“You’ll just say you’re coming home”

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com

On Twitter: @Castrovince

This feels right, even if the timing is not.

Jim Thome is going to be a Cleveland Indian once again. The prodigal son is returning home to the city he spurned in 2002, when wooed by wealth, pressured by the players union and unswayed by Jacobs Field statue specifications.

That he’s joining a pennant chase gasping for breath, with the Indians 6 1/2 back of the Tigers and suffering what seems to be a key injury a day (even on an off day, it was revealed Josh Tomlin will miss his next start with an undisclosed ailment), hardly seems to matter. The fact is, Thome is on the last leg, if not the last pinky toe, of what is likely (read: had better be) a Hall of Fame career, and this would be the most suitable place to cap it.

Should the Tribe be rejuvenated by his presence and get back into the thick of the AL Central standings, well, then, all the better.

Obviously, this transaction — that rare August waiver-wire claim that amounted to actual prominent player movement — is about improving a sagging lineup, one that might be bereft of Travis Hafner’s bat for the remainder of the stretch run.

But it’s also about something else. That word so many use after failed relationships, be they of the reality TV or the actual reality type.

Closure.

I despise that word. I hate to use it here. The way the circle twists and turns in life, “closure” is often more impermanent than we intend it to be.

Thome, though, is 41, has hit his 600th homer, likely locked down his Cooperstown credentials and has a family waiting at home. If this is, indeed, closure to his career, then I can think of no better place for it to come. It’s going to be a Chief Wahoo cap atop his head on his Hall of Fame plaque, so it might as well be the same cap (well, on days the Indians aren’t wearing the blah block “C,” of course) on his dome for the stretch run.

If you’ve been following along this week, you know that the Twins could have potentially orchestrated their waiver workings to get Thome back in Philadelphia. They could have, as a favor to Thome, withdrawn him from waivers and placed him on release waivers, thereby making him a free agent eligible to sign with any team. He could have then returned to the Phillies and his mashing mentor, Charlie Manuel. Undoubtedly, given the Phillies’ place in the standings and their robust rotation, this would have been the best available option for him to reach the World Series, no matter the role.

Let’s ignore the obvious fact that this scenario would have been universally derided, scrutinized and pooh-poohed in the baseball industry and was very much unlikely. It makes for better drama if we just pretend that Thome, who had a full no-trade clause with the Twins, essentially had to choose between the Indians and the Phillies once again. And this time, he went with his roots.

(Isn’t that a terrific story? OK, good, let’s just run with it.)

Thome agonized over his free-agent decision in 2002, and he would eat his words after claiming they’d have to “rip the jersey” off his back before he’d leave the Indians. Some fans here still have not forgiven him, because hell hath no fury like a sports fan spurned.

But players always leave for the money. No, wait, correction… players always leave Cleveland for the money, and Thome proved no different. And I think on some level — well, many levels — he always regretted that decision. He built strong relationships in Philly and Chicago and Minnesota and even Los Angeles in the years that followed, because a man of Thome’s presence and personality builds strong relationships wherever he goes. But behind the scenes, he made it clear to the Cleveland higher-ups (who never held any grudges over his decision, because of that aforementioned personality and because, frankly, they were in a better position to rebuild without Thome eating up a significant chunk of the player payroll) that he wanted to come back.

Of course, that was never possible, because as Thome aged and found his first-base days to be done, the Indians signed Travis Hafner to the type of gargantuan contract (the largest in club history) they once envisioned for Thome, sans a few million and a statue clause.

Now, Hafner is hurt, but that’s nothing new. What’s new is that the Indians are in contention (but barely), Thome, the franchise home run leader, was readily available at an affordable rate and the stars aligned.

Unlike many emotional moves, however, this one actually makes strategic sense. Thome is coming to a place where he’ll get more than just pinch-hit playing time, and he’s been productive. He’s hit .278 with a .910 OPS, six homers, eight doubles and 21 RBIs in 30 games since the All-Star break. Hafner, by comparison, has hit just .220 with a .642 OPS, three homers, five doubles and 14 RBIs in 31 games since the break.

This is an improvement for the Indians. And it doubles, for those above the bitterness, as a happy homecoming. With so many bodies on the injury report, with Ubaldo Jimenez slinging slop and with so much ground to make up in the midst of a strained and stressful schedule, it’s possible — maybe even likely — that this move is much too little, much too late.

But it feels right. It feels like closure. And hopefully Jim Thome has heard his last boo in that ballpark.

~AC

32 Comments

As a Twins fan, all I can say is that I am so, so so happy this happened. This is perfect. Excellent post, I’m in tears. Go Thome.

Thank you for this… it does seem right..

It’s a shame that were six games back now. One thing about the front office is that they continue to make moves to improve the team — for now and the future. There are still a lot of games left, but my optimism has almost ran out since the last Tiger series in Detroit. The last seven games have been hard to watch as this team literally limps to the finish line. But maybe they have a Kirk Gibson in them…

Indians make the playoffs with Thome back home. I think that would outsell Field of Dreams and Major League combined. Go Tribe. Great story Anthony

i havent bought many tickets in the past ten to fifteen years. geez i miss mlb/indians…its been very tough learning about the non salary cap…watching all r best players leave or get traded before or just at the six years of service deadline…BELL,MANNY,THOME,…SO ON AND SO ON…i wont lie…im mad…im always gonna be mad at mlb unless they get a cap…anyways im going to buy a ticket for everygame this weekend…it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about the good old days! hats off to the front office for giving it there all! just think if all these injurys didnt happen what could have happend! hey….what if? AND LOOK OUT NEXT YEAR!

