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Jim Thome's 500th Was a Historic Shot
ALSO: RED SOX RELIEVER PANS 2023 RULE CHANGES, RIPS ROB MANFRED
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Did you know…
Mets closer Edwin Díaz has a shot at the franchise record of 128 strikeouts by a reliever, achieved by Armando Benítez in 1999 . . .
Rawlings, the company whose name has been affixed to the Gold Glove Awards since their creation in 1957, will add an award to recognize utilitymen who play multiple positions such as Mets jack-of-all-trades Luis Guillorme, the do-everything infielder who has long been one of the best defenders in the organization . . .
Condolences to the family of former big-league reliever Anthony Varvaro, 37, who was killed in a traffic accident in New Jersey on his way to a Sept. 11 memorial service. The Staten Island native pitched for the Mariners, Braves and Red Sox from 2010-15 but became a Port Authority police officer after retiring from the game . . .
Thanks to Mark Bowman of MLB.com for the following Braves info:
85: Austin Riley leads the National League with 74 extra-base hits and is on pace to record 83 extra-base hits this season. If he can slightly increase that pace over the season’s final weeks, he could join Eddie Mathews (1953), Hank Aaron ('59) and Chipper Jones ('99) as the only modern era Braves to record at least 85 extra-base hits in a season.
40/40: That is a feat Ronald Acuña Jr. could again chase once he further distances himself from ACL surgery. This year, with 36 homers and 36 doubles, Riley has a chance to join the 1999 NL MVP version of Chipper Jones to become the only players in Braves history to record 40 homers and 40 doubles in a season.
200: With four starts remaining, Spencer Strider needs eight strikeouts to become the first Braves rookie of the modern era (since 1900) to record 200 strikeouts in a season. The only rookies to reach this mark in franchise history were Kid Nichols (222 in 1890) and Bill Stemmyer (239 in 1886).
20: Michael Harris II is hitting .310 with 18 homers. If he can maintain a .300 average and hit two more home runs, he will join Eddie Mathews (1953) and Bob Horner ('79) as the only Braves 21 or younger to hit .300 with 20-plus homers. Harris would join Albert Pujols, Hal Trosky, Mike Trout and Ted Williams as the only players in MLB history to do that as a rookie aged 21 or younger.
20/20: Travis d’Arnaud and William Contreras each have hit 17 home runs, making them one of five catching duos in ever to hit at least 17 homers apiece in a season. The only backstop tandems with at least 19 homers each in a season were Brian McCann/Gary Sanchez (2016 Yankees) and Johnny Blanchard/Elston Howard (1961 Yankees).
20: Kyle Wright will likely get four more starts in his bid to become the Braves’ first 20-game winner since Russ Ortiz in 2003. Wright recorded his MLB-best 18th win in San Francisco, to join Greg Maddux ('00), Tom Glavine ('00 and '02), Kevin Millwood ('02) and Ortiz as the only Braves pitchers to reach 18 wins since 2000.
100: The Braves need to win 12 of their final 19 games to record their first 100-win season since doing so in back-to-back years in 2002 and '03.
Jim Thome's 500th Career Home Run Was Like No Other
By Matt Graves
On the day when the Chicago White Sox handed out Jim Thome bobbleheads as a promotion, the five-time All-Star was in a hitting slump. However, that cold streak ended on September 16, 2007.
When Thome came to bat in the bottom of the ninth with an 0-for-4 collar that day, it all changed as he delivered his 28th home run of the season against Dustin Moseley of the Angels.
Thome hit his 500th home in his 2,000th career game, becoming the 23rd player to achieve the plateau. Once trailing 7-1, the White Sox rebounded to win, 9-7, with Thome’s homer the winner.
It was the first time a player hit a walk-off homer for No. 500.
Thome also became the third player in 2007 to reach the milestone, following Frank Thomas and Alex Rodriguez.
Thome reached the mark in 6,809 at-bats — fourth-fewest among members of the illustrious 500-home run club, only behind Mark McGwire (5,487), Babe Ruth (5,801), and Harmon Killebrew (6,671).
Of his 612 career long balls, 13 of them were walk-offs. That put him in a league of his own as eight of Thome’s game-ending home runs came in extra innings — tied with Frank Robinson and Albert Pujols for the most in baseball history.
