The DEFEND Cleveland Show

Jim Thome*

With all the renewed debate of whether or not Jim Thome is a Hall of Fame worthy player as he sits but four home runs shy of 600, Defend Cleveland Show columnist Greg Miller for his blog ‘Nurse the Hate’ had this to say yesterday.

Kind of hard to even get past the two photos at the top is it not?

As many of you know from the show, I did not grow up in Cleveland. Nope, my parents made that happen for me in Dayton, Ohio. hooray. Which meant that since Northern Ohio sports are wholly neglected in the South (damn Mason-Dixon Line), when it comes to baseball I didn’t get to see much of the Cleveland Indians. Saw a lot of Cincinnati Reds though. Not a fan.

In 1997 I moved to Columbus which is when and where my true love for Cleveland was first allowed to form. This was mostly made possible because Columbus is so closely akin to Cleveland due in part to how much of Buckeye nation hails from this metro area in some form or another.

-Aside from the sports coverage and news in Columbus leaning all the way Cleveland-centric, I discovered this first hand every time I tried to head north on I-71 in the evening rush hour going into a holiday weekend. All lanes of traffic are stopped and gnarled so badly with folks trying to get home to Cleveland that on more than one occasion in the four years I spent there I saw people literally out of their gridlocked-parked cars and picnicking together on the berm-

Columbus is essentially ‘Little Cleveland’. Instead of the Browns they have the Buckeyes. Instead of the Indians they have the Clippers. Instead of the Cavs who play the 2nd most popular sport in the world, they have an NHL team. And instead of being a true city diverse with culture and history, they have a campus. Thank goodness they have that campus and a strong tie to Cleveland though, otherwise it wouldn’t look much different than being in the middle of Indiana. They do however, and thanks to the Clevo connect when I moved there I finally got a chance to see every Browns game, every Cavs game and every Indians game.

Thank you Columbus. “O-H…”

The 1997 Indians who I started instantly watching daily upon settling in C-bus are of course where the 2nd of the two photos Mr. Miller posted of Jim Thome is from. A time when Country Jim just looked like a 14 year younger version of the Thome today. It’s also the only mental image I’ve ever had of Thome. Big, milk fed and farmer strong. In fact I always just thought he got that way by being a human combine his family used to bring in the harvest every season. And that the crops must have been bountiful.

Then I saw the 1994 version of Thome.

That 1994 rookie card means it’s likely a picture from 1993 or early from spring training in 1994, which puts Thome at 23-24 years old when it was taken. If he were 18 in that picture (as he looks) there might be some leeway in this, but he wasn’t.

Look at it closely and don’t just look at his arms and chest. That hat size has to have grown at least two sizes. And there’s no such thing as cranium squats. Though for a while in my mid 20’s I thought reading Thomas Pynchon and David Foster Wallace was just that given how much it made my head hurt at times. Even still, my hat size stayed the same and I’m one of the few I know who actually finished ‘Infinite Jest’. For better or worse.

Bottom line, you don’t even need all the stats Greg’s blog gives you as further proof, there’s simply no way James Howard “Jim” Thome naturally put on that kind of mass in his mid 20’s in 2-3 years. No way.

Yesterday afternoon this particular disillusionment for me began when Greg gave me a call and asked what I thought of the “Jim to the Hall of Fame” question that had been all over the medias tongues and keyboards of late. I quickly responded he’s a first ballot guy. No brainer.

“Really? You’d have to put Palmero in then too”, he said.

I said his numbers deserve it.

“What about steroids?”

Yeah, but that doesn’t apply to Thome, never once has he tested positive or been connected to…

“I’m writing something about it now, I’ll send it to you when it’s finished.”

Damn. Why couldn’t he have just been calling to tell me how great he thinks his Giants are like he normally does.

This obvious truth and sadness in all this gets us to the lasting legacy of the steroid era, and something I have already preached many times: Everyone who played during the ‘Steroid Era’ is guilty of taking performance enhancing drugs.

Whether guilty by association alone, or, at best, guilty until proven innocent. Even if you thought, “no, not him too!?”, as a fan you need to protect yourself in remembering this period of baseball which existed for up to 30 years as knowingly guilty of itself throughout. And then remember that it hides the truth behind the gigantic pile of money we were feeding it just to see what were clearly, even at the time, inhuman feats. In turn, we must now liberally apply this verdict of guilt to everyone who played then no matter what me might think otherwise; just to save yourself.

They are all guilty.

Very unfortunately this alone might be what helps you to deal with all that was, and all that should have never been. If only because there’s not much worse than staring at the truth that breaks your heart because of what you had believed to be the truth, as well as because of what you had entrusted within it. If you’re lucky; you might just get to a point where you just don’t care anymore. Even though giving up sucks too, it has to better than dealing with a heartbreak.


-Mike James




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Posted by on Jul 20 2011. Filed under Featured, Indians. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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