Tag Archives: Cleveland Indians

MLB 2019 Power Ranking: August 15

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The Philadelphia Phillies find themselves once again at 14th overall in the 2019 MLB Power Rankings as we reach the heart of the dog days of August.

Five clubs will make the playoffs from the National League. Each division champion will be joined by a pair of Wildcard teams.
In this August 15 version of the Power Rankings, while the Phillies remain right where they were back on August 1 among all teams in Major League Baseball, they have slipped a notch in the National League.
On August 1, the Phillies were the sixth-highest ranked team and were involved in a three-way tie for the two NL Wildcard spots. Now they have slipped a notch, to seventh in the NL. The standings reflect that slippage, as the club is now two games in back of the second Wildcard.
The Phillies have four games left head-to-head with the Nationals, who now control the top NL Wildcard spot, three games ahead of the Phils. Those will take place in Washington at the end of September.
The Cubs are the team in the second Wildcard spot. The Phillies have captured the first two games of a head-to-head series between the two teams, and are 4-2 against Chicago this season.  On Thursday night, the Phillies try to sweep the series and move within a game of the Cubs.
My own personal feelings never have anything to do with the MLB Power Rankings. Instead, the rank is all about actual team performance: results in the standings and statistical breakdowns.
I take what I have found to be key statistical categories and rank each of the 30 teams in Major League baseball on their ability to win ball games and perform on offense, the pitching mound, and in the field. There is never any subjectivity or opinion involved.

The MLB Power Rankings will be updated here at my website on roughly the 1st and 15th of the month for the remainder of the regular season using the following methodology.

RANKINGS METHODOLOGY

Introduced and then upgraded during the course of last season, my formula for compiling the rankings is always being researched to see if it can be improved upon.
That formula carried two categories over from the 2018 season: winning percentage and OPS against. The first is simple, reflecting each team’s ability to actually win ball games. The second reflects a pitching staff’s ability to control the game and limit damage.
As of my first ranking for the 2019 season, runs-per-game replaced last year’s “runs scored” in order to get the offensive component. This was an acknowledgement of the fact that teams play various numbers of games as of the time of each ranking. For example, it wouldn’t be fair to consider a club that had scored 100 runs over 50 games as effective as a club who scored 100 runs over just 45 games.
Also this summer, the defensive component was changed. The defensive metric beginning with the July 15 rankings was switched to “Defensive runs saved” as measured at Fangraphs, replacing the previous “fielding percentage” to gauge a team’s defensive effectiveness.
I then assign each of those four component category team rankings a 1-30 numerical value, and simply add those values up to determine an overall final ratings score. Where there is a tie, it is broken by win-loss percentage since, in the end, winning is what it’s all about.

