With its fanbase still reeling as a result of their monumental playoff collapse, the Philadelphia Phillies made a quick move to give their fans hope that the window for another World Series Championship was not slammed shut when Ryan Howard feebly grounded out to end the 2011 season. They signed Jim Thome.
When Thome originally signed here in 2003 it did nothing less than reverse the fortunes of a floundering franchise. He was the first big ticket free agent to sign in Philadelphia in a long time. He sparked an interest in the Phillies that did not exist since Joe Carter homered off of Mitch Williams in 1993. He was a legitimate moon-ball home run hitting superstar. He brought about a culture of winning.
His first season was the summer of 2003 which the Phillies used as a six month valentine to their history and to the history of veteran's Stadium which was in its final year. To make that summer of fun and memories even better, the Phillies were actually competitive for the first time in a long time.
It was also the year that Jimmy Rollins, Jim Thome and Placido Polanco manned the infield. Chase Utley was making his Phillies debut. If they can re-sign Rollins for 2012 it would be like getting the original band back together.
Citizen's Bank Park is essentially the park that Thome built. His arrival and the excitement and ticket sales associated with it made that stadium what it is and that stadium helped make the Phillies World Series winners in 2008. It would be great to have Thome be part of a champion here.
It's a nice feeling just to have Thome back. He's such a nice person, such a down-to-Earth humble human being. He's hit over 600 home runs and unlike a majority of players ahead of him on the all-time home run there hasn't been a whiff of performance enhancing drug controversy surrounding him.
He's a great fill in until Ryan Howard can return and then he becomes a potent weapon off the bench. So in 2012 when the Phillies are down to their last out in the NLDS and Ryan Howard is about to step up to the plate for the third season in a row as the last batter between playoff life and the offseason, Charlie Manuel can pull Howard for Thome. I'm only half joking.
The best thing about the signing is it shows Rueben Amaro is going to be proactive. The "Four Aces" experiment failed miserably in 2011. But, that being said a starting rotation of Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Worley and Blanton is nothing to sneeze at. If Amaro can sign Michael Cuddyer—a friend of Thome's who Jim no doubt will try to sway towards the Phillies—then the lineup is looking good.
Re-sign Rollins, extend Hamels and find a left handed arm for the bullpen and a closer and you have a team that is not only as good if not better than the 2011 Phillies, you have a more well rounded team.
It's not exactly easy to do, but Amaro has surprised in the past. His swift signing of Thome is a sign that Amaro knows he has his work cut out for him and it also shows that he's prepared to do it.