One was drafted in 1989. The other in 1991. Neither were selected in the first ten rounds of the draft. Despite all of the factors preventing them from being MLB stars, they both accomplished huge feats last night. Jim Thome socked his 599th and 600th homerun in Detroit last night, while Jason Isringhausen notched his 300th career save in San Diego. Both have been around the league, playing in both the NL and AL. Thome has played for five teams compared to Isringhausen's four, except he is currently in his second stint with the Mets.
Let's start with Thome. In an age marked by steroids and doping, this feat should not be overlooked. Thome is clean, I can assure you that. More importantly, he is one of the "good guys" in baseball. Everybody loves him. He's a model citizen, doesn't complain, suits up every night, and hits for a lot of power. He's putting his 10 nieces and nephews through college, while also being voted as one of the most friendly players in baseball by his peers. He doesn't speak much through the media and it seems as if everybody in the game has the utmost respect for him.
On the baseball side of his career, Thome is a definite Hall of Famer in my mind. If you happen to follow ESPN's Skip Bayless on Twitter, he still says Thome is NOT a Hall of Famer. I don't even think there's a chance he doesn't make the Hall. He has a career .960 OPS, which is 17th all-time. He's produced for a long time, as he has 11 homeruns in 64 games in his 21st season this year. His career year was in 2002, which was his final season with the Indians. He hit .304/.445/.677 with 52 homeruns and 118 RBI.
Last night, Thome hit two homers to left field, showcasing his strength to the opposite field. He received a standing ovation from the Detroit crowd, as he was congratulated by teammates and family at home plate.
On the other hand we have Jason Isringhausen. He grew up in the New York Mets farm system, forming a part of "Generation-K" for the Mets in 1995. Although that group didn't live up to the hype, Isringhausen found success as a closer. He struggled as a starter and was traded to the A's, where he was used as a relief pitcher and closer. He made a name for himself as a top-notch closer in Oakland, before signing with the Cardinals in 2002. In 2004 Izzy led the league with 47 saves and in 2005 he had an ERA of 2.14.
Izzy's career has been tarnished by injuries, but he enjoyed a lot of success in the past ten years. This past off-season he was signed to a minor-league contract with the Mets in February and was promoted to the team on April 10. He settled in as the setup man to Francisco Rodriguez, but when Frankie was traded to the Brewers, Isringhausen found himself as the closer, needing just 7 saves to 300. Isringhausen has completed a full circle now, as he also recorded his first career save when he was with the Mets.
Congratulations to both Jim Thome and Jason Isringhausen!