Stumping for Thome, for Phillies and Hall of Fame

Jim Thome is a future Hall of Famer who could help any team - including Phillies - in the postseason.
Jim Thome is a future Hall of Famer who could help any team - including Phillies - in the postseason. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Posted: August 24, 2011

PHILLIES FANS are never satisfied, never complacent. We are always seeking ways to make the Fightins better. Fortunately for us, so are David Montgomery and Ruben Amaro Jr.

In most cities, if their team was 82-44, with the best record in baseball; had the best starting rotation perhaps in the history of the game; and had Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Hunter Pence and Placido Polanco in their batting order; the fans would likely relax and be preparing for a parade.

But worrying seems to be in every Philadelphian's DNA. Maybe it comes from all those years of frustration, from being the first franchise in baseball to lose 10,000 games, but for one reason or another, we are never confident. No matter how good things look we always manage to find some weakness that we believe will bring us down. Of late, it has become our lack of a power-hitting and a lefthanded pinch-hitter.

Many of our fans believe they have a surefire plan - let's bring back Jim Thome. It's perfect in so many ways. First, Jim is truly a power-hitting, lefthanded bat who could pinch-hit and DH in the World Series. He is one of the greatest power hitters of all time, having just passed the hallowed 600 home-run mark. Phillies fans can simply think back to Matt Stairs' impact in the 2008 playoffs and imagine what Thome, a significantly better hitter who also is actually in playing shape, could add to the 2011 stretch run.

Second, Thome is already part of the recent resurgence of the Phillies. His arrival helped us to turn our franchise into one of baseball's elite teams. His workmanlike, professional approach to the game inspired the work ethic of many of our current stars, and he brought a winning attitude that was clearly infectious.

Third, on the heels of the acquisition of Pence, adding Thome would further energize an already ravenous fan base and give the team another valuable shot in the arm. Thome is a great player, universally loved by players on every club he has played for. He would be an invaluable presence on this team during the nerve-racking trip through the playoffs.

Lastly, we should get Thome if we can because he is a great guy and getting him a ring - the one thing that has eluded him to this point - would be an amazing way for him to end his career. How good of a guy is Jim Thome? One night during my time as governor, I was in Philadelphia making my usual four or five nightly appearances. One of them was a speech at a dinner held to raise money for research into spinal-cord injuries. When I arrived, I was surprised to hear Thome introduced as the next speaker. He spoke for only a minute or 2, and told the audience about his nephew who had suffered a severe permanent injury to his spinal cord. He finished and came down from the stage, and I got a chance to meet him before I was introduced. I spoke briefly and by the time I was finished Thome had left the event. One of the organizers of the dinner told me that while I was speaking, Jim had sat down and written a $25,000 check to help their cause. Jim hadn't mentioned that he was going to make such a generous gift during his speech. No one in the crowd of several hundred people or the media covering the event ever knew about the gift. Jim did it without any publicity at all. That's the kind of a guy he is.

So it would be great in so many ways if we could add Thome's bat to our arsenal. The only problem is that it simply isn't going to happen. We could only do it through a waiver deal, which would require every other team to pass on him first (the team with the best record is last in the waiver order). Therefore, it is incredibly unlikely that Thome will somehow end up in red pinstripes this season, especially with all of the American League contenders also hungry for a lefthanded pinch-hitter. But we can dream, can't we? Just imagine what it would be like to add a future Hall of Famer to our already potent lineup.

That's right, I said Hall of Famer, and that's not debatable. I can't believe there are pundits and analysts out there who are saying Thome doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame. They say he has only been a DH. Really? He played first base for a decade and a half. They say he has never won an MVP and some say he hasn't even been the MVP of his own team. Well, Hall of Famers like Tony Gwynn, Eddie Murray and Wade Boggs never won an MVP, and if you had to be the MVP of your team to make the Hall, then Lou Gehrig, who played with Babe Ruth throughout his career, shouldn't be in Cooperstown either.

Six hundred homers by someone who did it clean, the right way, and who has been a great teammate and terrific person should be enough alone. The truth is that when compared with a sampling of Hall of Fame power hitters, including Murray, Dave Winfield, Mike Schmidt, Orlando Cepeda, Andre Dawson, Willie McCovey, Willie Stargell and Harmon Killebrew, Thome's career stats are clearly worthy of Hall of Fame recognition. Of these great sluggers, Thome has hit the most home runs (601), has the highest slugging percentage (.558), and has the third-most RBI (1,664). As you can see, the statistical argument for Thome is sound, but the fact that he has accomplished what he has in the era of frauds such as McGwire, Sosa and Bonds, and that he is one of the most stand-up guys the game has ever seen, should make him an absolute lock to take his place in baseball immortality.

So Thome, you can expect to see a large contingent of Phillies fans at Cooperstown on the day of your induction. We won't forget that you helped usher in our era of greatness. And all of us can dream of seeing you a little earlier - this November in a parade down Broad Street.