Is Jim Thome a Hall of Famer?

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Is Jim Thome a Hall of Famer?

From Comcast SportsNet Tuesday, August 16, 2011
DETROIT (AP) -- When Jim Thome came to the plate, needing one home run for 600, the opposing pitcher wasn't even aware how close he was to the milestone. Then Thome sent a towering fly ball over the fence in left field. The scoreboard flashed a congratulatory message, rival fans stood and applauded, and the Minnesota Twins came out of the dugout to greet their slugger. After reaching No. 600 in grand style Monday night -- with two home runs in back-to-back innings during a 9-6 win over Detroit -- Thome finally earned some appreciation following a pursuit that seemed to go unnoticed for much of the season. The 40-year-old became the eighth player to reach the mark, and only Babe Ruth did it in fewer at-bats. Next stop, Cooperstown? "I don't know. That's not for me to decide," Thome said. "That would be a dream. It's pretty special. I don't think it's really hit home. To be mentioned and have the Hall of Fame mentioned, that's just very, very special. That's just really cool." Fighting injuries during a frustrating season in Minnesota, Thome didn't receive nearly the amount of national publicity that his predecessors who reached 600 homers did. Even Derek Jeter's accomplishment of 3,000 hits earlier this season dwarfed the attention Thome received for an accomplishment far more rare. There were reasons for that, of course. Jeter is one of the game's icons, playing for its most famous team -- and perhaps on some level, fans became numb to sky-high power numbers after so many of Thome's contemporaries reached 600 before him. Thome is the fifth player since 2002 to enter that club, beginning with Barry Bonds nine years ago. Alex Rodriguez was the most recent to achieve the milestone, last August. Unlike Bonds and Rodriguez, Thome has largely eluded suspicion of using performance-enhancing drugs. His country-strong physique was never chiseled like some of the hulking sluggers who proliferated his generation. "You look at how long he's played in the game and when you're able to do something like that, it's preparation, taking care of yourself," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "If you watch him come to the ballpark very early every day and prepare himself to get his body motivated, which we all know as you get a little older, it's not that easy. But to watch him get himself motivated and get himself up to be able to do these things, hopefully a lot of our guys can learn a lot." This season has been a struggle for Thome. He's been bothered by injuries to his toe, oblique and quadriceps. His milestone homer was only his 11th of the year in his 185th at-bat, and he admitted on Monday night that he was wondering if it was ever going to happen. It did all right. Just as Jeter reached hit No. 3,000 in dramatic fashion during a five-hit game last month, Thome arrived at his milestone with flair. His two-run homer in the sixth gave him 599, then he harnessed the power again in that pure left-handed swing, lifting a 2-1 pitch from Daniel Schlereth in the seventh over the fence in left field. "I wasn't really aware of it. I knew he was close to 600, but I didn't know if that was going to be the one," Schlereth said. "I'm not exactly happy about it, but he's a great player, and I'm a huge fan of his. He did a great thing tonight, and ... I felt kind of awkward, I didn't know whether to clap or what." By the time Thome touched home, Detroit's fans were well aware of the accomplishment and showed their appreciation. The celebration at the plate included Thome's father, wife and children, but it didn't delay the game much. "Obviously when you're on the road, the game has to move on," Thome said. "To stop there and cherish that moment -- in the visiting park they give you a standing ovation -- is really cool. Throughout the years, there's been a little bit of heckling here, through the years, for the good. To watch them stand up and cheer is very, very special." It was perhaps fitting that Thome reached No. 600 in a matchup of AL Central rivals. He hit 334 home runs with Cleveland and 134 with the Chicago White Sox. Ruth reached No. 600 in 6,921 at-bats. Thome needed 8,167. Only seven hitters have hit more home runs than the burly Thome: Bonds, Hank Aaron, Ruth, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa. Thome, of course, still has time to add to his total -- and bolster his Hall of Fame case even more. Tigers manager Jim Leyland doesn't need convincing. "Certainly that's a Hall of Fame achievement," Leyland said. "Hall of Fame from the get-go. He's just a Hall of Fame guy, and a Hall of Fame player."

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Is trading for Paul George worth the risk?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Is trading for Paul George worth the risk?

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0:41 - Michael Holley, Kayce Smith and Tom Giles recap their thoughts on drafting Jayson Tatum and trade rumors involving the Celtics.

6:21 - Ian Thomsen joins BST to discuss if it would be worth trading for Paul George as a one-year rental and if there would be a chance he could still around long-term if traded to Boston.

