating in multiple ways. That said, he was a big part of the resurgence of interest in baseball due to his home run chase with Mark McGwire in 1998, only a few years after the strike.
  8. Jim Thome (600) In 21 seasons, Thome has only been an All-Star 5 times. The highest he ever placed in MVP voting in a season was 4th. He’s led the league in strikeouts more often than home runs. He played much of his career in the AL Central – in my opinion the least intriguing division in baseball (Cleveland? Minnesota? Kansas City? Yawn…) He’s never in the news, probably because by all accounts he’s simply one of the nicest people around. In short, he doesn’t give the media any real reason to care about him at all. But they’ll care about him a little more in 5 or 6 or 7 years – when he makes his way to Cooperstown to join every other hall of famer. Because that’s where he belongs.
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