Tag Archives: Placido Polanco

Phillies top seasonal performances of the 2010’s

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Bryce Harper‘s 35 homers in 2019 were the most by a Phillies player for any season during the 2010’s decade

 

Two weeks from today will be New Year’s Eve and we will be formally ringing out 2019 as well as the decade of the 2010’s.

A few weeks back, I presented a WAR-based list of the top 10 Phillies players of the past decade. With this piece, I’m going to look at individual seasonal performances.

Who provided the top home run seasons, stolen base seasons, strikout seasons during the course of the last 10 years of Phillies baseball?

Just another way to capture a period of time in franchise history. So, here are the top 10 individual season performances in a variety of categories by Phillies players during the 2010’s decade.

HOME RUNS

  1. Bryce Harper, 2019 – 35
  2. Rhys Hoskins, 2018 – 34
  3. Ryan Howard, 2011 – 33
  4. Ryan Howard, 2010 – 31
  5. Rhys Hoskins, 2019 – 29
  6. Domonic Brown, 2013 – 27
  7. Jayson Werth, 2010 – 27
  8. J.T. Realmuto, 2019 – 25
  9. Maikel Franco, 2016 – 25
  10. Marlon Byrd, 2014 – 25

RBIs

  1. Ryan Howard, 2011 – 116
  2. Bryce Harper, 2019 – 114
  3. Ryan Howard, 2010 – 108
  4. Rhys Hoskins, 2018 – 96
  5. Ryan Howard, 2014 – 95
  6. Maikel Franco, 2016 – 88
  7. Rhys Hoskins, 2019 – 85
  8. Raul Ibanez, 2011 – 84
  9. J.T. Realmuto, 2019 – 83
  10. Domonic Brown, 2013 – 83

RUNS

  1. Jayson Werth, 2010 – 106
  2. Jimmy Rollins, 2012 – 102
  3. Bryce Harper, 2019 – 98
  4. Shane Victorino, 2011 – 95
  5. J.T. Realmuto, 2019 – 92
  6. Cesar Hernandez, 2018 – 91
  7. Rhys Hoskins, 2018 – 89
  8. Odubel Herrera, 2016 / Jimmy Rolllins, 2011 – Ryan Howard, 2010 – 87

STEALS

  1. Ben Revere, 2014 – 49
  2. Juan Pierre, 2012 – 37
  3. Shane Victorino, 2010 – 34
  4. Jimmy Rollins, 2012  / Jimmy Rollins, 2011 – 30
  5. Jimmy Rollins, 2014 – 28
  6. Odubel Herrera, 2016 – 25
  7. Shane Victorino, 2012 – 24
  8. Ben Revere, 2013 / Jimmy Rollins, 2013 – 22

BATTING AVERAGE

(min. 300 PA’s)

  1. Carlos Ruiz, 2012 – .325
  2. Juan Pierre, 2012 – .307
  3. Ben Revere, 2014 – .306
  4. Ben Revere, 2013 – .305
  5. Carlos Ruiz, 2010 – .302
  6. Placido Polanco, 2010 – .298
  7. Odubel Herrera, 2015 – .297
  8. Jayson Werth, 2010 – .296
  9. Cesar Hernandez, 2017 / Cesar Hernandez, 2016 – .294

WINS

  1. Roy Halladay, 2010 – 21
  2. Roy Halladay, 2011 – 19
  3. Cliff Lee, 2011 / Aaron Nola, 2018 / Cole Hamels, 2012 – 17
  4. Cole Hamels, 2011 / Cliff Lee, 2013 – 14
  5. Aaron Nola, 2019 / Aaron Nola, 2017 / Jeremy Hellickson, 2016 / Cole Hamels, 2010 – 12

STRIKEOUTS

  1. Cliff Lee, 2011 – 238
  2. Aaron Nola, 2019 – 229
  3. Aaron Nola, 2018 – 224
  4. Cliff Lee, 2013 – 222
  5. Roy Halladay, 2011 – 220
  6. Roy Halladay, 2010 – 219
  7. Cole Hamels, 2012 – 216
  8. Cole Hamels, 2010 – 211
  9. Cliff Lee, 2012 – 207
  10. Cole Hamels, 2013 – 202

