Thome Arigato. Thank you, Mr. Thome, for the thrill of watching you hit home runs #599 and #600 last night. What a thrill it was to watch you put such a cap on your Hall of Fame career. Never mind all that Derek Jeter talk that was unfortunately dragged up by Twins' announcer, Burt Blyleven. That all was a drag on your moment. But this is your moment. This writer watched both milestones this season and was just as happy for both. They both were the capstones for two of the classiest careers in this era of baseball. This writer is fortunate to have seen your careers from beginning to end and your two homers put a gigantic smile on this face.
It was an unfortunate moment for Burt Blyleven to say something really stupid. First, Blyleven denigrated Jeter's achievement by stating that the media acted like Jeter was the first to ever reach 3,000 hits. He was the first...Yankee. And that was pretty special. Mr. Jeter will be sitting next to you in the Hall of Fame soon, Mr. Blyleven. Then Blyleven rhapsodized that nobody would be watching Thome's achievement (comparing it to Jeter's). This was while both ESPN and the MLB Network had done live feeds to the game to see if Thome would reach the milestone. After so many people had campaigned for Blyleven's inclusion in the Hall of Fame, it was a rather self-serving moment for the announcer.
And unfortunately, his comments set off a firestorm that took away from Jim Thome's moment. Ken Rosenthal of the great Foxsports.com site, picked up the theme from Blyleven and wrote today that Thome's achievement should not be overlooked. It was not. Again, ESPN was there. MLB Network was there. Buster Olney had two of his columns deal extensively with Thome's place in baseball in the past week. Yahoo Sports wrote a piece on Thome. This was a big deal and everyone knew it.
Which leads to a point about local announcers. MLB Network is showing four games a week now on its network. Those games always feature the home announcers and not MLB's announcers. That network also does dozens of live cut-ins every night to games all over the country. This new dynamic must force local announcers to clean up their acts a bit. Excessive homerism might work for the local markets, but on a national scale, they cut into the dignity of a national experience. Some broadcast teams get this. Michael Kay's "Seeya!" is just as emphatic for an opponent's home run as it is for a Yankee homer. But others simply carry on as if their own fans are the only ones that are watching. And yes, Burt Blyleven (and Ken Harrelson), this writer is looking at you. Blyleven should have known MLB Network would be peeking in and should have couched his comments accordingly.
And why choose this glorious moment to knock Derek Jeter? Both accomplishments were the result of storied and abundant careers. They are different. In the end, both players will end their careers with similar value. Jim Thome currently has compiled 71.1 rWAR while Jeter has compiled 70.5. Thome has 4,555 total bases and Jeter has 4366. Both should be celebrated as there isn't that great a difference between what the two have brought to baseball over the years.
Let Jim Thome's moment stand on its own. It's a testament to a very strong man who could hit a baseball a mile and did so often in his long, long career. This is Thome's 21st season. And the man is truly loved all around the country. Everyone loved that Thome reached this milestone. Everyone cheered for him. That should be enough for all of us. Don't muck it up. Don't compare it to anything else. Just enjoy it for what it is.
Thome Arigato. Thank you, Jim Thome. Good for you!