When Jim Thome signed with the Phillies last November, it was seen as an opportunity to shore up the team's beleaguered bench, with the 41 year old slugger also expected to start a game or two per week at first base until Ryan Howard returned, and to give the beloved Thome a real chance at the World Series ring that had eluded him during his long big league career.
As we know, things did not go to plan. Thome played some first base, then aggravated his back and went on the disabled list for the entire month of May before he even hit a single home run. When he returned, completely unable to play in the field, the Phillies were rapidly plummeting out of the playoff race, but the Hall of Famer treated the fans to a display of Vintage Thome during an Interleague swing through the American League. Serving as designated hitter in a nine game June swing through Balitmore, Minnesota, and Toronto, Thome hit four home runs and drove in 14 runs -- while the Phillies went 3-6.
The most memorable moment of the season for Thome came the following week on June 23, when he struck a walkoff solo home run against Tampa Bay after a Jonathan Papelbon blown save, one that earned the slugger a $5,000 "bonus" from the closer.
Recognizing the utility value of a bat-only guy on a non-contender after the conclusion of Interleague Play, the Phillies decided to do Thome and themselves a favor, trading the slugger to the Baltimore Orioles for prospects Kyle Simon (RHP) and Gabriel Lino (C).
Overall for the Phillies, Thome posted a very Thome-esque .242/.338/.516 line with five home runs in 71 plate appearances. After going to Balitmore, Thome spent more time on the disabled list with a neck injury, raising the serious possibility that 2012 would be the end of the road.
In all, it was a $1,250,000 gamble for the Phillies, and what the team lost in money, they more than made up for in good feelings. And while Thome's career has probably ended without its championship, he's earned the respect and admiration of the league. Farewell, Mr. Thome.
Exit Interview: The Phillies sent a copy of their form Exit Interview to Jim Thome in Baltimore. Thome did not respond in writing; instead, he sent a reel-to-reel tape to Ruben Amaro, Jr. via courier. The contents of that tape are transcribed below.
I've seen horrors... horrors that you've seen. But you have no right to call me a choker. You have a right to release me. You have a right to do that... but you have no right to judge me. It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror... Horror has a face... and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies! I remember when I was with the Sky Sox... seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a camp to run bunting drills with the hitting coach, but Charlie didn't know. We left the camp after we had each gone ten times, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went back there, and Charlie had come and broken every bat in half. There they were in a pile. A pile of broken bats. And I remember... I... I... I cried, I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out; I didn't know what I wanted to do! And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it... I never want to forget. And then I realized... like I was shot... like I was shot with a diamond... a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought, my God... the genius of that! The genius! The will to do that! Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we, because they could stand that these were not monsters, these were men... trained cadres. These men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love... but they had the strength... the strength... to do that. If I had ten lineups of those men, our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral... and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to take pitches without feeling... without passion... without judgment... without judgment! Because it's judgment that defeats us.