Talkin' baseball: A rising star and a veteran slugger share thoughts
LARGO, Fla. -- Two hours after Twins designated hitter Jim Thome missed homering off Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels by a foot on Thursday afternoon, Thome was back in uniform, only this time he wasn't at the ballpark. Instead, Thome was in anonymous Largo, reclining on a sofa in windowless industrial warehouse in which he and Rays third baseman Evan Longoria were among the past and present major leaguers who had gathered to shoot the latest Pepsi Max commercial.
In between takes Longoria and Thome, two of the game's more insightful and articulate stars, spoke with SI.com off-set about their perspectives -- one already a star at age 25; the other a 40-year-old veteran slugger just 11 home runs away from becoming the eighth player in history with 600 -- on such subjects as hitting, competing for traditionally small- or mid-market division-championship teams and playing alongside a certain shared teammate (hint: think dreadlocks).
Here's our give-and-take, edited only for length and clarity.
I don't think hitting has suffered because you've got a new wave of young players coming up that are tremendous players like Evan, like Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, [Ryan] Braun. To say that pitching had a great year, yes, but also did the everyday players.
It's an organization where fundamentals are No. 1. They want to win a game 2-1 doing things the right way rather than banging a team out 10-9. Our teams in Cleveland in the '90s, we scored a lot of runs. It's not that our teams weren't fundamentally sound, it was just a different style.
The great thing of baseball is that every day you never know. It's the unexpected. Today might be the day you go out and hit two home runs or three home runs. Or it might be that day you strike out four times. That's what makes you keep going back -- the unknown. But to fathom being at almost 600 home runs? How could you? You can't. I don't know, I feel very humbled to say the least with that.
You also have to understand that to have a good team that's homegrown, there's going to have to be years when you're not good. To draft that high in the draft and get the good players, you have to finish last in the league. That's really where, for nine, 10 years in a row, we were drafting first or second in baseball. They had some bad drafts, but they've had some really good drafts in the last five, six years. Those are starting to come on [in the majors].