Thome’s Quest to 600 Doesn’t Have the Same Luster

From Phil Miller at The (Minneapolis) Star-Tribune on August 5, with quotes from SABR member David Vincent:

On the day Babe Ruth became the first member of baseball’s 600-home run club, he was also the only member of the 500-, 400-, and even 300-home run clubs, and it seemed entirely possible that he would remain forever alone atop those superhuman numbers.

On the day Jim Thome reaches the same plateau, he will become the fifth major leaguer in less than a decade to scale those Ruthian heights.

See, the salaries aren’t the only things that became inflated.

“It was an inconceivable number in Ruth’s day, but a lot of the mythology about 600 has sort of been stripped away,” said David Vincent, a Society for American Baseball Research historian who is considered the sport’s foremost expert on home runs. “The fallout [of baseball’s 1990s and 2000s power explosion] has fallen on other people a little unfairly, and Jim Thome is a good example.”

That’s because so many home run records of the past 15 years have been tainted by performance-enhancing drugs, either by admission or suspicion, and the public’s fascination with round numbers has been greatly reduced. “Media coverage is the big change — it’s no longer reported necessarily as a positive when someone hits a lot of home runs,” Vincent said. “Jim Thome has never been anywhere near those stories, but it certainly seems people aren’t paying as much attention to what he’s accomplishing as they might have years ago.”

Read the full article here:

Originally published: August 5, 2011. Last Updated: August 5, 2011.