After spending all of this time writing this, and whining about how I wanted a resolution to this, it’s now confirmed that he’s returning to Cleveland.  I’m pulling the question mark out of the title, but leaving the story basically the same.  Focus on the positive points of a Thome return, since it’s now reality!


So you’ve probably heard by now that the Indians, in fact, won the waiver claim on Jim Thome and are currently trying to work out a deal for him to return to Cleveland.  I was hoping something would be settled by now, one way or the other, so I could write about my thoughts and see what others thought about it.  The Internet has been out at my house since the ugly storms last night, and I think the local Starbucks would frown upon me sleeping here, in the hopes there was a resolution with this deal.  (How dare the Indians – they should better adapt to my schedule!)  Therefore, I’ll look at Thome’s history in Cleveland, as well as the pluses and minuses to a Thome return.

Everyone remembers the way that Thome left Cleveland.  He was offered a big-money, multi-year contract with the Indians after the 2002 season (it’s rumored there were other perks involved – like the home run porch would be renamed the Thome Home Run Porch).  Instead, he went to the Phillies with their $85 million, 6 year deal with an option for a seventh year.  The Indians reportedly offered around $60 million over 5 years, with an incentive-laden option for a sixth year.  Many people (myself included, to a certain extent) felt a bit betrayed by Thome’s willingness to bail on the Indians, his team since he was drafted in the 13th round in 1989.  While  a part of me was disappointed, it wasn’t necessarily surprised.  He took the better deal, and he went to a team that looked like it would contend for a title sooner than the rebuilding Indians.  (To be fair, that was true…even if Thome wasn’t there for their 2008 World Series win).

Not only was Thome the Indians’ all time leader in home runs, he was also a major force in the Cleveland community.  He was involved in numerous charitable exploits during his time in Cleveland, and his close connection to the community is why I think it stung fans so badly when he left.  In many ways, despite my disappointment, I was kind of glad the Indians didn’t fork over so much money for Thome.  He had some back issues, and it seemed almost imprudent for a team supposedly low on cash to spend so much of its resources on one player.  (Especially one that may end up as a DH in the near future, instead of a first baseman).  I accepted his move to Philly, more than I had accepted Manny Ramirez’s departure to Boston two years prior.  Thome only spent three seasons in Philadelphia before he was traded to the Chicago White Sox.

The positives of a Thome return to Cleveland:

  • Let’s face it…the past week has been one of the worst all season for the Tribe.  There’s not a lot of optimism floating around Cleveland at this point, and half of the roster is on the DL.  I think a Thome trade would be a huge boost for the team and the fans; if nothing else, a distraction for the fact that the season has taken a turn for the worst.
  • The Indians could use some power in the lineup, particularly with their struggles lately.  Thome is the power bat the team has been lacking (especially with Travis Hafner on the DL).
  • Thome may retire soon; it would be nice to see him return to Cleveland before he hangs up his batting gloves and calls it a career.
  • He’s the Indians’ all-time home run leader, 334 of his 601 career home runs have come in a Tribe uniform.  It would be nice to see him return after passing the 600 milestone.

The negatives of a Thome return to Cleveland:

  • The season does look pretty bleak right now, and Thome would probably like to go somewhere with a legitimate chance of winning a ring.  It sounds like the Twins don’t plan to stand in his way, and this decision will ultimately be Thome’s.  (He has a no-trade clause)
  • Despite Thome’s power, he’s never been one to hit for average.  His on base percentage is respectable (.357) because he does draw quite a few walks.  He strikes out quite a bit, this year it’s 67 in 202 at-bats.  He struck out 185 times with the Indians in 2001, but he also had 526 at-bats that year.
  • Thome hasn’t always been welcomed back with open arms in his returns to the city over the years.  I imagine that will change dramatically if he comes back in an Indians uniform, however.
  • With all of the problems the Indians have had lately, one Jim Thome isn’t likely to solve them.

Despite everything, I’d like to see this go through.  While I don’t expect/hope for anything from the Indians at this point (I really haven’t all season – I expected them to be terrible this year) at the same time, I haven’t completely given up on them.  Stranger things have certainly happened; I never thought they had a snowball’s chance on July 7 versus the Toronto Blue Jays, when they were down 4-0 going into the 9th.  They’ve been coming back from nearly impossible situations all season, although this would be the greatest of them all.  Plus look at the Detroit Tigers in 2009 – they had a 3 game lead on the Minnesota Twins with just 4 games left to play.  Even though they spent 146 days in first that season, the Twins caught them and forced a one-game playoff (Although this article suggests that this year will be different for the Tigers).  I love baseball, and I love the Indians, so I’ll be watching no matter what happens!



