Congratulations to Jim Thome, who will join Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman in the National Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2018.
Maybe it’s fitting that Thome joins a couple certifiable Phillie Killers this year, because he singlehandedly brought the Phils back to life when he signed with them in the winter of 2002. In 2003, Thome was outstanding with the Phillies, hitting .266/.385/.573 with a league-leading 47 home runs and 131 runs batted in. He was just as good in 2004, going .274/.396/.581 with 42 homers and 105 runs batted in to open Citizens Bank Park. During that 2004 season he hit his career 400th home run; he finished his career with 612 dingers.
Thome struggled in 2005 and was hurt, opening the door for Ryan Howard, who burst onto the scene winning the Rookie of the Year award. Thome was traded to Chicago for Aaron Rowand, Daniel Haigwood and Gio Gonzalez in the offseason.
Thome would return to the Phils for the 2012 season, hitting an additional five home runs including a game-winner against Tampa Bay. He’d soon be traded to Baltimore, where he’d finish his playing career.
While Thome only played 391 total games with the Phillies, he symbolizes the turning of a page for the franchise. The first big-ticket free agent since Pete Rose in 1979, Thome represented a full-throated promise from the franchise to be competitive. They fulfilled their promise in 2008 with the organization’s second world championship.
Meanwhile, Charlie Manuel got to congratulate Thome live on television today. Manuel was Thome’s hitting coach and manager in Cleveland, and in 2005 managed Thome with the Phils. In many ways Thome was Manuel’s foremost disciple.