2019 AUGUST 1 –  MLB RANKINGS

The Los Angeles Dodgers are again technically at the top of the Power Rankings. It marks a second straight period at the top for the Dodgers, and their third top-ranked position of the six rankings that I’ve done this season.
However, the new top team from the American League was actually tied with the Dodgers in points. That would be the Houston Astros, who held the top position themselves during two of the three periods in which the Dodgers didn’t control the top spot.
Houston was only slotted in at #2 due to the tie-breaker that I use, which is their overall win-loss record. The Astros did pass the Minnesota Twins, who are the only other team besides  the Dodgers or Houston to hold the top position, as the top AL ball club.
The Cleveland Indians continue to move up, now a top five team. The Arizona Diamondbacks, who sit 3.5 games out in the Wildcard race in the actual standings, remain the biggest enigma, with the formula spitting them out as the second-best team in the National League and eighth overall.
On the rise further back are the New York Mets, who have moved into the top twenty for the first time all season.
In parentheses are each team’s position in the June 1, June 15 , July 1, July 15 and August 1 rankings, shown in that order from left to right.
  1. Los Angeles Dodgers (1-3-2-2-1)
  2. Houston Astros (3-1-1-5-3)
  3. Minnesota Twins (2-2-3-1-2)
  4. Oakland Athletics (8-12-5-3-4)
  5. Cleveland Indians (18-18-15-10-6)
  6. Tampa Bay Rays (4-4-4-4-5)
  7. New York Yankees (5-8-9-6-10)
  8. Arizona Diamondbacks (9-5-6-9-7)
  9. Atlanta Braves (12-9-7-12-12)
  10. Chicago Cubs (10-13-11-7-9)
  11. Boston Red Sox (6-6-10-8-8)
  12. Saint Louis Cardinals (14-15-14-14-15)
  13. Washington Nationals (24-19-13-13-13)
  14. Philadelphia Phillies (15-14-18-16-14)
  15. Los Angeles Angels (19-17-19-11-11)
  16. Milwaukee Brewers (7-10-16-19-16)
  17. Cincinnati Reds (13-16-17-18-17)
  18. San Diego Padres (17-20-20-17-20)
  19. New York Mets (22-23-24-25-24)
  20. San Francisco Giants (29-27-25-21-18)
  21. Texas Rangers (16-11-8-15-19)
  22. Kansas City Royals (21-21-22-22-22)
  23. Colorado Rockies (11-7-12-20-21)
  24. Miami Marlins (23-26-21-23-23)
  25. Toronto Blue Jays (28-28-26-28-27)
  26. Chicago White Sox (25-24-28-27-28)
  27. Seattle Mariners (26-22-27-26-26)
  28. Pittsburgh Pirates (20-25-23-24-25)
  29. Baltimore Orioles (30-30-30-30-29)
  30. Detroit Tigers (27-29-29-29-30)

SPOTLIGHT TEAM: ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Previous spotlight teams: Minnesota (6/01), Atlanta (6/15), Texas (7/01), Oakland (7/15), Tampa Bay (8/01)
 
The Arizona Diamondbacks woke up on Thursday morning at 61-60, just barely above the .500 mark. They are a distant second in the NL West Division, 19 games behind the Dodgers in the loss column. They also sit a game ahead of the division-rival Giants.
Manager Torey Lovullo is in his third season at the helm in the Arizona desert. During his first season back in 2017, Lovullo guided the Dbacks to a playoff berth and was named the NL Manager of the Year. Last season, Arizona led the division into September but collapsed in much the same way as did the Phillies.
 
This year, the Dbacks have bounced back and forth between second place and third in the division since the start of July. They have also again mirrored the Phillies in a way, in that they have not been able to go on either a long winning streak to solidy a playoff berth or a deep losing skid to fall out of the race.
 
Arizona ranks as the top team in baseball defensively – by a wide margin – and that is a major reason for their high finish in the Power Rankings. They also rank 8th in runs-per-game, and their 11th ranked pitching staff is also solid. 
 
Despite a strong defense, productive offense, and that solid pitching the Dbacks just cannot seem to win consistently. With a bunch of really good ballplayers, they seem to be lacking that one big star, the “straw that stirs the drink” type player.
 
Here in the middle of August, eight teams are within 4.5 games of one another in the battle for the two NL Wildcard playoff berths. My bet is that by the time these MLB Power Rankings are next updated on September 1, at least a couple of those will have fallen out of the race. My bet is that Arizona will not be one of those.

Trevor Bauer is linked to Phillies as MLB trade deadline approaches

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Trevor Bauer linked to Phillies as trade deadline approaches

Per a report this morning from MLB insider Jon Morosi, the Philadelphia Phillies and Cleveland Indians have discussed parameters of a trade that would send starting pitcher Trevor Bauer to the Phillies.

Morosi based his report on what he called “sources“, the usual suspect when rumored discussions such as this are presented, particularly at the Winter Meetings and now, as the MLB trade deadline is approaching.
A deal for Bauer would seem to be a longshot, based on comments in recent days from Phillies general manager Matt Klentak, who seemed to be leaning towards a more conservative approach over the next week.
I feel like our organization has enough talent that we can bid on the top names on the market,” Klentak said per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia.
Whether we choose to go down that road or not remains to be seen. It’s really about building an organization that can sustain its competitiveness for a long period of time. In order to do that, we have to preserve young talent. There are times when it makes sense to cash in young talent for veteran players. But you can’t do that too often or your well will run dry and you’ll be forced to tackle another rebuild at some point, and that’s not something that our owners or our front office have an appetite for.
Just days ago, I wrote a piece here at Phillies Nation in which I opined “There is no reasonable deal that you can expect at this deadline that will return enough to the Phillies that they should give up either of these two key pieces to their future. So, at this point, both Bohm and Howard would appear to be untouchable.
Would a package that does not include either of those young players be able to land you someone like Bauer, or any of the other top available arms such as Zack GreinkeMatthew BoydRobbie Ray or Marcus Stroman? Would including prospects such as Mickey Moniak or Adonis Medina, players such as Cesar Hernandez or Nick Williams, pitchers like Nick Pivettaget such a deal done? That remains to  be seen.
and have discussed a possible Trevor Bauer trade, sources say, as I reported on @MLBNetwork this morning. @MLB

