This week, Jim Thome, one of the most revered figures active in baseball today, hit his 600th home run. In my youth, there were 3 guys who had hit 600 home runs (Ruth, Mays, Aaron). Thome is now the 8th. Of the other four names on the list, only Ken Griffey, Jr. made it without the cloud of PED’s (performance enhancing drugs). You might not have heard about Thome’s spectacular feat though.
Last month, Derek Jeter collected his 3,000th career hit. That is an incredible milestone, even by today’s standards (I think Mr. Jeter is about the 28th guy to get 3,000 hits). You probably heard about it … HBO even has an hour long special covering his quest for 3,000.
So, how does the news media justify massive coverage for something that has happened 27 other times, but barely flutters an eyelash at something that has happened 8 times (and more realistically, only 5 honest times).
I was listening in on ESPN who was interviewing their own baseball experts on this. One started by clearly noting “This is not east coast bias … this is not special coverage because Derek Jeter was a Yankee or in Boston.” He then explains that it is a numbers thing … that more fans are familiar with Jeter than Thome.
Of course, could this possibly be because …I don’t know …. Derek Jeter plays in … you know …. NEW YORK! It was circular logic at its worst, and a frank admission that the worthiness of the story is irrelevant … it is purely “what the majority of fans in New York or Boston want to hear.
This is part of the whole problem between baseball and the media. Outside of New York and Boston, few fans care about those teams, but good luck getting equivalent coverage. As a result, baseball fans have flocked away from national coverage to more local coverage and blogs. The national media in turn is left with an audience that is squarely left on the East coast, and panders to them.
Measuring against the two, I think much of Dereke Jeter’s success has come from being on a team with other good (high purchase price) players. Jim Thome’s success has been more his own. He moved from Cleveland to Philadelphia to Chicago, and now Minnesota, and hit well everywhere, no matter who was batting in front or behind him. We can only speculated what Jeter would have done surrounded by lesser talent. I would easily pick Thome for the Hall-of-Fame ahead of Jeter, any day of the week. It’s not even close.
Of course, even though there has never been the slightest inkling of Jim Thome taking any PEDs, there are sports writers who have declared they are voting for no power hitters from the steroid era. This gives Thome more of an uphill battle in getting to the Hall-of-Fame. Before Thome gets there, there will be hitters who will hopefully pave the way. Griffey, Jr. will be up for election before Thome. So will Frank Thomas. Both of these guys have never been connected to any PEDs, and both will be on the ballot before Thome. Both are bonafide first ballot Hall-of-Famers. They will serve as the test … if these guys get in, Thome will be swept in. Even if these guys have to wait a year or so, they might have done the job of grinding down resistance so that Thome canget through with little or no problem.
Until then, congratulations to a strapping corn-fed son of Illinois who has made baseball fans everywhere happy and proud. One of us did something good!