11:13 - Evan Drellich joins BST to talk about Rick Porcello’s outing, the Red Sox offense coming to life, and Doug Fister being claimed by the Red Sox. 

15:10 - Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely look back at the Celtics/Nets trade, what the assets have turned into, and if Danny Ainge has done a good job turning those assets into players. 

Haggerty: Bruins playing it pretty safe at the NHL Draft

Haggerty: Bruins playing it pretty safe at the NHL Draft

CHICAGO – As opening nights go at the NHL Draft, Friday night was a bit of a ho-hum affair for the Boston Bruins at the United Center home of the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Bruins went the safe route by drafting a smooth, defensive-minded defenseman with the 18th overall pick when they selected Finnish product Urho Vaakenainen, and in doing so left more dynamic forwards like Kristian Vesalainen and Kailer Yamamoto still on the draft board for other teams to claim as their own. It was a bit of a curious choice given how many defensemen the Bruins already have in the prospect pipeline, but the lack of strength in the draft class seemed to lead teams to carve their own paths looking for players.

MORE: Bruins select defenseman Urho Vaakanainen with No. 18 pick

The 6-foot-1, 188-pounder clearly has miles to go offensively despite his smooth skating and solid passing skills, but there’s also a consideration that the teenager has been playing in the men’s league in Finland for the last couple of seasons. It makes things a little more difficult to project for the Finn D-man, but the Bruins believe there is some upside to his offensive game given the skills, the hockey IQ and the considerable confidence that the player has in his own game.

“His gap control and skating ability are really good. He’s obviously played in the Finnish Elite League at a very young age for one and a half years now and he’s played on the big stage at the world juniors. We feel like there’s a lot of upside for a 200-foot player that gets back on pucks, and then can transition them back out. Being able to cover ice is an important part of the game, and it continues to evolve in that direction,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney, who indicated Vaakenainen will play in North America in 2018-19 after fulfilling his contractual obligations in Finland. “We tracked what he did on offense at the junior league level prior to him jumping to the elite league, and it lines up pretty well with other elite players that made the jump to that level.

“It’s a valid question and whether he gets put into those [offensive] situations this year is what we’re excited about with his [Finnish] team moving forward.”

While Vaakenainen sounded surprised the Bruins selected him after only a single meeting at the NHL scouting combine, Sweeney said that Boston’s head scout in Finland has enough history with the family to vouch for the kid’s makeup.

So while it’s far from a sexy pick and the Bruins could have tried to hit a home run with an 18th overall selection in a mediocre draft, the B’s will also get some time before anybody is ready to label the Finnish blueliner a boom or a bust.

The rest of the draft night didn’t add up to much for the B’s, however. They made the selection of Vaakenainen after strongly considering dropping down in the first round, and in doing so lost one of the better trade chips in the form of their 2017 first round pick. There were discussions with Minnesota about Marco Scandella and a few trade feelers to other clubs that might listen on a D-man, but the Bruins now have to hit the reset button on trade discussions for left-shot defensemen or top-6 left wings.

Perhaps Scandella’s $4 million per season salary was an issue for the Bruins, or maybe the Bruins didn’t want to give up their first round pick for a 27-year-old D-man coming off a so-so season with the Wild. Either way, there wasn’t enough momentum for the Bruins to get a trade done with a bevy of defensemen rumored to be available if the offer is good enough.

“I was on the record saying that we’d be offering our first round pick for target-specific players, and we did do that,” said Sweeney. “I don’t blame teams for not necessarily wanting to go through with it, so we went ahead with a player we wanted with our own pick. We continue to build what we think is a good group of guys moving forward.

“There are a couple of areas we’d like to address and get better. We’re trying to help our team currently. Certainly Brandon [Carlo] jumped into our lineup and we hope Charlie [McAvoy] will carry over what he did, and we have other players that will push. We have six returning defensemen we feel good about and we’ll certainly push from underneath, but it’s an area we’ll continue to address. We have some forwards that we also hope will come online, but we’ll never stop exploring and trying to improve our club.”

So let’s sum it all up after a week of additions and subtractions from the Original Six organization: The Bruins added a decidedly vanilla defenseman in the first round of the NHL Draft that might be a simple stay-at-home guy, and they weren’t able to muster any kind of deals for a D-man or winger to enhance the NHL roster. On the other hand, they didn’t give up much over the week as well and they didn’t do much at all to harm a solid roster that looked like they were finally on the right track pushing into the playoffs last season.

The Bruins could be in store for an action-packed Day Two of the draft on Saturday full of promising prospects and bountiful trades, but it sure feels like the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago isn’t going to be a very memorable one for the Black and Gold.