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Bauer is a 28-year-old from California who was the Arizona Diamondbacks first round pick at third overall in the 2011 MLB Draft out of UCLA. He went to Cleveland as part of a three-team trade in December 2012 and has fashioned a career record of 68-54 with a 3.88 ERA, 3.87 FIP and 1.286 WHIP.
A first-time AL All-Star a year ago, Bauer finished sixth in the 2018 AL Cy Young Award voting. This season, the right-hander is 9-7 with a 3.49 ERA and 1.162 WHIP. He had allowed just 118 hits over 152.1 innings across 23 starts with a 179/59 K:BB ratio.
Some find Bauer’s training methods, social media practices, political positions and outspoken attitude to be controversial. Those issues were explored fully in a February 2019 piece titled “Trevor Bauer Is More Concerned With Being Right Than Being Liked” by Ben Reiter.
I always believed in my methods wholeheartedly, and that I would have success. Didn’t have any doubt at all. It’s mostly just a nice feeling, like: I did it my way—and f— you,” Bauer was quoted by Reiter.

Trevor Bauer would most certainly be entertaining. He would also be a boon to the Phillies starting pitching rotation. But he also will cost something. Just what that cost might be will be the rub, and not some perceived controversy regarding Twitter usage or politics.

MLB 2019 Power Rankings: Minnesota Twins take over the top spot

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The Minnesota Twins outfielders celebrate another victory

The Philadelphia Phillies have sat pretty much right in the middle of the MLB Power Rankings since I began producing them for 2019.

From June 1 (15th), through June 15 (14th) and on to July 1, when they ranked in the #18 slot the last time around, the rankings have not revealed much movement at all.
The Phillies currently sit in the #16 spot, buoyed by their defensive play, which ranks fourth in all of baseball. With a middling (15th) offense, what is truly weighing the club down and keeping them from seriously competing is their 25th ranked pitching staff.
As always, my own personal feelings have nothing to do with the MLB Power Rankings published here at Phillies Nation. Instead, the rank is all about actual results and statistical performances.
There is never any subjectivity on my part. I always take key statistics and rank each of the 30 teams in Major League baseball on their ability to actually win ball games as well as their performance on offense, on the pitching mound, and in the field.
The MLB Power Rankings are going to be updated at Phillies Nation on roughly the 1st and 15th of the month for the remainder of the regular season using the following methodology.

RANKINGS METHODOLOGY

Introduced and then upgraded during the course of last season, my formula for compiling the rankings is always being researched to see if it can be improved upon. That formula carries two categories over from the 2018 season: winning percentage and OPS against. The first is simple, reflecting each team’s ability to actually win ball games. The second reflects a pitching staff’s ability to control damage.
As of my first ranking in this 2019 season, runs-per-game replaced simple “runs scored” in order to get the offensive component. This acknowledged the fact that teams play various numbers of games as of the time of each ranking. It wouldn’t be fair to consider a club that had scored 100 runs over 50 games as effective as a club who scored 100 runs over just 45 games.
There has now been a new update to the methodology. The new defensive metric will be the “Defensive runs saved” as measured at Fangraphs, replacing simple “fielding percentage” to gauge a team’s defensive competence.
I then assign each of those component category team rankings a 1-30 numerical value and simply add those values up to determine an overall final ratings score. Where there was a tie, it is broken by win-loss percentage, then by runs-per-game, followed by pitching OPS.

