Nobody cares more about stats and numbers than baseball. Some of the most iconic numbers in all of sports have to do with baseball. 56, 3,000, 61 (now 73) .400, 755 (now 762) just to name a few. That used to be the case, once upon a time.
When a player nears one of these milestones, the media frenzy kicks into high gear. At least it usually does. This season we saw some hoopla for Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit. The Yankee legend cemented his legacy by becoming the first Yankee to achieve the feat.
Jim Thome is on the verge of another major career milestone, yet many don't know and fewer seem to care. Thome is, by all accounts, one of the true "good guys" in the game and is at 598 career home runs. With two more, he joins an elite group of seven other players. So why doesn't anybody care?
Because Major League Baseball doesn't want you to put any stock into career home run numbers. And it's shameful.
It wasn't all that long ago when baseball tried to rebuild it's shattered image after the 1994 strike with the slogan, "Chicks dig the long ball." Balls flying over the fence brought fans back. Now players are punished because they hit too many of them. It's sad and ridiculous.
Major League Baseball has devalued the home run so much 600 career home runs isn't even supposed to be seen as an accomplishment now. They're not going to let you in the Hall of Fame because of it, I'll tell you that. Go ask Sammy Sosa if that's true.
The 600-home-run club consists of the old school legends Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron, as well as the recent additions of Barry Bonds, Sosa, Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez.
Now Thome is about to enter the club. People don't want to lump him in with ARod, Bonds and Sosa because he did it "clean," allegedly. Griffey and Thome were never "connected" with PEDs, but what does that really mean? No one knew about it? They weren't as successful as the others? They never did anything to enhance performance? Nobody knows those answers except them.
Eric Chavez, a 13-year MLB vet, hit the nail on the head with this quote in USA Today: "I just think people have a sour taste about it. Once you go on that roller-coaster ride, it takes away (from) what he's about to accomplish. It's like, 'Oh, I've been on that roller-coaster ride before. We've seen how it turned out.'"
The roller-coaster ride he speaks of is the one Sosa and Bonds took people on. We celebrated their accomplishments at the time but now don't want their "tainted" numbers discussed or acknowledged. We've been taught by MLB not to make a big deal out of significant home run totals. They don't want me to notice Sosa's 609 home runs, so why should I care about Thome's?
People can clamor about steroid use all they want but Sosa and Bonds were never taken off the field, never failed a drug test, never were suspended. And they hit all of those home runs.
I don't like having to separate players due to allegations or what may or may not have happened. I go by what happened on the field. According to that theory, the seven best home run hitters in Major League history are listed above. Each have over 600 home runs, which puts them in the Hall of Fame. Thome would join them one day.
Major League Baseball has ruined what used to be important milestones and events for players, teams and fans. Once again, MLB has only hurt itself.