INNINGS

  1. Roy Halladay, 2010 – 250.2
  2. Roy Halladay, 2011 – 233.2
  3. Cliff Lee, 2011 – 232.2
  4. Cliff Lee, 2013 – 222.2
  5. Cole Hamels, 2013 – 220
  6. Cole Hamels, 2011 – 216
  7. Cole Hamels, 2012 – 215.1
  8. A.J. Burnett, 2014 – 213.2
  9. Aaron Nola, 2018 – 212.1
  10. Cliff Lee, 2012 – 211

SAVES

  1. Jonathan Papelbon, 2014 – 39
  2. Jonathan Papelbon, 2012 – 38
  3. Jeanmar Gomez, 2016 – 37
  4. Ryan Madson, 2011 – 32
  5. Jonathan Papelbon, 2013 – 29
  6. Hector Neris, 2019 – 28
  7. Brad Lidge, 2010 – 27
  8. Hector Neris, 2017 – 26
  9. Jonathan Papelbon, 2015 – 17
  10. Seranthony Dominguez, 2018 – 16

 

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Philadelphia Phillies Team of the 2010’s

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Few Phillies flames ever burned-out more quickly than Brown’s, who nonetheless made the team of the 2010’s

 

The decade of the 2010’s began with the Philadelphia Phillies at or near the pinnacle of baseball. The club was a two-time defending National League champion, and in the midst of what would become five consecutive NL East crowns.

You could easily understand thoughts at that point, and even a year later, that the Phillies might become the 2010’s Team of the Decade in Major League Baseball.

The fall came hard and fast, and fairly unexpectedly. By mid-decade the club had plummeted to the very bottom of baseball.

The leaders of those league and division championship teams disappeared over time, some due to age, some to injury, some in trades to replenish a farm system that would never deliver the help needed to turn things around.

Over the course of the ten years ending with this past 2019 campaign the Phillies went a cumulative 787-833. They finished in last place in the NL East on three occasions and have not enjoyed a single winning season since the first two.

As the decade draws to an end, the Phillies have now stabilized as a .500 team thanks to a handful of prospects developing into contributors and a few impact trades and free agent signings.

But this piece isn’t about looking ahead, it is a look back. In particular, this is one man’s selection of the Phillies Team of the 2010’s.

I decided to put together this team in a bit of a unique fashion. Rather than try to pick the best overall players in the fullness of the decade as others have, I opted instead to look at the actual performance of individual Phillies regulars during each particular season.

This Phillies team is therefor made up of the best individual WAR seasons turned in by a player for the team at each position on the diamond. I’ve listed the player name, their top season, and some of their more important stats and notes, including that Baseball-Reference WAR mark.

PHILLIES TEAM OF THE 2010’s

First base – Ryan Howard, 2010: .276/.353/505, 31 HR, 108 RBIs, 87 runs, 2.7 WAR. NL All-Star. Finished 10th in NL MVP voting.

Second base – Chase Utley, 2010: .275/.387/.445, 16 HR, 65 RBIs, 75 runs, 13 steals, 5.8 WAR. NL All-Star.

Shortstop – Jimmy Rollins, 2014: .243/.323/.394, 17 HR, 55 RBIs, 78 runs, 28 steals, 3.9 WAR.

Third base – Placido Polanco, 2010: .298/.339/.386, 6 HR, 52 RBIs, 76 runs, 3.2 WAR.

Left field – Domonic Brown, 2013: .272/.324/.494, 27 HR, 83 RBIs, 65 runs, 2.8 WAR. NL All-Star.

Center field – Shane Victorino, 2011: .279/.355/.491, 17 HR, 61 RBIs, 82 runs, 19 steals, 5.5 WAR. Led MLB with 16 triples. NL All-Star. Finished 13th in NL MVP voting.

Right field – Jayson Werth, 2010: .296/.388/.532, 27 HR, 85 RBIs, 106 runs, 13 steals, 4.5 WAR. Led NL with 46 doubles. Finished 8th in NL MVP voting.

