The steroids era has tainted everyone and every team in baseball from before the historic A’s teams of the late 1980’s right up to members of the 2007 Red Sox’s and 2009 Yankees world series teams. Steroids were and still are a very big and ugly issue. Because of the era a lot of big name stars from it are not getting into the hall of fame. Some like McGwire and Sosa are known to have taken steroids, but other power hitters like Jeff Bagwell and Frank Thomas are or soon will feel that crunch and be unable to make it in. Many more on that hall of fame border of good and great will have a similar fate because we just don’t know. Who is legit and clean and who is not?
There are some players I want to believe in and their names hopefully will echo throughout baseball history Griffey, Pujols, and for this article Jim Thome. I can’t tell you who did what and when in full confidence; but I believe that consistency throughout the years is a good sign and Jim Thome has been all of that and more in his career.
I compare his numbers to that of Sammy Sosa a known steroid user. In Sammy’s first season he hit 4 home runs and as a starter in the next three he hit a total of 33 homers; a solid but rather average player. During the 1993 season he jumps to 33 homers and keeps a pace of 25 plus through the 2004 season. In three of those seasons he 60 plus Of course for many that should be suspicious and was proven to be diluted by PED’s.
Jim Thome arrives in Cleveland and in his first three seasons he slugs a total of 10 home runs. His first full season he hits 20 and 25 the year after that. The man is 6’4″ and 220-250 pounds is no slouch and starts belting homers at a solid pace of 20 or more a season for the Indians, Phillies, and White Sox’s and Twins except for one year that he was injured. Only once in his entire career did he hit 52 and his batting average while at times good has never had a surreal climb but rather erratic as a solid power hitter often can be. With age his home run totals and average are diminishing which happens to even the best natural hitters be it Hank Aaron (12) or Babe Ruth (22) in their last full seasons.
Of course if you follow baseball in the 90’s you notice that Thome was on a team that has now become notorious for steroid use during their run. So a power hitter in that lineup even if they are clean is going to face that looming steroid shadow. There is a chance that Jim Thome will finish with 600 some odd homers in his career. He has 5 all star appearances, a silver slugger and a Roberto Clemente Award (award given for outstanding work on the field and in their communities) If Thome’s name never appears on a legitimate list of proven steroid users then I without question would write him into the hall of fame.
Thome was strong at the plate being a well built power hitter, but his character was and still is stronger. In the early 2000’s the Indians who were very successful decided to rebuild and traded away their best players for prospects and lost others to free agency. Jim Thome wanted to be with the Indians and may have been by far the most beloved baseball player in C-town since the 1950’s.
When Thome was in Cleveland he did more than hit home runs; he became a part of the community where he created a Christmas toy drive which was detailed when he won his Roberto Clemente award in 2002 by mlb.com
“Fans donate a toy in exchange for a Jim Thome autograph. Then Jim and wife, Andrea, spend two days dressed as Mr. & Mrs. Santa Claus — delivering the toys to numerous youth groups that serve disadvantage kids. This year over 600 toys were collected and distributed to over 300 kids and the elderly.”
As reported about his award Thome earned 250,000 dollars and counting for United Way youth programs, put on charity events for children hospitals and services. As well as many other charitable donations and events for the fans and people of Cleveland for their support through the years.
I can’t tell you if Mr. Thome is a sure hall of famer. I can’t tell you if he was clean his entire career. However I can say that in all my years of watching baseball there have been few finer athletes than Jim Thome and with his career in perhaps his final swing. I am happy to have watched him slug all these years and to me if his stats don’t get him into the hall of fame. His character should cover that check just fine.