Last night Jim Thome of the Chicago White Sox knocked his 513th out of the park. 513, while not a round number, is significant in baseball as he simultaneously passed 2 of the greats in the game. Ernie Banks and Eddie Matthews.
In the steroid era in baseball, many of the great sluggers of this generation have had their legacies completely discredited due to steroid use and/or allegations. Some of these names are Sosa, McGwire, Bonds, Palmeiro and I think the jury is still out on A-Rod. There is a trifecta of stars whose numbers in my opinion are not nearly as appreciated as they should be because there really are no steroid rumors hanging over their heads. Jim Thome is one of these people, with the others being Ken Griffey Jr and Frank Thomas. There is an argument that can be made, that Jim Thome is the best pure power hitter, who is also clean, of this generation. Griffey, while having more HRs, was really a 5 tool, all around player and I put that in a different category.
Since he has come to Chicago, it has been apparent to me that Thome is a wonderful person, always willing to do some good in the world and I am sure many of his fans that he left behind in Cleveland and Philadelphia would agree with that assessment. It is a shame that his legacy is going to be tainted by the sheer fact he played in the steroid era, alongside some of these cheaters. Hopefully 20 years down the road, when we look back at the great players of the 1990s and 2000s, Jim Thome's name is at or near the top of that list, as I think in order to fully escape the steroid era, we not only have to punish those who used them, but to prop up the accomplishments of those who didn't.