Catcher – Carlos Ruiz, 2012: .325/.394/.540, 16 HR, 68 RBIs, 56 runs, 4.6 WAR. NL All-Star. Finished 28th in NL MVP voting.

Starting pitcher – Aaron Nola, 2018: 2.37 ERA, 0.975 WHIP, 3.01 FIP, 17 wins, 33 starts, 149 hits over 212.1 IP with 224 strikeouts, 10.5 WAR. NL All-Star. Finished 3rd in NL Cy Young Award voting. Finished 13th in NL MVP voting.

Relief pitcher – Jonathan Papelbon, 2014: 2.04 ERA, 0.905 WHIP, 2.53 FIP, 2 wins, 39 saves, 45 hits over 66.1 IP with 63 strikeouts, 2.9 WAR.

The top two players on the 2019 club, catcher J.T. Realmuto and right fielder Bryce Harper, were edged out at their respective positions. 2012 “Chooch” slipped past JT by a 4.6-4.4 margin, and Werth’s 2010 campaign slid by Bryce’s Phillies debut in a 4.5-4.2 finish.

The top WAR figures of the early-decade great starting pitchers Roy Halladay (2011 – 8.8), Cliff Lee (2011 – 8.5), and Cole Hamels (2014 – 6.6) were beaten out by Nola’s fantastic 2018 season.

 

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Philography series of Philadelphia Phillies mini-bios to resume

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It was October 2014 and I was writing for another site when I decided to begin a series of mini biographies on important figures in Philadelphia Phillies history.

Over the next few years and across a handful of different writing outlets, that series which I named “Philography” would continue to accumulate entries, a few during each off-season.

This year the tradition continues, beginning next week with what will be the 22nd entry in the Philography series. The new entry will highlight the career of the greatest pitcher in Phillies history, Steve Carlton.

To get Phillies and overall baseball history fans ready, below are links to the previous 21 pieces. These bios will usually key on the individual’s playing career, but I try to provide more personal and professional background if widely available.

I hope that you will find the series increases your enjoyment of baseball and the Phillies in particular, and come back for the new entries. There will be one each month during December, January, February, and March.

Click on the “date” in order to read the Philography piece. Click on the individual name to view their stats page at Baseball Reference.

PHILOGRAPHY SERIES

 

10.17.2014Greg Luzinski

10.24.2014Mitch Williams

10.31.2014Chris Short

11.07.2014Von Hayes

11.14.2014Placido Polanco

11.21.2014Jim Konstanty

11.28.2014Dick Allen

12.06.2014Dick Ruthven

12.12.2014Grover Cleveland  Alexander

12.20.2014Darren Daulton

12.13.2015Larry Bowa

1.09.2016Sherry Magee

1.26.2016Kevin Stocker

2.10.2016Granny Hamner

2.15.2016 – Edith Houghton

12.27.2016Bob Boone

1.19.2017Mike Lieberthal

2.02.2017Red Dooin

11.29.2018Richie Ashburn

2.03.2019Jim Bunning

2.10.2019Mike Schmidt

 

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Former Phillies Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling deserve Hall of Fame enshrinement

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Rolen was the 1997 NL Rookie of the Year with the Phillies

Just a little more than three weeks from now, on January 22, 2019, the Baseball Hall of Fame will announce the names of those voted in to the Class of 2019.

Based on publicly revealed ballots making up 1/3 of the total eligible voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, it appears certain that Mariano RiveraEdgar Martinez, and former Blue Jays and Phillies ace Roy Halladay will certainly make the cut.
It will be a close call for former Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees stud pitcher Mike Mussina. And a pair of players still be punished for their involvement with PEDs, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, are also receiving strong support but are likely to fall just short this time around.
Two players who will not get in this year, but who each deserve to be enshrined, are former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Curt Schilling and third baseman Scott Rolen.
Schilling was running at around 72.9% of the votes received and made publicly available by early on Saturday afternoon, January 29, 2018 as tabulated by Ryan Thibodaux. Rolen was at just 19.4% of those publicly announced votes. It takes a minimum of 75% support for a player to be elected for enshrinement.
Under the current voting rules, players must have completed participation in ten seasons in order to become eligible for consideration. The player must then have been formally retired from Major League Baseball for five full seasons. Players who pass away within that five-year period are eligible six months after their death.
If a player does not receive the 75% of the votes needed in order for election, they can remain on the Hall of Fame ballot for nine more years. However, if a player received less than 5% support in any voting year they are dropped from the ballot and will received no further consideration until a special committee process can evaluate them.
For Schilling, this marks his seventh year on the ballot. A year ago, he finished with 51.2% of the vote. That was up from 45% in 2017, and just 39.2% in 2015. This is just Rolen’s second year on the ballot after receiving 10.2% of the vote a year ago.

