Jim Thome was the Cleveland Indians' star of the 90's. He was a fan favorite, not just for his mammoth power numbers, consistency and genuinely nice-guy personality, but also because he was part of one of the greatest offensive units the franchise had ever seen.
Thome is beyond the twilight of his career. He can't play everyday and is a part-time designated hitter and part-time bench warmer. He doesn't hit 50 homers anymore and the only gloves he puts on now are to hit...and perhaps cook. He is a shadow of his former self.
However, Thome's shadow could still be a powerful presence in a cleanup spot for the Tribe. Travis Hafner is back on his seemingly monthly disabled list trip and the lineup has about as much thump as Andy Marte's bat.
A reunion in Cleveland would be too good to be true. 2007 saw Kenny Lofton return to Cleveland after a six year deployment and it led to a playoff berth. 2011 may see more of the same if Thome returns to the corner of Carnegie and Ontario for more Tom Hamilton home run calls...
Surprise, surprise: Travis Hafner is back on the DL. He has averaged about 88 games in the last four seasons. Thome, in his 40's, is more durable. And he may be even more effective.
The demand to bring Jim Thome back to Cleveland has been impossible for the Tribe, because Travis Hafner was a monster bat for the Indians from '04-'06 and was at least effective in 2007. After they signed the half-project, half-donkey (courtesy of ex-teammate Bill Selby) dubbed "Pronk" to the biggest contract in team history, he began playing...less like Pronk, to put it kindly.
How can a left-handed designated hitter that has played just about 70 games in all of 2011 really be that much of a difference maker? Is he even an upgrade?
The fact is that he would instantly be one of the best hitters in the lineup. Thome's .858 OPS is better than that of the Indians No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 hitters, Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Santana, respectively. While the Indians already possess a surplus of left handed hitters, you can't deny that Thome would be an asset from a statistic standpoint to the lineup. He still draws walks and can go yard, not to mention his knack for the clutch moments.
Jim Thome has been booed massively by Indians crowds since his departure after the 2002 season, namely because he stated he wanted to re-sign in Cleveland and play here until he retired. It seemed as if it was a promise that he'd resign. The business of baseball and direction of the franchise swayed his thinking, and perhaps rightfully so. The Tribe was out of things from 2002-2004 and Thome was mashing in Philadelphia. That was then, this is now.
He could make up for all of that rather "bad-blood" if he returns to Cleveland in what seems to be his final season. He's past the 600-Home Run milestone and looks to end his career quite soon. Why not end it where it started, 20 years ago? In 1991, Thome came up as a lean, not very mean...actually, incredibly nice young fellow. He was a tad skinnier, but he still had mammoth power. He may be able to find a few bats from the 90's and replicate the magic in the season's final month.
At the very least it'll give the lineup, city and fan base a great amount of hope, and perhaps spark some 90's style magic.
Ticket Sales in September should be good because the Tribe is still in a pennant race.
If you add the number two active leader in Home Runs to the Indians lineup and the No. 8 HR hitter of all-time—not to mention perhaps the greatest fan favorite in the last 30 years in Cleveland—your playoff atmosphere will become a World Series one. He may be the "Pride of Peoria," but he's also the King of Cleveland (not just because LeBron is out of town), as he served as the premier bat for so many years in Wahoo colors.
The fans of the 90's have been craving a taste of those years since they ended. Kenny Lofton returned in '07 with the No. 7. Jim Thome may very well return to his No. 25 with the Wahoo cap very soon...
Perhaps Omar Vizquel is next in '12?
Dare I say..."What if?"
The baseball gods are setting up a great chapter for the final pages of the "Jim Thome Biography."
Jim Thome's at-bat music is "Returns a King." Is this not foreshadowing?
He has played each of the last five years in the A.L. Central (minus a trial month in LA), so why not keep the streak going?
The Minnesota Twins are way out of contention and hence willing and able to trade Thome.
Hafner goes down on the DL...the day Jim Thome is placed on waivers.
The Indians have no one on the roster with the No. 25. There are no obvious replacement designated hitters, hence the DH spot is open for business.
He's not signed long-term and is easily affordable for $600,000.
The Indians are in contention.
C'mon home, big fella.