2019 JULY 15 –  MLB RANKINGS

The new team at the top of the rankings are the Minnesota Twins, who were my Spotlight Team accompanying the June 1 rankings piece. The Twins are MLB’s surprise team this season. Many predicted they would be a playoff contender. I had them finishing second in the AL Central Division in my own 2019 MLB preview and predictions back in late March.
The hot risers are the Cleveland Indians, who have moved into a tie for an AL Wildcard playoff slot, and the Los Angeles Angels, who have rallied together in the wake of the tragic sudden death of starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs to win seven of their last 10 games to move back over the .500 mark.
On the down side, the Colorado Rockies have lost nine of 11, fallen below the .500 mark, and plummeted eight spots in the rankings from the start of July. The Milwaukee Brewers have lost eight of 10 to drop out of first place in the NL Central. The Brew Crew also have slipped in every one of my Power Rankings, a troubling sign for a team still sitting in contention for both that division crown and an NL Wildcard berth.
In parentheses are the team’s positions from the June 1, June 15 and July 1 rankings, shown in that order from left to right.
  1. Minnesota Twins (2-2-3)
  2. Los Angeles Dodgers (1-3-2)
  3. Oakland Athletics (8-12-5)
  4. Tampa Bay Rays (4-4-4)
  5. Houston Astros (3-1-1)
  6. New York Yankees (5-8-9)
  7. Chicago Cubs (10-13-11)
  8. Boston Red Sox (6-6-10)
  9. Arizona Diamondbacks (9-5-6)
  10. Cleveland Indians (18-18-15)
  11. Los Angeles Angels (19-17-19)
  12. Atlanta Braves (12-9-7)
  13. Washington Nationals (24-19-13)
  14. Saint Louis Cardinals (14-15-14)
  15. Texas Rangers (16-11-8)
  16. Philadelphia Phillies (15-14-18)
  17. San Diego Padres (17-20-20)
  18. Cincinnati Reds (13-16-17)
  19. Milwaukee Brewers (7-10-16)
  20. Colorado Rockies (11-7-12)
  21. San Francisco Giants (29-27-25)
  22. Kansas City Royals (21-21-22)
  23. Miami Marlins (23-26-21)
  24. Pittsburgh Pirates (20-25-23)
  25. New York Mets (22-23-24)
  26. Seattle Mariners (26-22-27)
  27. Chicago White Sox (25-24-28)
  28. Toronto Blue Jays (28-28-26)
  29. Detroit Tigers (27-29-29)
  30. Baltimore Orioles (30-30-30)

SPOTLIGHT TEAM: OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Previous spotlight teams: Minnesota (6/1), Atlanta (6/15), Texas (7/1)
The Oakland Athletics are currently tied for the second American League Wildcard playoff berth with a 53-41 record, and are five games behind the first-place Houston Astros in the AL West Division race.
After three straight last place finishes, the A’s rose to become a 97-win team a year ago. They were bounced out of the AL Wildcard Game by the New York Yankees in a 7-2 defeat in the Bronx.

Bob Melvin has been at the helm in Oakland since the 2011 season.(Keith Allison)
Managed by Bob Melvin, now in his ninth season at the helm (687-640), the A’s are a team without a true weakness. They show up at 4th in my pitching category, 6th on defense, and as the 10th-ranked offensive attack. It all adds up to the 8th-best record in Major League Baseball and their current playoff contending status.
The A’s offensive attack is led by one of the top young stars in the game today, Matt Chapman. The 26-year-old third baseman made his first AL All-Star team this year after finishing 7th in AL MVP voting a year ago during a season in which he won a Gold Glove at the hot corner.
Other key players are 24-year-old center fielder Ramon Laureano, 25-year-old first baseman Matt Olson, 28-year-old shortstop Marcus Semien, and veteran DH Khris Davis.
On the mound, 34-year-old veteran right-hander Mike Fiers tossed his second career no-hitter earlier this season and is having a strong overall year. Righty Chris Bassitt and lefty Brett Anderson have also been solid in a rotation that could get better in September with the return of talented 26-year-old right-hander Frankie Montas. He was lost to an 80-game PED suspension.
Liam Hendricks has taken over the closer role from Blake Treinen and proven lights out with a 1.21 ERA, 2.06 FIP, 1.000 WHIP and 35 hits allowed over 52 innings across 44 games. He has registered a half-dozen saves in the game-end role with a 65/17 K:BB ratio. A trio of veterans in right-handers Joakim Soria and Yusmeiro Petit and southpaw Ryan Buchter have been strong in setup roles.
The A’s are typically little known by many baseball fans. But team president Billy Beane of “Moneyball” fame has helped the organization put together another legitimate playoff contender on the cheap. They will be a difficult out for any opponent in a one-game Wildcard match-up, should they get there again.
Originally published at Phillies Nation as 2019 MLB Power Ranking: July 15