THE CASE FOR CURT

Schilling enjoyed a storied 20-year career in Major League Baseball. He began as a reliever with the Baltimore Orioles (1988-90) and Houston Astros (1991) before receiving his big break.
Just as the 1992 season was set to open, the Philadelphia Phillies obtained Schilling in trade from Houston in a straight-up deal for Jason Grimsley. Phillies skipper Jim Fregosi would insert him into the starting rotation in mid-May, and there he would stay.
Over nine seasons with the Phillies from 1992-2000, Schilling would go 101-78 with a 3.35 ERA and 1.120 WHIP. He allowed just 1,444 hits over 1,659.1 innings with 1,554 strikeouts across 242 appearances, 226 of those as a starter.
Schilling was an NL All-Star for three consecutive seasons from 1997-99 while with the Phillies. The big right-hander also finished fourth in the 1997 NL Cy Young Award voting after a season in which he won 17 games and led baseball with 319 strikeouts for a team that won just 68 games.
It was with the 1993 Phillies magical NL pennant-winning team that Schilling took the first steps in what became one of baseball’s all-time greatest careers as a postseason performer.
He was stellar in starting Games 1 and 5 of the Phillies upset of the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series. He surrendered just three earned runs and 11 hits over 16 innings as the Phillies won both games. For those performances, Schilling was named the Most Valuable Player of the NLCS.
Then after a lackluster outing in Game 1 of the World Series against the Toronto Blue Jays, Schilling kept the Phillies alive with a sparkling five-hit, complete game shutout in Game 5 of that Fall Classic.
Schilling would be dealt to Arizona at the 2000 non-waiver trade deadline. There he would be named the Most Valuable Player of the 2001 World Series in helping to lead the Diamondbacks to their lone world championship. He would also add two more NL All-Star teams and a pair of Cy Young runner-up finishes to his resumé while pitching in the desert.
Just prior to the Winter Meetings in November 2003, Schilling was traded again, this time to the Boston Red Sox. There he would finish as runner-up for the Cy Young Award for a third time.
He would help end the 86-year ‘Curse of the Bambino‘ as the Bosox won the 2004 World Series. Included in that run was the legendary ‘Bloody Sock’ performance in Game 6 of the ALCS comeback victory over the arch-rival New York Yankees. Then in his career finale, Schilling would again help Boston to another world championship in 2007.
Over his full career, Schilling put together a 216-146 record with a 3.46 ERA and 1.137 WHIP. He allowed 2,998 hits over 3,261 innings while striking out 3,116 batters across 569 appearances.
Schilling was a three-time World Series champion, six-time All-Star, three-time runner-up for the Cy Young Award, and received MVP votes in four seasons. He also won the 1995 Lou Gehrig Award.
For his fabulous 2001 performance he won not only that World Series MVP Award, but also was honored with the NL Babe Ruth Award, the Branch Rickey Award, and the Roberto Clemente Award. In both 2001 and 2002 he was named as The Sporting News NL Pitcher of the Year.
He led all of baseball in Innings Pitched on two occasions and won 20+ games three times. In 19197-98 with the Phillies he registered back-to-back seasons of 300+ strikeouts.
Take a look at those qualifications again. This is a no-doubt Hall of Famer who should be enshrined by now. Schilling, a political and social conservative, is likely being held back by controversial political and social commentary made public over the last handful of year.

