Jim Thome: How Much Power Does He Have?

Jim Thome has cast a large shadow over the Phillies organization and the hiring of Charlie Manuel may fall within that shadow. The player who may be the crowing moment of Ed Wade's tenure as general manager, may also be the player that the Phillies need most to take over the reins of leadership, especially since he now has "his" manager in place.

In baseball there are players who are famous as much for their temperament as for their playing. Some are off-tempered or infamous for random tantrums and roughhousing. Jim Thome is not one of them. There are also players who are known for getting the little hits at big points in the game. Not Jim. He is pure power at the plate. And there are also those who found General Manager Ed Wade to be such a loser at his job they couldn't wait to get out of the Phillies pinstripes. Not Jim Thome. He called him "A smart man". Did I lose you on that one? Whether it's in the box or in the clubhouse, the power of Jim Thome is one we have all found very worthy of discussion this year.

Upon Jim Thome's arrival in Philadelphia, excitement swirled around him and Phillies fans knew they were getting something great. Though he had never played in the National League we felt confident about the kind of player he was and the numbers he had put up in his long career with the Cleveland Indians. He'd gone to the World Series with them in both 1995 and 1997 and was known for his power. Remember the commercials that featured Phillies crying over the arrival of the big guy? They knew too. For Philadelphia fans still smarting over the trade of third baseman Scott Rolen for Placido Polanco, Mike Timlin and Bud Smith (only one of which worked out well) Thome was a sigh of relief and a glimmer of hope. He would immediately go to work and prove it didn't matter which league he was in by putting up excellent numbers: 131 RBI, a batting average of .266 and an OBP of .385. In 2004 despite his troubles with an injured thumb he joined the 400 homerun club, had a batting average of .274 and even with the injury, he had an even higher OBP than the previous year. In one particular game after he came back from injury, he was available but it was up to then manager Larry Bowa to decide if he would be put in. The camera caught a shot of Thome pacing in the dugout, swinging the bat and staring over at Bowa. The look on his face was priceless. He wanted in and wanted badly to get a hit for the team. He wants nothing more than to play and be counted on and the competitive spirit he has always had make him a well respected and dependable ball player.

While this kind of dependability makes him a huge asset to the Phillies some have questioned whether or not he is the "leader" on the team. Thome doesn't bring the voracious kind of leadership that Pete Rose or Darren Daulton did. As newly appointed manager Charlie Manuel said "He leads by example". That is a very true but revealing statement. It could be analyzed and looked at with some concern. A verbal leader in the clubhouse is often necessary and if Jim Thome is the most respected player on that team, having him be more outspoken behind closed doors would truly be a plus. These Phillies have less than emotive personalities causing people to at times describe them as boring, listless or passionless. But if being a quieter type of person or a less demonstrative player means you have no passion we might need to rethink our definition. When Chase Utley or David Bell step up to the plate they have incredible concentration in their approach and a toughness that shines through without them having to be loud or showy. Jim Thome is also that kind of guy. But if he is the team leader does he need to take a more aggressive stance in the clubhouse to keep things balanced?

When Larry Bowa was still manager his personality was fiery enough to make up for any of the 25 guys that might be subdued. But it often seemed that there needed to be a rallying voice. Unfortunately players don't exactly want their manager to be that guy because it can start to feel like an authoritative voice making demands rather than a peer who the team respects. Larry Andersen once said of Darren Daulton "He's like E.F. Hutton. When he talks, people listen". Jim Thome is most certainly the one these guys would listen to, if he has anything to say. Example isn't wrong but I just wonder if there needs to be a more aggressive personality in there who might be more vocal.

The respect he garners is of course for the kind of player he is. There is an upstanding, old fashioned quality about him, a pride in his performance and a respect for people and the game that everyone finds both endearing and commendable. He would never view himself as being more important than the team as a whole and it is clear he isn't just about individual performance. He is unselfish as a player and people, particularly his comrades, respect him tremendously for that. His big heart shines through and he seems to get along with everyone.

That brings me to Ed Wade. It's possible the proudest moment of Wade's career as GM of the Phillies is getting Jim Thome. And it's for all the right reasons of course. Thome's numbers speak for themselves and his winning ability and dedication to the game of baseball are known to all. But it also certainly made Wade look good. He'd let go of Curt Schilling and Scott Rolen and Phillies fans were fighting mad and looking for something to believe in. Thome provided a major thrill for people and took a lot of hate, er, heat off of Wade. Thome's exciting power hitting gave Philly folk a new hero in red pinstripes and we hoped that this was merely a piece in the puzzle Wade was putting together. Trading for Billy Wagner in the winter before the 2004 season began was another piece that got Phillies fans even more charged. Obviously, entering the 2004 season we were certain our destiny was a World Series parade on Broad. When that fell to pieces during a nine game loosing streak we looked for answers. Wade blamed Bowa and he was canned. Phillies fans for the most part blamed Wade, his bosses, and the players. But was it for lack of a leader? Is Jim Thome the kind of man that can help carry a team, this team, to a World Series?

With the young Ryan Howard taking balls in the outfield in the AFL and the Phillies needing to perhaps include him in a trade deal it appears that Thome is here to stay. But the fickle spirit of the Phillies fan can be a funny thing. We were all mad about Jim and then he has some trouble last year and we start talking about trading him to put Howard at first base. Are we honestly going to get that ahead of ourselves and put our faith in a kid over the veteran Thome at this point just because we are so excited about Howard? It then leads me to wonder if perhaps we expected even more of Thome. He truly seems to have been, in the minds of Phillies fans, the unofficial leader. While we yapped about leadership and who was leading this team as the season winded down and we were left to our analysis, a funny thing happened that brought real clarity to the situation, at least in my eyes.

The search for a manager was apparently exhaustive and included some folks that we would have given our right arm to have leading this team. If Jim Leyland was ever a real possibility, than I am the Crazy Hungarian; I don't think so. So there we were in a state of frenzy as Eddie dangled him in front of us in some sick game with the fans minds. A way to make us think he ever had any other candidate in mind than good ole' Charlie Manuel, Wade's special assistant, former Cleveland Indians manager, and Jim Thome's best buddy. Thome made it clear early on that he wanted no other man chosen for the job than Manuel. So this would be the real test. How powerful Thome really is would be made crystal clear when Charlie Manuel was given the job. Ed Wade had never really and truly considered hiring anyone else and Thome was in the front of the rally for Charlie. I go back to the Thome quote that "Ed Wade is a smart man" and I almost feel like I don't need to say anything more. Jim Thome has incredible clout in this organization and a closer relationship with Ed Wade than perhaps any of us were really aware of. Charlie Manuel is Thome's guy. The other guys on the team were for the most part, lobbying for Jim Fregosi, according to Mike Lieberthal. This contest was a one man vote and since that man was Jim Thome, Charlie Manuel was hired. It does not mean I am certain it's a bad decision. I don't know how it's going to turn out though I have some idea as I am sure we all do: Phillies will finish a few games behind the Braves in the National League East; the Braves will go a few games into the playoffs and choke. Sorry…that last part I like.

The word power can be attributed to Jim Thome in so many ways now. He will give you plenty of jacks at the plate. He will be an example in the game and as a person. He may or may not be a vocal clubhouse leader, which is still unclear. But it is also certain that the 2005 Phillies are his team in the eyes of Ed Wade. I'm not denying the ability and talent of Charlie Manuel, just the crux of his hiring. So if in fact this is the team of Jim Thome, then one thing is certain. If he wasn't the team leader before he'd better be now.

Philly Baseball Insider Top Stories