Phillies begin addressing needs by acquiring Jay Bruce from Seattle

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Jay Bruce brings a needed veteran lefty power bat to Phillies mix

It is no secret that Philadelphia Phillies general manager Matt Klentak has been investigating ways in which to upgrade the roster of his first place ball club.

The starting rotation, bullpen, and the Phillies bench are all areas of potential concern as the team tries to reach the postseason for the first time in eight years.
Now it appears that they have begun to fill those needs. A trade originally reported as being discussed on Saturday with the Seattle Mariners has reportedly been concluded now, with the Phillies obtaining veteran outfielder Jay Bruce.
Hearing the Jay Bruce deal is complete. Not out of question he is in Dodger Stadium for series finale today. Phillies need win to avoid sweep.

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Bruce fills a Phillies need to upgrade the bench and outfield mix perfectly. The 32-year-old is now in his 12th big-league season, and though no longer performing at an All-Star level, his left-handed power bat would be an absolute upgrade.
On Saturday afternoon, Jeff Passan of ESPN reported on Twitter that the Phillies were “nearing a deal” to acquire veteran outfielder Jay Bruce from the Seattle Mariners. However, he immediately followed that up with a comment that “they are not far enough along that a deal is imminent.
The two bits of juicy information reportedly came from two different sources. The first source, according to Passan, was from within one of the two organizations.

The Philadelphia Phillies are nearing a deal to acquire outfielder Jay Bruce from the Seattle Mariners, a club source familiar with the talks tells ESPN. The trade is expected to be finalized within the next 24 hours.
Another source familiar with the Phillies-Mariners discussions on a Jay Bruce trade says they are not far enough along that a deal is imminent. The sides have talked about Bruce, Seattle is willing to deal him and Philadelphia needs a bench bat. No trade agreed to, however.

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He was the first round pick of the Cincinnati Reds at 12th overall back in the 2005 MLB Amateur Draft out of high school in his hometown of Beaumont, Texas. Bruce quickly became one of the top prospects in the game, and made his Major League Baseball debut in 2008, finishing 5th in that year’s NL Rookie of the Year voting.
An All-Star with the Reds in 2011, 2012, and 2016, Bruce won Silver Slugger Awards in both 2012 and 2013. He also finished 10th in the National League Most Valuable Player Award voting in those two seasons.
Bruce was dealt by Cincinnati to the New York Mets for a pair of prospects on August 1, 2016. The Mets dealt him to the Cleveland Indians just over a year later. He then re-signed with New York for three years and $39 million as a free agent in January 2018, but was traded to Seattle this past December.
So far in 2019, Bruce has regained his power stroke, having slammed a dozen homers. He has also knocked in 28 runs, scored 27, and has 25 extra-base hits. However, he is also hitting just .212 with a .283 on-base percentage. The Mariners have used him for 24 games in right field, six in left field, and in 16 at first base.

We’ll provide more information on this story here at Phillies Nation as any verifiable developments come available.

Remembering the Jim Thome Era in Philadelphia

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Thome’s arrival as a big-ticket free agent signaled a new era of winning for Phillies

With this MLB off-season so highly anticipated here in Philadelphia, I decided to take a look back during this month at some of the more important Hot Stove moments over the course of Phillies history.

