No. 119 Jim Thome (Number 13 First Base)

Jim Thome reminds me of Harmon Killebrew. Thome did hit his 600th homerun while with the Twins. Both were muscular guys who didn’t hit for great average but had great power. Both walked a lot, weren’t great base runners and weren’t the best in the field. I think Thome was a better fielder in the field. Thome’s statistics look better as he played in a high offense era, with many players in that era getting help from steroids.

I looked at a few articles about Thome on steroids and there is much debate. However, I feel I had to penalize him. Still being the 13th greatest 1st baseman of all time isn’t too bad.

I saw Jim Thome play in the minor leagues. It was a great time to be a baseball fan in Colorado Springs in the early 90s as Cleveland was building with a lot of young players and a lot of them came through the Springs. Thome came through and played 3rd base for the Sky Sox. I saw him a few games live, which is good as he didn’t play that long at AAA. I just remember knowing he was a prospect. One thing I don’t remember knowing was that he was only 20 and 21 when he played for them. I should have been impressed he was just there.

Thome’s post season stats aren’t that great, but he did hit 17 home runs in 267 at bats. His batting average in the post season was .211 and his on base average and slugging percentage was well short from what he did in the regular season. Thome was lucky as he played on 10 teams that made the post season and played in 2 World Series. Unfortunately, his team never won the World Series. Thome had two series which he hit 4 home runs, which was quite a feat. It also came in consecutive series. The sad thing was his team, the Cleveland Indians, lost both.

In 1998 Cleveland lost in six games to the great Yankee team. I think the 1998 Yankees are the greatest team I ever seen play in my over 50 years of watching baseball. Cleveland jumped up 2 game to 1 but lost the next three games. Thome ended up with 4 homers and 8 RBIs.

His 1999 series in the Divisional Series against the Red Sox was even better. Thome had 4 homers and 10 RBIs. He also scored 7 runs and hit .353. This was in just 5 games as Cleveland lost the series 3 games to 2. Cleveland won the first two games, scored 7 runs in game 4 and 8 runs in game 5 yet lost the series. Boston just out scored them, and Cleveland ran into Pedro Martinez in game 5.

Game 1 was a low scoring game. The Indians were down 2-0 with 2 out and a man on first when Thome came up. He had hit a homer to tie the game and the Indians won in extra innings.

Game 2 the Indians came into the bottom of the third down 1-0. They scored 6 in the third with Thome walking and scoring. Thome toped it off with a grand slam homerun in the bottom of the fourth to give the Indians an 11-1 lead, which led to an easy victory.

Game 3 the Red Sox won easily 9-3. Thome did single and score the first run of the game in the fourth.

Game 4 the Red Sox scored at least 2 runs in the first five innings and led 18-6 after 5. Thome got on base three times with a single and two walks, but the Red Sox just kept scoring to win 23-7.

Game 5 It was all on the line in Cleveland. Boston kept scoring to jump to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. In the bottom of the first Thome hit a two-run homer to move Cleveland ahead 3-2. Travis Fryman hit a homer in the bottom of the second to put Cleveland up 5-2. Boston came back with 5 runs in the top of the third to go up 7-5. In the bottom of the third the first two Indians doubled to close the gap to one. Thome then hit a homerun to put the Indians up 8-7. What a game and we only play 3 innings. Boston tied the game in the top of the fourth. Then in the bottom of the fourth Boston bought in Pedro Martinez. Martinez had to leave game 1 after throwing 4 scoreless innings. Would he be effective in game 5? Unfortunately for the Indians and Thome he was spectacular. Martinez threw 6 innings, no hits and 3 walks. Thome struck out twice against him. Boston slowed down in their scoring but won 12-8. Poor Thome, but that was how great Pedro Martinez was.

2 thoughts on “No. 119 Jim Thome (Number 13 First Base)

  1. Gary I think that is why Terry and I do it that way. I wanted to talk about the players more. I never thought about it but having the nickname Goose probably got him a few votes. The same was Gossage. Goslin is 166 on my list. Bill James said Goslin was elected in part because he was interviewed in “The Glory of Their Times” which is a great book for anybody who hasn’t read it. He said he was the only one who was elected from the group who should have been elected. I should check that out when I get to him. Sam Crawford was interviewed in the book, but he was already elected.

  2. You know, Doug, when I am doing any analytical write ups on baseball, it’s 99% about trends, about leagues, about general issues. I almost never get into individual players and certainly not about where they rank. You and Terry are ever so much better at that – with individual players I am much more comfortable with reminiscences and brief comments thereof.

    I feel like I completely missed appreciating Jim Thome. For some reason I always think of him as a latter day Goose Goslin, at least as a hitter – I am not sure if that holds up at all.

    And…well, here’s an eccentric thought. If Thome was known as Goose Thome and Goslin was known as Jim Goslin, would Thome already be in the Hall of Fame, and would Goslin be completely forgotten? I dunno, but on such idiosyncratic, impossible to assess features are reputations sometimes built, lost or simply forgotten.

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