Indians, local media team up to remake the image of a false idol

The Friday night homecoming game for the prodigal came with printed “Welcome Thome” placards provided by the Indians at the gate. The fans were encouraged to greet the newly restored Tribesman with a standing ovation; the wild cheering and sign waving would drown out any boos from unbelievers that refused to get in lockstep with the program. Jim Thome went 0-4 that night and contributed not at all to Cleveland’s 2-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals.

This carefully scripted evening began at 5 PM with a news conference before the local lapdog media, in which Thome issued a pseudo-apology for the way he left town as a free agent in 2002. The Thomenator, sounding much like the bridegroom at a shotgun wedding, stuttered through the following statement:

“Maybe I said some things that weren’t right. Maybe you’re given a second chance to say you’re sorry. Maybe that’s why I’m sitting here.”

A heartfelt apology? I don’t know. Where I come from it’s three maybes and you’re out.

I was always taught that reconciliation started with true confession first. This sounds a lot like an, “I didn’t really do anything wrong but everyone thinks I did so I’m sorry” apology to me.

I have a few maybes to add to Thome’s 3 of a kind:

Jim Thome still has much to gain by enduring this final month in self-imposed baseball purgatory. Now that his career is over, he needs to begin whitewashing his tarnished image by embarking on a “rewrite history tour” with the Indians. Being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as an Indian with half the city of Cleveland mad at you just won’t do.

Thome's arrival also provides a significant distraction from the foolish Jubaldo Jimenez trade, in which Chris Antonetti played the perfect dupe to Colorado's GM O'Dowd. Alex White and Drew Pomerantz, two promising young arms (not to mention the millions in bonus money paid to sign them) were sacrificed for a shaky starter whose "ace" potential is highly debatable. As the Tribe slips out of the race in September, the Indian's sycophants in the media can redirect attention from the dopey deal to whether or not Thome will retire this fall.

Maybe we’ll see LeBron James come limping back home to a hero’s welcome in eight years or so. If it’s this easy, why not?

Cliff Lee leads Rangers to their first World Series

October 22, 2010

Texas will face San Fran as Charlie Manuel, Roy Halladay and the Phillies go home

ARLINGTON, Texas - Cliff Lee threw a bullpen session and took batting practice Sunday. Lee starts a World Series opener for the second year in a row after winning Games 1 and 5 last year for Philadelphia against the Yankees.

The Texas Rangers are getting ready for their first World Series, and the opener will be at San Francisco, where their ace left-hander will be pitching after an extended break and also taking swings in the National League park, where the designated hitter isn't used.

In a year when pitching excellence has been a theme of the entire baseball season, Lee is proving to be the best of the best.

The Phillies decided to dump Lee last off-season when they figured they couldn’t sign him to long-term deal. Even though they had Lee signed through 2010, they traded him to Seattle and went with Roy Halladay, acquired from the Blue Jays, instead. It was a move that (had they asked) Wickman’s Warriors would have advised against. The Rangers, lead by new owner Nolan Ryan, pulled off the trade of the season by acquiring Lee from Seattle.

A .132 hitter in his 68 regular-season at-bats in a career spent mostly in the American League, Lee was 1 for 3 in last year's World Series. He hit .273 (3 for 11) the postseason for the Phillies. More important for the Rangers, Lee has been an October ace on the mound winning all three of his starts during the playoffs. He's struck out 67 and walked seven over 64 1-3 career postseason innings.

"I'm anxious to get it started," Lee said. "I don't feel any pressure. We're fortunate to be in this spot — we're one of two teams left playing. We should just go out there and have fun and play the game the way we can, and things are going to work out."

As heartbreaking as it is to be seeing Cliff Lee doing all these marvelous things for teams other than the Indians, it’s hard not to be happy for him. Why should he and the rest of the world be deprived of his excellence just because Cleveland couldn’t figure out how to use his talents to win anything? J. Ladd

A Look at Lee:

·          Cliff Lee struck out 13 Yankees a masterful 8-0 blowout in ALCS game 3 on October 18th.

