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Opinion: So when is Thome's HBO special?

1:01 PM, Aug 16, 2011   |    comments
Jim Thome is mobbed by teammates at home plate after hitting his 600th career home run tonight at Comerica Park. / Dave Reginek / Getty Images
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(Sports Network) - Jim Thome became just the eighth player in the history of Major League Baseball to hit 600 home runs on Monday.

Unlike the attention Derek Jeter received for his chase to become the 28th player to 3,000 hits, the fan fare surrounding Thome's pending milestone was nonexistent.

Why was that? Weren't we told that chicks dig the long ball? Has the public grown tired of constant steroid speculation that 600 home runs just is not a big deal anymore? After seeing just three players reach that plateau in the first 95 years of the game, we have now had five other players join the club, including three in the last four years.

Had Thome played his entire career in New York, would it have been different? In a word, yes. Of course it would have been a big deal. You don't believe me? Well maybe you should catch the Derek Jeter 3K documentary that is running on HBO.

Don't get me wrong. I'm pretty sure if someone pitched a Thome documentary to HBO they'd probably be fired. I understand the allure of Jeter compared to the squirrel hunting Thome. But you get the idea.

If you were a casual sports fan and happened to catch the Jeter lovefest on HBO you would think he was the first player to ever get to 3,000 hits, let alone the 28th. You would certainly think Jeter's chase was more important than Thome's achievement.

Perhaps it is Major League Baseball that is trying to distance itself from the home run milestones when you consider that three of the people in that club have been linked to some sort of performance enhancing drugs.

There may be something to that.

When Jeter drove that David Price offering over the wall in left back on July 9, Bud Selig had a prepared statement ready to go to congratulate him. Maybe Thome caught everyone off guard since he hit not only 600 on Monday, but 599 as well. But a prepared release does not take that long and here we are a day later still waiting for him to congratulate the slugger for joining a club far more exclusive and certainly more well-regarded in baseball annals than the one Jeter joined.

Thankfully Alex Rodriguez picked up the Commissioner's slack.

"Jim is one of the easiest players of our generation to root for," Rodriguez said in a statement. "Its hard to overshadow 600 home runs, because it is a tremendous accomplishment and an exclamation point on a career bound for the Hall of Fame. But to me, the way he has treated the game - and the people in and around it - will always be the first thing that I think of when I think of Jim Thome. In so many ways, he is a legend of our game."

Thome, as Rodriguez said, is a generally well liked player who has never been implicated in any sort of steroid scandal, but, of course, the taint reaches him because he hit all of his home runs in that era.

Fair or not, anyone who hits 600 home runs these days is not safe from speculation. When it comes to PEDs in baseball, one is almost considered guilty until proven innocent. It may be a sorry state of affairs, but that is just the way it's going to be whether Thome is clean or not.

If someone put a gun to my head and asked me to choose steroids or not for Thome, I'm not sure what I would say. The eyeball test seemed to do Barry Bonds in. He looked like a completely different person in San Francisco than the one who broke into the league with Pittsburgh.

Well, if that's the case someone should take a look at Thome playing third base for the Cleveland Indians in 1992.

Again, he's never been fingered as a cheater, so his Hall of Fame entry should not even be debated. Unless, of course, something comes out on him. Honestly, though, he just doesn't seem like the type. Then again, neither did Andy Pettitte.

Growing up as a baseball fan in the 1980s, it was a big deal to see Mike Schmidt and Reggie Jackson get their 500th home runs. Now here is Thome topping even that and nobody seems to care.

Thanks a lot, steroids.

 

The Sports Network

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