August 11, 2011
I’m a student of baseball history and appreciate what a great player Thome has been over the course of his career. He’s only the eighth player to hit 600 homers, and only the fifth to do it with no known use of performance-enhancing substances (unless you count the beer and hot dogs consumed by Babe Ruth).
But the gushing over his feat in the local media left me cold, or at least only lukewarm. He seems like a great guy and I know the players, fans and media love him. But he’s been a Twin for less than two seasons, and only 36 of his 600 home runs have come in a Twins uniform — meaning he hit about 95 percent of them for someone else.
In the last 20 or 30 years, as it’s become less common for players to spend their careers with one team, we’ve been treated to the spectacle of veteran players bouncing from city to city at the tail end of their playing days. I just can’t get too attached to these sports mercenaries.
I felt the same way when Dave Winfield and Paul Molitor both collected their milestone 3,000th hits while playing for the Twins in the ’90s. Sure, they were both St. Paul natives, and that made it a good story. I get that. But Winfield’s glory days were in San Diego and New York, and Molitor’s were in Milwaukee and Toronto. Molitor actually had a couple of very good years with the Twins (but couldn’t make winners out of bad teams), but Winfield was just another veteran playing out the string, drawing a paycheck and basking in the life of a pro athlete one last time before the inevitable end.
As a baseball fan, I wish Thome a happy life and a first-ballot induction into the Hall of Fame. As a Twins fan, I’ll remember him as a guy who hit a few memorable long balls, helped make Target Field’s first season a lot of fun, and possessed a 40-year-old body that kept him out of the lineup a lot.
As a baseball fan, he’s a worthy rival to Harmon Killebrew. As a Twins fan — well, when’s the last time you reminisced about the Don Baylor era?