No steroid talk around Thome’s historic-homer march
There’s something missing from Jim Thome’s run at history.
He’s got the homers -- 499 to be exact.
He’s got the time — there are 16 games left this season.
He’s got the support of teammates, coaches and family. Thome’s family members will be at all three home games this weekend at U.S. Cellular Field then hit the road if need be to watch him hit 500.
But where’s the suspicion? Where are the steroid, human growth hormone or performance-enhancing clouds that have surrounded nearly every record run in recent memory?
The refreshing answer is that there’s none of that around the White Sox designated hitter as he attempts to become the 23rd member of baseball’s 500-homer club.
“You talk about two guys who are going into the 500 home run club this year, Frank Thomas and Jim Thome, if you took a poll of baseball people, 100 percent of the people would say they wouldn’t do (steroids),” Sox hitting coach Greg Walker said.
No one, not even Thome, can reach a milestone without some sort of suspicion, simply because baseball is in what has been called The Steroid Era where it seems like everyone is guilty until proved innocent.
Yet his teammates, coaches and family believe Thome’s run at history is clean as a whistle.
“He’s not someone that is pointed at as far as cheating,” teammate Toby Hall said. “He’s just that natural country boy that gets it done. What’s encouraging is he’s going out there and hitting homers off people who have been taking steroids, and that’s got to be the hardest thing.
“Accomplishing what he has against guys who have cheated, it just makes him more of a special player, I think.”
Thome has been reluctant to talk about steroids in detail because he doesn’t think they affect him and he doesn’t want to judge others who are under suspicion.
Of course, it would be impossible for him to completely avoid the issue.
“The only thing he ever says about it is, ‘Dad, I wish everybody played on the same level playing field,’ ” Thome’s father, Chuck, told the Peoria Star Journal, the Thomes’ hometown newspaper. “He has to tell me to settle down, because I get mad. Why should he get stung for something these other guys are doing?”
Walker goes so far as to argue the opposite: Because a clean Thome is attempting to reach 500 homers during the Steroid Era, his long balls should be deemed that much more impressive than those who came before him.
“Before the steroid era, those guys had it easier,” said Walker, who played in the majors from 1982-90. “It’s admitted that these guys have faced pitchers in their career who have taken steroids, and (Thome and Thomas) didn’t. So their 500 homers are tougher than the 500 before, so why should they be judged by anything else?”
Thome’s run at 500 will continue today in a three-game series against the Angels and former teammate Bartolo Colon, against whom Thome has never batted.
It may not get the national coverage that Alex Rodriguez’s chase at 500 did, but it also won’t be darkened by the same suspicions as Barry Bonds’ run at Hank Aaron’s all-time homer record.
“He’s a blue-collar guy that goes out there and has been getting it done his whole career,” Hall said of Thome. “What’s amazing is watching what he’s doing, what he’s done his whole career, he just goes out there and competes and exemplifies the true definition of a major league player and has been getting it done for his whole career.”
Nathaniel Whalen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (708) 633-5956. Read his blog at http://blogs.dailysouthtown.com/whalen.