So far we’ve traveled back to re-examine big free agent signings of Pete Rose in 1978 and Jose Mesa in the winter of 2000. We also took a look back at a pivotal 1981 trade in which catcher Bo Diaz came to Philly from Cleveland as part of a three-team swap which sent outfielder Lonnie Smith to the Cardinals.
This time around we’re going to take a look back at two different Hot Stove moves from the first decade of the 21st century. One is a free agent signing, the other a trade. Both involve the same centerpiece player, Phillies Wall of Famer and Baseball Hall of Famer Jim Thome.
To understand the motivations for the Phillies deciding to open up their wallets and bring Thome to Philadelphia you need to remember the context of where the franchise was and who the player was at that time.
From 1987 through 2002, a period that spanned the final years of Mike Schmidt‘s career through the final year of Scott Rolen‘s career with the Phillies, the team suffered through 14 losing campaigns over 16 seasons.
The 1993 National League champions had proven to be an oasis in a long, wide desert of losing years. But things began to change as the new century dawned.
Under popular and fiery new manager Larry Bowa the Phillies had nearly captured the 2001 NL East crown. Thanks to a stretch of nine losses in 11 games to open the month of September, the 2002 Phillies finished 80-81. Though it was another losing record, something was obviously different.
The Phillies had a talented core group of position players featuring veteran catcher Mike Lieberthal, exciting youngsters Pat Burrell and Jimmy Rollins, and the power-speed combination of an entering-his-prime Bobby Abreu.
Also, the club was preparing to say goodbye to Veteran’s Stadium. The 2003 season would be the 33rd and final one on turf for the team. A brand new facility to be named Citizens Bank Park was under construction and would open for 2004.
Phillies chairman Bill Giles, club president David Montgomery, and GM Ed Wade knew that there would be major financial benefits coming with the new ballpark. They wanted to make a push to excite the fan base even further, and so went into that off-season on the hunt for marquee names to add to the roster.
On December 2nd they signed 30-year-old free agent David Bell to play third base. This would allow Placido Polanco, obtained the previous summer in trade for Rolen, to shift over to second base, strengthening the overall lineup.
But what the lineup really needed was one truly menacing presence in the middle. A big bopper to serve as an anchor, a game-changing threat with the kind of true power that hadn’t regularly plowed the baseball trade in South Philly since Schmidt’s retirement more than a decade earlier.
As good fortune would have it, just such a talent was coming available on the free agent market. Thome was a 32-year-old veteran of a dozen big-league seasons who was one of the most feared power-hitters in the game at that time.
James Howard Thome was an Illinois native who had been the Cleveland Indians pick in the 13th round of the 1989 MLB Amateur Draft, which was held exactly one week after Schmidt’s retirement.
He first broke into the big-leagues with Cleveland in 1991 with the typical September cup of coffee. The following summer he became a regular at the end of June, but a late August injury brought his rookie campaign to an early end. He returned in 1993 but didn’t receive a promotion back to Cleveland until mid-August.
When the 1994 season opened he was one of the key pieces to a young and quickly improving Indians team. The club bolted out to a 66-47 record with Thome ripping 20 homers. But it was all brought to a sudden end by the player strike.
The true career breakout for Thome came when baseball returned for the 1995 campaign. He slashed .314/.438/.558 with 25 homers and 73 RBI as the Indians won 100 games and an AL Central crown. The Tribe then beat Boston and Seattle to capture the American League pennant before dropping a tough six-game World Series to the Atlanta Braves.
It would prove to be just the beginning of a baseball renaissance in Cleveland. The Indians became the AL Central’s dominant team, winning the division for five straight seasons and six times over seven years through 2001.
However, despite all of their talent and all of the winning, the Indians would return to the World Series just one more time during that stretch of dominance. That one other shot would also fall just short, and may have been the most demoralizing defeat of all.
In Game 7 of the 1997 Fall Classic, Cleveland was just two outs away against the Florida Marlins. But the Fish rallied against Tribe closer Jose Mesa to tie it up. In the bottom of the 11th, the Marlins would win it, sending Thome and the Indians home to another in a series of frustrating late-90’s winters.
During his time in Cleveland, Thome came under the tutelage of Indians hitting coach Charlie Manuel. The plain-spoken homespun wisdom of Manuel would blend perfectly with Thome’s own personality, and the two would become close.

