Phillies Player Review: Jim Thome – Phillies Nation
2012 Player Reviews

Phillies Player Review: Jim Thome

Thome wasn't around much in 2012 but provided one of the most memorable moments of the season. Photo: AP

Throw WAR out the door for this one. There was no move that got me more excited for the 2012 season than the signing of the 41-year-old slugger Peoria, IL slugger. Thome’s return to Philadelphia was about a lot more than bench help to many fans: Big Jim wasn’t the man who built the Bank, but he was certainly the man who filled it. Thome was the first star signing in what would become, nearly a decade later, a trend for the normally tight-walleted Phils. When Thome rejoined the team seven years after he last played in Philly, it was a feel-good-story that propagated big “What-If”s.

What if Thome could platoon with Ty Wigginton or John Mayberry? What if Thome still had the power and bat speed he showed just a season before in Minnesota? What if Thome’s body held up to play defense – would he become more than just a part-time player? Phillies’ fans, myself included, had a big wishlish for Big Jim. Unfortunately, Big Jim didn’t have a whole lot of time on the field to check things off that list. Competing in just 30 games for the Phils, seeing the plate only 71 times, Thome battled age and injury to get into the line-up. Along the way, he did provide some memorable moments.

Because Thome’s second trip with the Phillies was so short, it’s almost possible to give an at-bat-by-at-bat synopsis of each. Thome’s playing time was limited early, seeing just 21 trips to the plate in April and hitting .111/.238/.111. Thome looked like he often struggled to catch up to fastballs early on. Thome went on the DL after the April 28 game against the Cubs with a lower back strain that kept him away from the Phils until June 6 against the Dodgers. With the tying run on second in the ninth against one of Thome’s other former teams, Citizen’s Bank Park rose to its feet to welcome Big Jim back. Thome struck out looking with Wigginton on second and the Phillies lost.

Thome would end his time with the Phils, however, with one of the most memorable moments of the 2012 season. Thome hit .295/.380/.682 with 5 HRs, mostly in an Interleague DH role, for the Fightins in June and bailed Jonathan Papelbon out of a blown save against the Rays on June 23 with a walk-off against Jake McGee. Less than a week later, Thome was gone, traded to the Orioles, where he played in 28 games, seeing 115 PA before a herniated disc slowed Thome down. Thome was activated for the surprising Orioles’ playoff appearance, where he went 2 for 15 in the playoffs.

Grade C: It is very hard, for both sentimental and practical sample-size reasons, to give Thome a fair, accurate or honest assessment. Those who expected more were living off of yesterday’s memories, those who expected less were pleasantly surprised. To not cheap out and pick “Incomplete”, I think Thome performed nearly as expected, considering age and health.

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  1. Jeff Michael

    October 29, 2012 at 11:39 am

    The Thome signing reminded me of the last time I saw BB King live. He was 80 on that tour. Was he the BB King of the ’60s and ’70s? No, of course not. But you know what? It was still BB King.

    • Ken Bland

      October 29, 2012 at 12:38 pm

      Sounds like you the thrill wasn’t gone from the way you enjoyed the show.

      Nice review. Short, and I have no doubt accurate.

  2. Lefty

    October 29, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Ian, I don’t think it would have been a “cheap out” to give an “incomplete” on this one, in fact I think it’s the right grade. Just my opinion, because the grading is for the players.

    If you want to grade management for bringing him in, and expecting that he would be able to play first base a couple times a week, that would be a whole different grade.

    I’ll always be fond of the big guy, this just wasn’t going to work in the NL.


    October 29, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    Thome put together a solid two weeks as a DH before he got traded. A gentleman and a superstar, he was an outstanding example of how a real star and future Hall-of-Famer should behave.

  4. George

    October 29, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    Had Thome been able to pinch-hit, it would have been an okay signing. It was more of a “keep you fingers crossed” move all along, and it was actually Thome who thought he might be able to contrbute a few starts.

    In terms of public relations, clubhouse attitude, and a trade return, I can’t really fault the move. Plus, it was inexpensive. I think it was mostly the fans who had the hopeful performance expectations.

  5. DCmikey

    October 30, 2012 at 11:21 am

    And we received a decent young pitching prospect in return.

    Met Big Jim once. What a giant. His hands were bigger than 5 of mine put together. But such a nice person.

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