  • SeattleStu says:

    huge thome fan in general, but let’s face it, he’s like every other ballplayer that sells out the team that made him something for more money….hard to criticize him, a lot of us would do the same thing…but thome is supposed to be different, “a class guy”, “a great ballplayer but an even better person”…but when the rubber met the road he was as greedy and unemotional about it as anyone….but let’s move past the fact he turned his back on the tribe….he’s done as a ballplayer…did u see his at bats against us?….whenever the GM is stressing the DH (THE DH) he just acquired is not an everyday guy you’ve got issues…this is going to end badly for thome….i’m hoping we dont see another ken griffey situation play out….guy way past his prime just cant let go, but returns to a hometown team he abandoned for money to pen a nostalgic final chapter (sound familiar?)…but the story ends in disgrace for a future HOF’er…..with him sleeping in the clubhouse during a game and putting up awful numbers….it wont be that bad for thome, but it wont be that great for us…..i cant argue with you stephanie though that we have little downside given the hospital ward disguised as our offense these days.

  • Jon says:

    FYI: Thome hits lefty.

  • Stephanie Liscio says:

    Thanks – I’ve never been good at telling my left from my right! I’ll have to fix it in the morning since it’s not letting me edit on my phone.

    And that’s a great comparison with Griffey…I always forget his run with Seattle at the end. Hopefully this turns out better! (Although to be fair, if he stays healthy I feel like I’ll be happy at this point!)

  • Welcome home! Go Tribe

  • John Z says:

    Regarding Thome leaving as a free egent I have strong feelings that I think are much different than most Clevelanders.

    First, the contract that Philadelphia was offering was a bad deal for the Indians to ever try to match, and even the Indians deal was not a smart long-term contract from the standpoint of putting a competitive team on the field, year-in and year-out. Given the constraints of income in Cleveland, the end of the deal portended paying way too big of a percentage of overall payroll to an older, and possibly injury-plagued DH. Thome not taking the contract offer of the Indians was a good thing for the Indians.

    Second, while I’ve never seen a solid source for this rumor, I have long heard that the players union put a lot of pressure on Thome to sign with Philly and not Cleveland, saying that if he gave the “hometown” discount, he’d depress every other salary. I always wondered how that is not the same thing as collusion, but since I am not an employment/labor law attorney, I guess I don’t have to know.

  • Mark says:

    I guess the player’s union never got that message to Jered Weaver.

    He left on his own – plain and simple. I think we definitely could have used Thome during the ’05 and ’07 seasons.

  • Mark says:

    Sorry, I posted wrong link in previous message.

    Also, Ryan Braun is another case of player showing team loyalty.

  • SeattleStu says:

    again, the union excuse is a weak one…..if thome is such a stellar individual why didnt he rise above it?…again no quibble with his choice, but let’s not make him out to be the second coming…..btw, 0-4 tonight with nothing hit hard…paging Junior….

  • Jerry says:

    Welcome home…..your Indians stink and will finish 15 out.

  • Bob Liptak says:

    Stephanie, a month ago when the Tribe made the Ubaldo deal, I commented on a post regarding his first start against Texas. In it, I made mention to the fact that the Tribe needed to acquire some veteran leadership at season’s end or before the trade deadline. One of the names mentioned: Jim Thome. Even though he is past his prime, I still fully believe this guy can get 300 ABs minimum next year. Sure, he is old and takes a spot on the 40 man roster which could be occupied by one of our prospects in the minors, but at the same time he provides that presence in the Clubhouse that we have not really had since his departure. He is cheap, in relatively good health (he has never really had major injuries or stints on the DL)… why not try and resign him for next year? Sure, he will be a 41 year old DH, but given enough ABs, Thome can still do damage. If he has an opportunity to play 4 games a week, that gives him around 100 games played, with around 350 to 400 ABs. He can probably muster 18-24 HRs, 60-70 RBIs. His average does not concern me, but this is a proven power hitter who still can rake, if given enough playing time. If the Indians are truly trying to compete NOW, then he is a must sign. Unless of course the Cubs do not resign Aramis Ramirez .

  • Bob Liptak says:

    I stand corrected, Thome was hurt in 2005. Only 59 games played. But here are his numbers from the last 4 years:
    2007 .275 35 HR 96 RBI 130 GP
    2008 .245 34HR 90 RBI 149 GP
    2009 .249 23 HR 77 RBI 124 GP
    2010 .283 25 HR 59 RBI 108 GP

    2011 .238 13 HR 41 RBI

    Just last year Thom hit 25 HRs, many of which I recall came as pinch hit HRs. However, 25 HRs. He has only played 74 games this season. He has proven he can not play 6 games a week anymore, but he can still create a presence in the middle of the line up 16 to 20 ABs per week.