Manuel became the Indians manager from 2000-02 and the club continued to win over the first couple of seasons, including capturing the 2001 AL East crown. However, with a number of the players aging quickly and others gone in trades or free agency, the Indians were losing in 2002.
Manuel was looking for a contract extension and some security as he would try to help the club rebuild. The Indians weren’t willing to meet his terms, and Manuel was fired on July 12. The handling of Manuel’s situation did not sit well with Thome, and would become a factor when he entered free agency that off-season.
Over parts of 12 seasons with Cleveland, Thome slashed .287/.414/.567 with 334 homers, 259 doubles, and 927 RBI. He had been a 3x AL All-Star, a Silver Slugger Award winner, and had finished among the top 10 in AL MVP voting three times, including each of his final two years.
He had also earned more than $40 million to that point in his career and received an annual salary at roughly $8 million per year over his last four seasons in Cleveland. This was the player who entered free agency in the fall of 2002.
The Phillies brass rolled out the red carpet in trying to woo the Paul Bunyan-esque Thome to sign with them. He and his wife, Andrea toured both Veteran’s Stadium and the construction site at Citizens Bank Park with agent Pat Rooney.
While outside of the construction site, a group of electricians union members cheered him on. When Thome stopped to speak with them, the group did a fantastic salesmanship job in representing Phillies fans wishes to have him join the team.
”I heard a lot of great things about Philadelphia,” Thome said per an AP report at ESPN at the time. ”You saw what the people did out there and that was heartwarming. It’s going to be a tough decision.”
Fans of the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team would continue to apply the pressure that night when the Thome’s were treated to a game. On the couple’s introduction to the crowd midway between the second period the Philly sports fans gave him a rousing standing ovation.
The Phillies would ultimately win the bidding for the free agent star in a process that came down to them and a return to Cleveland. On December 6, 2002, Thome inked a six-year deal guaranteeing him at least $85 million and as much as $94 million over the life of the contract.
Thome would deliver everything that the Phillies hoped and then some. In the first season of 2003 the slugger finished fourth in the NL MVP voting as he led all of baseball with 47 home runs, ripped 30 doubles, and registered a career-high 131 RBI.
The 2003 Phillies led the NL Wildcard race as late as September 19. But a season-closing collapse in which they lost six straight and seven of the last eight games left them frustrated as the Veteran’s Stadium era came to an end.
In 2004, Thome blasted another 42 homers and made his first National League All-Star team. Those long balls included the milestone 400th home run of his career. The Phillies won 86 games for a second straight season and moved up from third to second place in the NL East Division standings. But the club would miss out on the postseason once again, this time it was a rough 5-13 stretch in mid-August that did them in.