As always, A.C. has it right, writing from his heart, not his head. Well done, and welcome home Jim Thome.

I don’t think Anthony has done dug deep enough into the history of what happened with Jim Thome and his leaving the Tribe. It is a shame that no one remembers one of the reasons, if not the main reason why Jim Thome left the Tribe. If I remember correctly, Thome asked for a 7 year contract to stay in Cleveland and this was rejected by the Indians front office. Thome’s “rip this jersey” statement was made to emphasize that he WANTED to stay in Cleveland. All the front office was willing to offer was the 5 year deal Thome rejected. Thome did not want to leave, but the horrible Indians front office (Mark Shapiro especially) at the time, were in a “rebuilding” phase, and they were operating on the premise of cutting payroll by getting rid of the veterans. This is the same front office that kept decimating the Tribe with their “rebuilding” programs, letting CC Sabathia, Victor Martinez and Cliff Lee among others go. There may be fans to this day that blame Thome for leaving, but I am sure there are many many more that blame the horrible Indians front office (Shapiro especially) at the time for Thome’s leaving. If the Dolan’s did not have the money to operate the team when they bought it, they should have stayed away.

If he really wanted to stay in Cleveland, he should have compromised. The front office has to look at the NOW and the FUTURE.

They have/had the money to “operate the team”. That’s why THIS ownership had some of the highest payrolls in team history, not the Jacobs.

LeBron said he wanted to stay too…

Jacobs sold the team because he saw the payroll increasing and players leaving or being traded. Jacobs never signed Belle and never signed Lofton, who was later traded by Hart after the 1996 season. He also saw Thome and Ramirez getting a huge payday.. Jacobs knew when to get out. Jacobs had a budget and he knew Thome, Ramirez, Lofton and Belle were going to break it, and his image and popularity as an owner would take a hit.

I vividly remember the days when the Indians fans were wondering what was going to happen to Thome. I remember opening up the msn page to read something along the lines of King of the Phil! Welcome home Jim! We have missed you!!!!!

I’m glad this is happening, better late than never. Glad to have him back in town, I always thought he looked out of place in any other team’s uni. Please Tribe fans, don’t boo anymore!!!!!

Pingback: While We’re Waiting… Thome and Mid-Pre-Season Browns | WaitingForNextYear

Looking a the way tickets are selling for tonight.. he better get a standing-O everytime he walks up to the plate……….. welcome home Jim

great piece AC, lets hope Cleveland give him a proper welcome back

Welcome home, Jimmy!

This is one fan who never blamed you for leaving, and is truly grateful for all those wonderful “Thomerun” memories at the Jake.

The moment I learned the trade was finalized, I bought tickets for me and my daughter. We’ll be there tonight to cheer loudly as you stride to the plate wearing #25 — and Chief Wahoo!

A big “thank you” to the Minnesota front office for allowing this to happen. Very classy move.

WELCOME HOME, JIMMY, we missed you!

Here’s hoping Indians’ fans open their hearts to a man who’s never been anything but genuine and welcome him home with standing O’s with each appearance at the plate. The fans unjustifiably blamed Thome when the real culprit was the system created by the player’s association and the owners. His love for this town has always been unconditional.

Pingback: Jim Thome Returns To Cleveland | FanGraphs Baseball

I have come up with the perfect entrance for Thome for tonight’s game. Let’s have him come out of the dugout wearing a Twins jersey and have Slider “rip the jersey off his back” revealing a Dodger’s jersey. Then have Slider rip that jersey off revealing a White Sox jersey, then a Phillies jersey, then finally his jersey from when he left Cleveland. Finally Slider rips off that jersey revealing the new jersey of the 2011 Tribe! Would that be awesome or what?

Better yet, use the clip from Termiator 3 where Arnold walks out of the flames and says, “I’m back.” And then dust of the old Thomenator graphic. :D

The red block “C” hats are too jarring, but the blue block “C” hats are HOT, especially when paired with those away grays!

And, you know, great to see Thome back.

Great article. Thanks so much to whomever put this deal together. I’ve been saving my jersey for this day and will be at the game tonight. Welcome back Jim, we’ve missed ya. And Happy Birthday too.

Welcome T”home”!

I wish he had never left in the first place!

Thank God ! ! !…..what did Yogi Berra say ” IT’S NOT OVER TILL IT’S OVER. The wild card is not a likely thing, but the division is not, it has been done before and it can be done again ! ! !

I think that ohfer in Thome’s first game back was due to something in his eye. I was there. I know I got emotional.

such a wonderful post….you have fresh touch in your writing :)

Wow nice story..I really fan of reading story that related to the sport icons. As the upcoming Mayweather-Ortiz fight I hope, you will also catch there side after the fight. Thanks for posting.

Pingback: Being professional: all sports blogs are not the same « jefflahaye

Thank you for posting such a nice article

Its having a great hidden effects. After reading your post I can say that you have done lot of research on this topic and I really liked the way of your writing and how you have thrown the light on unhidden facts.

sounds nice

Lumineers Miami provider Dr. Edderai has been creating beautiful smiles for years using Lumineers, ultra-thin porcelain veneers by Cerinate.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 54 other followers

%d bloggers like this: