It all started with "Big" Jim Thome.
If you are from Philadelphia or simply a fan of donning red pinstripes from time to time, the modern day love affair between the "City of Brotherly Love" and the "Fightin's" all starts with with a winter day during the Ed Wade era. When the Phillies won the sweepstakes for the lefty firstbaseman by completely overpaying for the aging superstar.
Thome was the brand-name player that would open the newly built CBP. He was the star that was going to spike ticket sales, and renew interest in a sagging franchise that was in the midst of a 20 year span of futility. The contract was enormous. So were the years. But everyone said we needed Big Jim if the Phillies were ever to turn the corner.
In efforts to lure Jim Thome to sign with the Phillies, the team had hired his personal hitting guru. That guy of course was Charlie Manuel... who has his own legacy in Philadelphia. You might of heard of him.
Big Jim started the party here in Philly, and missed most of the fun when he was traded away to the Chicago White Sox for Aaron Rowand. In the time in between he was everything that a major-leauger and a star of the game are supposed to be. He wore red for three seasons and did us proud for every minute.
He eased the transition for Ryan Howard. He had profound influence in the clubhouse and with the teams habbits and preparatoy work in the clubhouse. He was the perfect role model for the Ulteys, Howards and Jimmy Rollins' of the world.
With his 600 home run finally clearing the opposite field wall last night. Thome has actually done more for the people who already sat in this club than he has done for himself. He has brought them credibility, class and the type of star power that doesn't fade like a television when it gets shut off. Thome is in the rare and CLEAN air with baseball dieties that gather just under Babe, "Say Hey" Willie and Hammerin Hank. I would mention Ty Cobb, but no one liked that son-of-a-bitch.
There is a big part of me that openly hopes that the Phillies could bring Thome back for a final tour of duty. He should be celebrated by this city, in which he gave far more than he got during his time of service.
In discussing Thome and his value to the franchise then and now, the topic I debated with Matt Lichtenschtader of Mattssportsmusings.com had to do with the percieved pressure that the Phillies might have on themseves.
Matt's point does hold water, that the Phillies have sold away all their farm, just to keep the house. (pun intended) He also was the first person I have heard question the Phillies attempts to "buy" a title. He also warned me of the hollowness of such a victory.
The obvious motivational factor is the Houston Astros and their absolute haul for trading Hunter Pence to Philly. On Monday, Houston named Domingo Santana as the final poece of the trade, complete the PTBL part of the deal.
Having seen Santana on mulitple occasions in Lakewood, the kid's talent is undeniable. However, his power is severly tempered by a free swinging way that makes me think of Juan Samuel. He also has been as fluid in the outfield as Dominic Brown is when he is tracking down pop-flies.
For those worried about the loss of John Singleton's power, the signing of supplemental first round pick Larry Greene might of been one of the guys that made Singleton available. The 33rd overall pick recieved an oversloted $1 million dollar bonus.
To answer Matt, I use the cliche: Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery; its all about what you do in moment. And Mattie, each time Rueben is inside that moment, he adds- not subtracts.
It's nice to see Hunter Pence being celebrated as a national story. It's goes with what Pat Gillick taught us about baseball: Sometimes the right guy for your team, isnt the best player available.
While some can argue that he was the best talent on the market, Pence has a very clear cieling on his skill set and it is not as high as Jayson Werth's was when he first was handed full time right field honors in place of Geoff Jenkins. Pence just fits; like Eisenriech with macho-row.
If you are looking for the next Jayson Werth, might I reccomoned watching the progression of Mayberry. Right now, he looks like the 2007 version of the 126 million-dollar-man.
For anyone going to the game tonight, say hi to Harry Kalas' statue for me. Rain on Sunday cost me the chance to celebrate the voice of my childhood, but I will see him soon, I am sure.