Meanwhile down in the minor leagues, a 24-year-old first baseman named Ryan Howard was making an enormous impression. In that summer of 2004, Howard blasted 46 homers and had 131 RBI while playing at the two highest levels in the Phillies farm system.
It was fairly obvious that Howard could not be kept in the minors for much longer. But first base was his only real position. It was also Thome’s position, and the veteran still had four more years to run on his contract. Something had to give. The Phillies tried Howard out in left field, but there was no way that the big man could handle the position.
When the 2005 season opened the Thome-Howard had yet to resolve itself. But as so often happens in those situations, fate would step in to lend a hand.
Howard began 2005 ripping 16 home runs and driving in 54 runs while slashing an other-worldly .371/.467/.690 over his first 61 games back at Triple-A.
Thome started fast as well over the first couple of weeks. But then something began to change. The veteran began to slump, and then missed three weeks at the end of May. He returned to the lineup but struggled, hitting just .207 with seven homers through June.
It turned out that Thome had suffered a frayed tendon in his right elbow. He would require season-ending surgery and miss the entire last three months of the 2005 season. The decision to hang on to Howard was apparently going to pay at least short-term dividends.
Getting the call to the big-leagues, Howard would not waste the opportunity. In just 88 games he slashed .288/.356/.567 with 22 home runs, 17 doubles, 52 runs scored, and 63 RBI. For the performance, Howard would be named the National League’s Rookie of the Year.
Howard was just 25-years-old and was now part of an exciting, youthful Phillies lineup that included Rollins and Burrell, still both in their 20’s, and a 26-year-old second baseman named Chase Utley who had emerged that same summer as a future star.
Those 2005 Phillies again fell short of the postseason. But they improved to 88 wins, finished just two games behind the Braves in the NL East race, and were an agonizing one game short of the Houston Astros for the NL Wildcard berth. They had been done in by five straight early-September losses, including a three-game sweep at the hands of the Astros at Citizens Bank Park in which all three were agonizingly close.
The writing was on the wall for the now 35-year-old Thome. The surgery, Howard’s electrifying performance, and the latter’s perfect fit with the core of an emerging contender was going to make Thome expendable. It was time for new GM Pat Gillick to find a deal that would work for both the team and player.
That deal would come together over Thanksgiving, and on Black Friday of 2005 the Phillies general manager sent Thome to the newly-crowned World Series champion Chicago White Sox. The Phillies would include cash to help off-set the nearly $45 million still owed on Thome’s contract over the next three years.
In return the White Sox would send 28-year-old center fielder Aaron Rowand to the Phillies. Rowand had just completed his fifth big-league campaign, his second straight as a full-time starter. He hit .270 with 13 homers, 30 doubles, 16 steals, and 77 runs scored in helping the Chisox capture their first world championship in 88 years.
The deal worked out for both clubs. Thome bounced back all the way from his surgery, blasting 42 home runs and making the AL All-Star squad in the 2006 season. Rowand played a fantastic center field in Philly, including making one of the most memorable catches in team history, one that earned him an eternal place in the hearts of Phillies fans.

Then in 2007 while Thome was ripping another 35 homers with Chicago, Rowand became an NL All-Star and was a key piece in the Phillies capturing the first of five straight NL East crowns.
Meanwhile, Howard made sure that the Phillies didn’t miss a beat with their production from the first base position. In 2006 he followed up his Rookie of the Year campaign by slamming a franchise-record 58 home runs. He also slashed .313/.425/.659 and drove in 149 runs.
For that performance he was selected as an NL All-Star, and then was named as the National League Most Valuable Player. over the next five seasons, Howard would become known as ‘The Big Piece’ with five straight NL East champions, and one of the biggest pieces on a talented 2008 World Series championship squad.
In the late Fall of 2002, Jim Thome arrived in Philadelphia as a drawing card and hopefully the final piece to push an emerging contender to the postseason. He was absolutely the former, but never quite became the latter.
When he left in the Fall of 2005 it was to bring in Aaron Rowand, someone who would not be as big a drawing card, but who became a popular player with the fan base, and who would himself become one of the final pieces to a Phillies posteason team.
Thome would have one final moment on the stage at Citizens Bank Park when he signed to re-join his old mentor Manuel, who was now the Phillies manager. Manuel had been at the helm for that 2008 title and the Phillies were coming off a 102-win season that was the best in franchise history.
Ironically, Thome was brought in because Howard had been injured as the Phillies were eliminated in the 2011 NLDS. With the expectation that Howard’s injury could linger for a couple of months into the 2012 season, it was hoped that Thome could provide a veteran presence and some short-term power at first base.
Alas, it was not to be. The 2012 season turned out to be the most frustrating in more than a decade of Phillies baseball. The team sank to the .500 mark at 81-81, their first non-winning campaign since the 2002 season. Howard would not return until July, and his career would never again be as impactful as prior to the injury.
Thome would not be around for it. With Howard’s return looming and the team at 36-44 and 10 games off the NL East pace, the 41-year-old was dealt to the Baltimore Orioles for a pair of lesser prospects. Thome would help the Orioles to an AL Wildcard berth and appear with them in the postseason that year.
He would retire following Baltimore’s tough five-game loss to the New York Yankees in the ALDS. In 2016, Thome was honored by being enshrined on the Phillies Wall of Fame.
At just two full seasons and parts of two others, he has the shortest service time of any player enshrined by the club. Few fans will argue Thome’s impact at a time when the Phillies were trying to establish a winning environment and tradition.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as Phillies Hot Stove History: The 2002 coming and 2005 going of Jim Thome