Thome passed other Hall of Famers, including Robinson, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Jimmie Foxx, and Stan Musial, the five players who hit a dozen each.
Thome had 1,583 runs scored, 612 home runs, and 1,699 RBI when he retired. Only seven other players in baseball history (Ruth, Mantle, Thomas, Foxx, Ted Williams, Manny Ramirez) each had at least hit 500 home runs with a .400 on-base percentage and a .550 slugging average.
In 2018, Thome was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In a family affair, his daughter Lila sang the National Anthem.
Matt Graves is an editor and writer for Last Word on Sports Baseball.
Matt Strahm Ridicules New Rules, Says Cheating Remains Rampant
By Dan Schlossberg
Not all players like the long list of rules changes ushered in by vote of a special committee dominated by Rob Manfred appointees.
Red Sox reliever Matt Strahm, a seven-year vet pitching for his third different team, has been especially outspoken.
“We still got pitchers cheating left and right in this league and Manfred doesn’t give a s--- to turn that rock over," Strahm said.
" ... It's his reputation on the line of how he wants to be remembered in the game and how he ran this game and so far, in my opinion, it hasn’t been going good, and we’ll see how these rule changes affect it. I think it’s makeup over a black eye. It’s not changing anything."
Strahm, 30, is a 6-2, 190-pound southpaw with a 16-27 mark, 3.72 ERA, and three saves entering play Thursday. He’s in his first season with the Red Sox, who have used him exclusively in relief. Strahm previously pitched for the Kansas City Royals and San Diego Padres in a career that started in 2016.
But stats don’t make the man as much as statements do.
“I don’t know what they’re trying to do with this game," Strahm insisted. “It just seems petty.
"... My take from the whole thing is it’s a joke. From the way it’s going, they’re doing a pretty good job of killing the sport."
Among other things, the new rules enlarge the sizes of the three bases (not home plate), limit the number of pickoff throws pitchers can make, eliminate radical defensive shifts, and impose a pitch clock that was successful in the minors as a device to speed up the pace of the game.
Designed to improve the sagging overall offense as well as cut game-time, the rules don’t address such game-delaying tactics as musical introductions for batters and relief pitchers, added between-innings commercial time, incessant replay delays, or the godawful “Manfred Man” that starts every extra inning on second base.
Like Bud Selig before him, Manfred has been an advocate of extreme change while insisting he wants to preserve the game’s rich and cherished history.
In recent years, the list of innovations have included multiple wild-cards, expanded playoffs, seven-inning games during double-headers (since lifted), and another unwelcome surprise coming next year: schedules that show every team playing all 29 opponents, though not necessarily in a “balanced” format.
The Braves, for example, will host the Yankees for three games at Truist Park but won’t come to the Bronx at all unless the teams meet in the 2023 World Series.
There are now so many games in the postseason tournament that the Fall Classic will drag into November — when the World Baseball Classic should be played. Instead, the WBC will compete for players and dollars with spring training, when teams prefer to get ready for the season to come. They won’t get that chance next spring.
Too bad there aren’t more Matt Strahms out there. But precious few want to get on the game’s black list.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ covers baseball for forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, and Memories & Dreams, among others. E.mail him at email@example.com.
“I kept thinking ‘When are they going to learn not to wind up when he was on third base? ’ ”
— Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Kaat on Rod Carew stealing home seven times in 1969
Jim Kaat has retired as a broadcaster without ever announcing a game in which Mike Trout played . . .
Kaat never yielded a stolen base to Lou Brock, the National League’s single-season and lifetime leader, because the fleet Cardinals outfielder never tried to steal against the seasoned left-hander . . .
In Kaat’s view, the best team of the last 30-40 years was the 1998 Yankees . . .
Kaat credits former Yankees pitcher Eddie Lopat, who became his pitching coach, for teaching him a slide-step that allowed him to keep runners close . . .
Analytics rather than age caused Kaat to walk away from the game, which he says “took a detour into science fiction.” He’ll explain why in the paperback version of his 2022 book, due next spring from Triumph Books.
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HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [firstname.lastname@example.org] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [email@example.com] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [firstname.lastname@example.org] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.