On Saturday, August 2, 2014, Jim Thome, the all time home run leader of the Cleveland Indians, signed a one day contract and officially retired as a member of the franchise. This also happens to be the same day that the Indians unveiled a new bronze statue honoring Thome from his time in Cleveland. Jim Thome spent 13 season with the Cleveland Indians, with 12 of those seasons being consecutive from 1991-2002. Thome was the cornerstone of an Indians franchise that came alive in the 90’s and early 2000s. Thome went to 2 World Series and he is the career home run leader with 337 as an Indian. Thome was a three time All-Star for Cleveland and he had a career batting average of .287.
Those were all the good things about Jim Thome, which seems is all the current Indians front office can seem to remember. As a free agent in 2002, Jim Thome turned down an extension with the Indians, to join the Philadelphia Phillies for more money. He signed a 6 year, $85 million dollar contract before the start of the 2003 season. Thome was said to have signed with the Phillies, because they gave him the best chance to win. The Phillies didn’t make the playoffs during Thome’s 3 years with the club. Well played Jim, well played.
I can also admit that the Indians were not stellar during those seasons, but Thome’s presence and belief in the club, could have been the difference. Either way, Thome left for more money. Now, before you Thome loyalists hammer me, I can’t say that I blame him. If someone offered me $8 million more than my current salary, I’m pretty sure smoke would fly up from under my feet as I ran towards those dollar signs. I know that money can’t buy happiness, but if you are already happy, money can buy a lot of cool stuff. I still want a drone, but this isn’t the place for my Christmas list.
At the end of the day, Jim Thome didn’t owe the Indians or the fans anything. He played here for 12 years and was apart of the greatest stretch of Indians baseball in the last 50 seasons. In the same regard, the Indians do not owe anything to Jim Thome. Yes, he is the career home run leader for the franchise, but he was by no mean the face of this franchise during the 90’s. There were so many good players that were right alongside Thome, I think its impossible to pick just one. I could make an argument to have statues built for Sandy Alomar Jr., Kenny Lofton, Albert Belle, and lets not forget about Omar Vizquel.
Thome is an all time great, I just don’t think he deserves a statue. This move feels forced by the front office. I don’t know if it is for PR, or an attempt to draw in fans on a Saturday Night late in the season. What I would have really liked to see is plaque on the wall honoring the teams of the 90’s. I don’t mean a little plaque, but a large almost life sized plaque. It should have the city in the back ground with the players mentioned earlier and other in the foreground; Thome, Vizquel, Lofton, Alomar, Belle, Nagy, Ramirez, and Baerga. This would have been a better tribute, rather than building a statue just for Thome. As always these are just my opinions, if you should take issue with what I have said, then you should probably comment or tweet me so we can argue and throw accusations at each other. I’m too hungover to go out again, but a night arguing with strangers on Twitter sounds just right.
Written by Rick Giavonette
Follow me on Twitter @CST_RickG