The Philadelphia Phillies made a good deal when they traded Jim Thome to the Baltimore Orioles for two minor leaguers at the end of June. At the time he didn't fit into the team's plans, so the move also offered him a chance to play for a contender in a role that was more suited to his abilities.
Despite the fact that the Orioles pushed their American League Division Series to a fifth game, the New York Yankees won the clincher 3-1. Baltimore's elimination ends Thome's season and possibly his career.
Will big Jim be back?
I'm guessing that there might be an American League team that could use the 42-year-old's left-handed bat for a platoon designated hitter slot next season. As to whether this sure-shot Hall of Famer wants to continue playing isn't certain.
While Thome was a member of the Cleveland Indians, he was able to make World Series' bids against the Atlanta Braves (1995) and the Florida Marlins (1997).
"Big Jim" has never won the Most Valuable Player Award, or a World Series Championship, during his 22-year career. Being as humble as he is, I'm sure that he could care less about the personal trophy. But, not having helped to secure that top team honor must disturb him greatly.
He might listen to an offer if a contending AL team contacts him during the offseason. Of course, he could always sign with a non-contender and hope that he's dealt again next summer.
Walking away from any career, sports' related or not, is never an easy decision.
It's been nearly a decade (December 6, 2002) since the Phillies signed Thome as a free agent. His acquisition was a watershed event that helped the franchise transition from Veterans Stadium's closing, after the 2003 season, to the opening of Citizens Bank Park in 2004. His presence also confirmed the Phillies strong intent to field a championship squad.
The time that he spent in red pinstripes this season allowed for a fitting farewell tour. Everyone loved his Interleague rejuvenation and that game-winning, pinch-hit home run against the Tampa Bay Rays on June 23. Thome's blast created a final thrill for the home crowd.
One of the great power-hitters in baseball history ended the regular season with 612 career home runs, which puts him in seventh place all-time. His 13.76 at bats per home run ratio ranks fifth all-time.
Sean O'Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He began his professional career in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons' front office (the Philadelphia Phillies former Triple-A affiliate), later worked as a freelance sports writer and is currently a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo Contributor Network! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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