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The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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Thome’s really a Phillie?

Jim Thome can’t look good in red pinstripes. He just can’t. Those socks hiked up over his legs are not bright Indian red, they’re this strange, darker shade of red. Five shades this side of magenta.

His batting helmet, under which he has crushed stacks of mythically long home runs, it is that same shade of red. It has a big capital “P” on it that looks like Tom Sawyer slathered it on with whitewash. Where’s Wahoo?

Jim Thome is a Phillie? A Philadelphia Phillie? Listen to it: Jim Thome of the Philadelphia Phillies. Phillies’ slugger Jim Thome. Thome and the Phillies. It leaves a strong, harsh aftertaste in your mouth, something like raw onions.

This is a banjo in a symphony orchestra. This is a Volkswagen at Daytona. Some things just don’t sound good together, but they are together. Jim Thome, Cleveland Icon became Jim Thome, Philadelphia Trophy this week. The only thing that could nix it is Thome’s bad back after failing a team physical. Not likely.

Nobody need fault Thome for taking the money when he shook hands with the Phillies on a six-year, $87 million contract Monday.

Unlike Albert Belle and Manny Ramirez, Thome cared about Cleveland. Thome understood and acknowledged his significance to the community, but the rift between Cleveland’s and Philadelphia’s contract offers was just too great. Perhaps if the Indians could have mustered an $80 million offer, Thome would have stayed.

Thome’s choice says more about the Phillies than the Indians, believe it or not. Indians’ owner Larry Dolan has been quite vilified in the last year for the perception that he doesn’t have enough money to run the team at a championship level. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t. Only Dolan and the higher-ups in the Cleveland organization know for sure. What is certain is that the Phillies had a lot more money to throw around this winter.

The pressure for the Phillies to put a winning team on the field when they open their new ballpark in 2004, combined with well-endowed financial coffers from six years of being on the receiving end of revenue sharing, has turned team management into Daddy Warbucks this off-season. Phillies’ management has been flinging gobs of money at choice free agents like Thome, David Bell and Tom Glavine. They have the former two on board now.

Thome in Phillie red is less a case of the Indians’ lack of financial girth and more a case of the Phillies doing everything possible to get a big name stitched across one of their jersey backs. The Phillies didn’t necessarily want it more, but they could get what they wanted more.

Thome was supposed to be different, though. He wasn’t supposed to be about money. He was supposed to stand for loyalty and sincerity and all the things missing from today’s professional athletes.

However, that’s not how the game is played.

Thome the ballplayer is a commodity to be bid on. Whoever puts the most chips on the table gets the prize. That is how free agency is supposed to work. Cold and mathematical and all about the bottom line. Thome, for all his golly-gee, let’s-go-have-a-beer lack of pretension, knew that as much as anyone, and his agent sure as heck never let him forget it.

Thome’s wife is expecting a baby this month. If there was ever a time ripe for change in the Thome clan, this was it. A new addition to the family, a new life in a new town. To Thome’s child, Cleveland will exist only in photographs and old video.

To the Cleveland fans, he will exist only in memory. Wearing those gleaming red shoes and high red socks, pointing out his bat before each swing. Sending meteor shots deep into the thick, humid air on a warm summer night. Way back, and gone.

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