Jim Thome Heading Back to the Bench
Jim Thome is talking. For now.
Talking up his team's chops. Talking aloud baseball's zany quirks.
Said Thome (CSN Philly): "You look around this room, we've got guys -- we've got winners. We've got guys that have been through it in big, big games. How you explain (Phils struggles, all things considered)? It's hard to sometimes. Baseball's a weird game."
Talking up and down and everywhere that, yeah, this team is trying really, REALLY hard.
Said Thome: "I don't think it's a lack of caring. Everybody gets to the ballpark early, everybody does their work. And some days, it just doesn't work out. But hopefully here, as we go forward, we can turn this thing around and bring some positive baseball back to Philly, because I think everybody there wants us to play well."
And, for now, to hear what Thome's saying. When he stops playing -- as he's expected to, now that the Phils interleague round is over and their need of a DH is up -- he stops talking. And people -- his young teammates, his bored fan base, everybody -- stop listening.
Let's be real: Thome is clutching, clinging, coddling the Phillies last thread of relevance. Over the weekend, he became just the fourth player in the history of the game to mash 100 home runs for three different teams. That's news. He tied up Juan Samuel for No. 23 all-time on the Phillies all-time home run list. He's hit .324 with 3 home runs, 12 RBI and -- gasp! -- 4 walks in his last 10 games.That's nostalgia.
Meanwhile, the Phils are 3-12 in their last 15, nine games out of first place and 44 days into their reign at the bottom of the NL East barrel. That's a yawn, storylineified. They're unentertaining, uninspiring, (maybe) uninterested -- the antithesis of theoretical Phillies baseball.
What's real? Jim Thome. That's all.
And, right now, that's all that matters. Forget superficialities, talk of stretching sellout streaks and working TV deals and the like. There are still (carry the...) 94 games left on the slate, plenty of time for concurrent mystic runs (the Nationals) and historic collapses (the Phillies).
Thome's the only thing that gives this team a chance right now. Not a sustainable chance, not with his creaky back, only likely to buckle and bring with it his offensive numbers. Not anything more than a for-now chance, at least until You Know Who gets going, which, yeah, might actually be worse Not a chance you really even feel all that good about, for these and other obvious reasons.
But he gives you a chance, all the same.
With $172 million in input and notably less in output, aren't chances at a premium right now?
Maybe something to tide the Phillies tired psyches over. Isn't that what Thome was brought here for? For both his stick and his savvy, to spackle the cracks gashed by Ryan Howard's Achilles and the Phils lineup? Let the man do his thing. Let him capitalize on his offensive outburst, the only time that any of his leadership will really matter to anybody in the clubhouse. Hell, let the Phillies and fans and everyone else.
Really: How much worse can it get, when Phils first basemen this year are batting .260 (No. 13 in MLB), with 10 home runs (T-10) and 36 RBI (T-9) in 68 games? (Pretty good, but notably less than Thome throughout this tear.) How much worse can it get, when the Phils now have 15 errors in their last 11 games?
Thome needs rhythm, the same rhythm that does Hector Luna (.302 in 2012, .258 in his last 10) and Ty Wigginton (.249, .211) and John Mayberry (.235, .226) and anybody else the Phils feel like schlepping out there. The difference? One of them has a hot hand right now. Play it, plain and simple.
Said Thome: "It can be frustrating, it can be frustrating. We have a very, very talented club. When you don't see it happening, when you don't see things going the way you want them to go. I think you get a lot of people who do care, who do kind of have that thought process of, 'Hey, when's this thing going to turn around?'"
What we do? The second you pluck Thome from the lineup -- time, it seems, that just ticked by -- this thing turns south. For good.