SCOTT’S SHOT AT THE HALL

Rolen was the Phillies second round choice in the 1993 MLB Amateur Draft and made his big-league debut with the team in a 1996 season that was cut short by injury. On his full-season return in 1997, Rolen was named as the National League Rookie of the Year.
The following season, Rolen received National League Most Valuable Player votes for the first of what would be four times in his career. He also was honored with his first of eight career NL Gold Glove Awards at third base. For me, Rolen is third behind only Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt as a defender at the hot corner.
Over parts of seven seasons with the Phillies, Rolen slashed .282/.373/.504, slamming 150 homers and 207 doubles. He was traded away at the 2002 MLB non-waiver trade deadline to the Saint Louis Cardinals as part of a five-player deal in which the Phillies received Placido Polanco in return. Rolen won a 2002 NL Silver Slugger following that season.
With the Cardinals, Rolen made four consecutive NL All-Star appearances from 2003-06, won Gold Gloves in three of those four seasons, and helped lead Saint Louis to the World Series championship in 2006. He finished fourth in the 2004 NL MVP voting after a season in which he slammed 34 home runs and produced 124 RBI while hitting .314 with a .409 on-base percentage.
After a season-and-a-half with the Toronto Blue Jays, Rolen wrapped his career by playing four seasons with the Cincinnati Reds. He added on two more NL All-Star appearances and a final Gold Glove with the Reds, though most of those final four years were marred by injuries that robbed him of much of his power.
Over 17 seasons, Rolen finished with 2,077 hits and 316 home runs. He drove in 1,287 runs and scored 1,211 times. His career 70.2 WAR places him 67th all-time in Major League Baseball among position players. While WAR is not the be-all and end-all of baseball statistics, it has become accepted as an extremely reliable barometer of a player’s performance and value when compared to others.
That 70.2 mark puts him ahead of many Hall of Famers, including the likes of Gary CarterTim RainesTony GwynnEddie MurrayIvan RodriguezCarlton FiskRyne SandbergErnie BanksRoberto AlomarWillie McCoveyDave WinfieldAndre DawsonWillie StargellVladimir GuerreroJim RiceLou Brock, and many more.

WHEN MIGHT WE SEE THEM MAKE IT

The voting at this time a year from now should be extremely interesting. The only newcomer to the ballot for the Class of 2020 who is going to be elected is Derek Jeter. That’s a slam dunk.
Schilling will join Bonds and Clemens, possibly Mussina if he falls short again this time, and Larry Walker in his final year on the ballot as the other favorites for election. The following year, for the Class of 2021, all but Walker will again be under consideration with no newcomers to the ballot likely to make the cut.
Rolen is likely to take some time. He is the type of player whose career is going to come more into focus and be appreciated as each year of consideration rolls on. An extremely hopeful sign that the BBWAA will get it right eventually? Today’s public results show that 42.9% of first-time voters cast a ballot for him.
Schilling and Rolen were teammates for parts of five seasons from 1996-2000 with the Phillies. Those were losing seasons for the team, during which ownership was unwilling to lay out money to improve the product on the field as they lobbied for new ballpark to replace Veteran’s Stadium.
Both Schilling and Rolen were legitimate stars who went public with their dissatisfaction in playing for a team that was going nowhere. Those public proclamations didn’t always go over well with the Phillies fan base and were the primary reasons behind each of their departures.
Fact is, the two players were right. Phillies ownership was refusing to put money into the team. This doomed the two stars to years of losing baseball with little support. The Phillies went just 352-458 during those 1996-2000 seasons. It would all turn begin to turn around for the franchise over the next couple of years, but by then the two were gone.
Schilling was eventually honored with a place on the Phillies Wall of Fame. He was given that ultimate franchise honor during the summer of 2013. Rolen will hopefully join him on that wall during some future summer.
This year, I voted for both Schilling and Rolen in my IBWAA Hall of Fame ballot. I will certainly continue to vote for both players any year that they appear on that ballot.
I  firmly believe that sometime in the coming years both of these former Phillies and overall baseball greats will receive their day in the summer sun with a Baseball Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony at Cooperstown, New York.

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