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Jim Thome's Phillies return a welcome addition, and Ruben Amaro is far from done

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"KEEP ON PHIGHTIN' WITH JOE VALLEE"

Back in 2002, the Phillies were in the process of moving into their brand new stadium in less than two years and needed a superstar as an attraction for the fan base.

Less than three years and close to 100 home runs later, the superstar the team signed got injured and was then traded to make room for a young 'up and coming slugger.'

Six years later, the former 'up and coming slugger' is now injured.

And the former superstar has returned to take his place, or at least help out for a short time.

Funny how baseball works isn’t it?

Of course, the injured slugger is now Ryan Howard. And by now, you know the returning player is none other than “Gentleman Jim” Thome, who the Phillies brought back (pending a physical) Friday and signed him to a one-year, $1.25 million dollar contract. To put things in perspective, that’s roughly $83.75 million less than the $85 million dollar, six-year contract Thome signed with the Phils back in December 2002 (the last sub-.500 season for this team to date). Jim Thome is back!  Photo: thephillyphour.wordpress.com

As crazy as this sounds, my good friend Dennis Hannan mentioned to me JUST yesterday about how the Phils should bring Thome back to play first base while Howard recovers from his injury.

I admit it, I told him no way. Thome has played first base four times since 2006, he’s now 41 years old, and nagging pains have been more the exception to the rule with him the last few years.

So much for my rationale, Dennis. Kind of.

Chances are if anything, Thome will most likey be used as a pinch hitter and a spot starter for John Mayberry Jr. at first base against right-handers (and possibly former Twins teammate Michael Cuddyer? Whom the Phils are reportedly eyeing.)

It doesn’t have the same fanfare that it did nine winters ago, but Thome back in Phillies pinstripes is something special. Even after his departure, Thome remained a beloved figure in this town and is one of the very few athletes in this town to have virtually never been booed (Remember when he homered last year during that Saturday afternoon game in the ninth inning and the Phillies fans cheered?)

Thome’s return to the Phillies almost happened last summer, but the waiver wire is unfortunately not too accepting to a team with the most wins in the majors. It was a shame Thome left and wasn't part of the 2008 World Championship team (damn you American League only DH!), but you’re not going to trade a reigning Rookie of the Year in Howard (who is nine years younger) and keep a (at the time) 35 year-old slugger coming off an injury instead (even though the Phillies would have technically stopped paying Thome’s heavy contract in 2009). Will Michael Cuddyer follow Jim Thome to Philly? Photo: blog.prorumors.com

Now make no mistake, 604 career home runs or not, this is not the Jim Thome from 2003, but nobody is expecting him to be. The addition of Thome and possibly Cuddyer (who will turn 33 at the start of the 2012 season) is further indication that Ruben Amaro (regardless of age) is trying to get one last run out of this aging Phillies team before the window of opportunity closes.

Amaro always has some tricks up his sleeve. There's no way he is going to remain complacent this off-season, especially when the Phillies could possibly face the departures of franchise cornerstones Jimmy Rollins  and Ryan Madson.

The Phillies originally brought Jim Thome to Philadelphia to stir up interest as they moved into Citizens Bank Park and to win a World Series. When he left, they won a World Series and were the favorites to win it in 2011.

Now that he’s back, can the Phillies finally get it right by winning another championship while Thome finally gets his ring?

We shall see, but either way it’s great to have him back.

 

 

In the meantime, Keep On Phightin'

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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Thome thumbnail and article photo: thephillyphour.wordpress.com

Cuddyer photo: blog.prorumors.com

Thome homepage: philadelphia.com