Thome could be ringer for Phillies

Jim Thome could be the lefthanded power bat off the bench the Phillies desperately need.
Jim Thome could be the lefthanded power bat off the bench the Phillies desperately need. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Posted: August 19, 2011

The Phillies don't have a lefthanded home-run threat on the bench, which helps explain why they signed Jack Cust after he was released by the Mariners . . . Jim Thome, rapidly approaching the end of his career, has never won a World Series . . . The non-contending Minnesota Twins have already reaped the publicity benefits from Thome hitting his 600th career home run for them earlier this week . . .

It remains to be seen whether these free-floating baseball factoids will coalesce at some point in the next several days. There aren't many fairy tales in baseball, after all.

But how neat would it be if Thome, who helped kick off baseball's resurgence in Philadelphia when he signed as a free agent before the 2003 season, came back to close out his Hall of Fame career and take one final shot at getting a ring?

There are tides tugging events in that direction. Minneapolis Star-Tribune baseball writer LaVelle E. Neal III reported he's heard "indications [Twins management] would be willing to accommodate" him if he wanted to go to a team with a chance to win it all this year.

Thome, choosing his words carefully, made it clear that coming up short with the Indians in 1995 and 1997 remains a void in his career. "When you've gone to two World Series and you haven't won it, it eats at you and that's one thing that is still there," he told the paper.

What's missing in this equation is whether the Phillies are interested in finding a spot for him on the roster before the Aug. 31 deadline to be eligible for postseason play. But the bond between him and Charlie Manuel is well-known. The Phillies openly acknowledge the symbolic importance of his decision to leave the Cleveland Indians when he became a free agent. And this is an organization that would appreciate the grand gesture, especially for one of the best people in baseball.

Even if all the above comes together, though, there are hoops that must be jumped through. If the Twins put Thome on trade waivers, every other team in baseball would have a chance to claim him before the Phillies. And it's likely somebody would, especially an American League team looking for a designated-hitter type.

However, since he has a no-trade clause, he could decline assignment to a team he didn't want to play for and become a free agent. If he did that, he'd forfeit the remainder of his contract, about $500,000, although ya gotta believe that wouldn't be an obstacle for a guy who has made about $140 million in his career.

Or the Twins could put him directly on unconditional release waivers. In that scenario, he could also reject any claims from teams he didn't want to go to, although he would again forfeit termination pay.

So, yeah, there's probably a way to make it happen. Now it's up to the Phillies to decide whether it makes sense from a competitive standpoint. And, honestly, it might not. Thome didn't fare particularly well as a pinch-hitter (.235 in 17 at-bats, no extra-base hits) after the Dodgers picked him up late in the 2009 season. He turns 41 next week. Since he no longer plays in the field, it's difficult to imagine how Manuel would get him enough at-bats to keep him sharp.

Thome hasn't ruled out trying to play again next year but, realistically, this could be it for him. And, if it is, there would be no better team for him to go for the gusto with than your Philadelphia Phillies.

PHAIR & PHOUL

ON THE ONE HAND: Phillies manager Charlie Manuel made it emphatically clear, after being criticized for leaving Roy Halladay in the game Tuesday night against Arizona and then watching him surrender a lead in the ninth for the first time in his career, that he doesn't care a whit about what anybody thought of the decision.

"You can say whatever you want to, you can look for your stories wherever you want to. But what I'm going to do is what I'm going to do. Why should I worry about what somebody thinks? And I mean that being straight up with you. That's not being a manager. What the hell? I get paid to manage the game. I want to watch my team win. At the same time, what you think, I don't care. Everybody in the stands thinks different. Everybody in Philadelphia thinks different. Everybody nationally thinks different. I can't worry about what somebody thinks," he said.

AND ON THE OTHER: It turns out, though, that there is at least one person whose opinion mattered. That would be Halladay.

"If I'm going to leave him in there six times in a row and all of a sudden I take him out the seventh, what would he think?" Manuel said. "What about all the times in those situations I've used him in that situation, and now I'm going to go get him? What kind of a message am I sending him?"

THE STATS CORNER: Since the beginning of 2008, Phillies are 9-2 when Jimmy Rollins leads off with a homer. They are 19-18 all-time when he does.

Phillies are 7-1 the last eight times Chase Utley has gone 0-for-5 or worse (one 0-for-6 included in there).

All of the above courtesy of the great Bob Vetrone Jr.

AROUND THE BASES

RAIN, RAIN GO AWAY

Here's one reason why the Marlins are so eager to move into their new retractable-roof stadium next season. Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post figured out that in their 19 seasons in what is now called Sun Life Stadium the Marlins have experienced 154 rain delays totaling 6 days, 21 hours and 14 minutes.

CHEERS

Remember when Rangers icon Mike Young asked to be traded this spring? The team didn't grant his request and clearly he hasn't let that bother him. Going into last night, he was batting .342 with 85 RBI. "If somebody spent all year focused on that, they'd be fried," he explained.

JEERS

The Marlins sent outfielder Logan Morrison to the minors, even though he was second on the team in homers and third in RBI, apparently in retaliation for missing a team function. They also released player rep Wes Helms, who reportedly advised Morrison, upset that the team had failed to follow through on its promises for a charity event he had sponsored a few days earlier, that he was within his rights to skip the meet-and-greet with season ticketholders.

BELIEVE IT OR NOT

The Cubs trailed the Braves, 4-0, going into the sixth inning last Sunday. When the game ended, Chicago had struck out 18 times and committed four errors. And they still came back to win.

BY THE NUMBERS

14: Bases-loaded walks by Oakland and Arizona pitching, most in the majors. The Indians, Rangers and Rockies have the fewest, two each. 17: Consecutive Sunday losses for Colorado, a record.

FINALLY

While the Indians were getting ready to leave Boston and head to Texas earlier this month, third baseman Jack Hannahan found out that his wife, Jenny, had gone into labor back in Cleveland. Since there were no more commercial flights that night he booked a reservation for the next morning and hoped he'd make it in time.

When his teammates realized what was happening, though, they quickly chipped in to raise the $20,000 it would take to rent a private jet. Said manager Manny Acta: "I'm very proud of them, especially being a young team. You're talking about a team where a bunch of guys are making the major league minimum or barely over that. That's what's going to make this team special for years to come."

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