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."

Celtics move into No. 1 spot in East as Cavs get crushed by Spurs

Celtics move into No. 1 spot in East as Cavs get crushed by Spurs

SAN ANTONIO -- The Cavaliers acknowledged having heavy legs, yet there is something far weightier on the minds of the defending NBA champions.

Cleveland is in the midst of one of its worst stretches this season and there is little time to fix it.

Kawhi Leonard scored 25 points and the San Antonio Spurs dismantled the ailing Cavs 103-74 on Monday night in a much-anticipated showdown that turned into a major letdown for Cleveland.

"The way we've been struggling, (the Spurs are) the last team that you want to play," said LeBron James, who was fine after taking an elbow to the neck. "A well-oiled machine like this, they exploit everything that you're not doing well at that point in time of the season and right now we're not playing good basketball."

James, who finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in 29 minutes, said he will play Thursday at Chicago.

Cleveland (47-26) dropped its second in a row, set a season low for points and fell a half-game behind Boston (48-26) for the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Cavaliers have nine games remaining, all against teams in the East, including a visit to Boston on April 5.

James said the standings "always matter," but playing more consistently is far more important and he refused to blame injuries or an arduous schedule for the team's troubles.

"It matters more that we're playing better basketball than where we're at," he said. "If that results in us having the No. 1 seed, the No. 2 seed, 3 or whatever the hell it is, we need to play better basketball. That's what it comes down to."

What Cleveland is seeking, the Spurs have already found.

San Antonio (57-16) is two games behind Golden State (59-14) for the league's best record entering a home game against the Warriors on Wednesday.

The Spurs have won five straight and 8 of 10 after sweeping the season series with the Cavaliers.

"It was a big game, but in the end, it's just one game, and one win," San Antonio guard Tony Parker said. "We're trying to be consistent. We're trying to play the same way every game. It was definitely surprising. Coming off a loss, I thought they would play with a lot more energy, but it can happen. It's a long season. It's just one game and I'm sure they're going to bounce back and use this game as motivation."

LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol added 14 points apiece for the Spurs.

San Antonio led by as many as 33 to the delight of the sold-out crowd, and the Spurs' bench outscored the Cavaliers' reserves 49-24.

"We did a good job coming out early and then keeping our foot on the pedal," Leonard said.

Cleveland, which was already without injured Iman Shumpert, received more bad news Monday morning when it was announced that Kyle Korver will miss at least two more games with a sore left foot.

"You lose Korver and Shumpert off your bench and things tend to change," Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. "With those two guys out, we tried some different things and it didn't work. It was not on the bench. It was on me."

Cleveland opted to play its stars rather than rest them, but the trio of James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love sat out the fourth quarter of the Cav's second lopsided loss in the past two weeks.

Lue said he has considered resting his stars over the team's final nine games, which James is not in favor of.

"Coach is going to have his logic of things, but we need to play," he said.

James exited with 25 seconds remaining in the third after taking an elbow to his neck from David Lee on a rebound. James continually rubbed the area before collapsing after he crossed midcourt. He remained on the floor for about a minute before walking unassisted to the bench.

James left for the locker room early in the fourth quarter during a timeout, but said afterward he is fine.

EXTRA SHOOTING

Irving returned to the court for about 15 minutes following the loss to work on his jump shot. The star guard had eight points and two assists in 26 minutes. He finished 4 for 13 from the field and missed his two 3-point attempts.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Cleveland completed its schedule against the West, finishing 16-14. In addition to losing to the Spurs by 29 points, the Cavaliers lost by 35 to Golden State and 30 to the Los Angeles Clippers . . . James needs 24 points to pass Shaquille O'Neal for seventh overall in career scoring. O'Neal has 28,596 career points . . . The Cavaliers averaged 116.3 points in their previous four games.

Spurs: San Antonio is holding opponents under 100 points per game for the 22nd straight season . . . Danny Green tied his season high with four blocked shots . . . Leonard has scored in double figures in 100 straight games.

UP NEXT

Cavaliers: At the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night.

Spurs: Host the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night.

Bertrand: Raptors a 'scary team' in the Eastern Conference

Bertrand: Raptors a 'scary team' in the Eastern Conference

Mike Felger and Marc Bertrand talk about the Celtics clinching the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference and other potential threats for the C's.