·          In his 8 postseason starts, Lee has struck out ten or more batters six times. His 13 strikeouts against the Yankees set a personal postseason high. He is the fourth pitcher to strike out at least 13 batters in a postseason game against the Yankees. He joins Carl Erskine (1953 World Series/Dodgers/14), Sandy Koufax (1963 World Series/Dodgers/15) and Bob Gibson (1964 World Series/Cardinals/13).

·          There have been 31 postseason games in which a pitcher has struck out 10 or more batters and walked one or none. Cliff Lee has done it 5 times. No other pitcher has done it more than twice.

CJT: Minnesota

Not that the Twins needed the “Curse of Jim Thome” to get swept out of the playoffs like a bunch of gnats, but it sure didn’t help them any.

The Yankees bounced their personal playoff piñata from the postseason in 2003, 2004 and last season, but none of the above was as enjoyable as the 2010 spanking.

This year the Twinkies added Happy Jack and his bad back to the roster to bolster their offense and add excitement to their inaugural season at brand new Target Field in downtown Minneapolis. It worked out pretty well all season long as foolish American League teams (like the Indians) continued to pitch to the designated pinch-hitter. The 40-year-old Thome continued to pound out homers all year long, even though the only skills he has left consist of hobbling to the plate and swinging for the fences.

New York would have none of that. The Yankees set the tone early by having C.C. Sabathia plunk the Thomenator early in game one of the division series and then pitch him in on his hands the rest of the way out. Jimbo ended both losses in games one and two with harmless pop-outs to left field.

Hello! Manny Acta? Are you paying attention? He’d never hit another home run the rest of his career if every pitcher followed the Yankees example when facing him.

I don’t know which hapless AL team will pick up Jim Thome for the 2011 drive to pad his stats for the Hall of Fame. The Twins will probably let him hang around next season so he can collect his 13 homers and join the 600 Club as a Twin. There will be fireworks and huge crocodile tears all around, I’m sure.

I know that Thome considers himself an “old-school” baseball player. What I don’t know is how he justifies that, being a guy who’s only function for the last 5 years is to stand at the plate and swing to launch moon shots out of the park. My gut feeling is that Major League Baseball encourages teams to serve him up big fat gopher balls in his quest for milestones so they can hold him up as a shining example of the clean-cut all-American boy that did it the right way (PED free). I have my suspicions about that, too.

I’m very old school myself. If it were up to me there would be no designated hitters in MLB. Not in the National League, American League or in the Baseball Hall of Fame. They don’t belong there with the truly great ballplayers of bygone eras. J. Ladd 10/10/2010


The Curse of Jim Phony, part…?

Sorry folks, I lost count.

Our last episode of “Jim Phony, B.S.” (that’s not Bachelor of Science) left us wondering which American League team would become a lightning rod for the bad karma that surrounds the traveling D.H.

The Minnesota Twins have stepped to the plate. No longer spending like a small-market club, the Twins signed Joe Mauer to an eight-year, $184 million contract extension to play in their new gazillion dollar outdoor ballpark that opens this spring.

Prior to their spending extravaganza, the Twins foolishly shot themselves in the foot by signing Jim Thome to one-year deal for about $1.5 million. Oops!

Shortly after Happy Jack and his bad back joined the team, the Twins announced that All-Star closer Joe Nathan, who leads the majors with 246 saves since 2004, will miss the 2010 season because of a right elbow injury that will require Tommy John surgery. See you in 2012, Joe.

The Twinkies should have learned a lesson from Philadelphia, who tried to make Jimbo the centerpiece of their new ballpark earlier in the decade. It was only after the Phils jettisoned the Thomenator to the White Sox did they win the World Series with Charlie Manuel at the helm! The saga continues…J. Ladd 4/1/10


Charlie Manuel leads Phillies to the Fall Classic

10-26-08: A delightful twist of fate has guided Charlie Manuel and the Thome-less Phillies into the World Series to face the Tampa Bay Rays.

Back in 2003, when Golden Boy Jim Thome arrived in Philadelphia to start collecting his $90 million, the adoring Phillies gave him pretty much anything he wanted while using him as the centerpiece of the campaign to launch their new ballpark. Jimbo used his newfound (albeit temporary) clout to bring in mentor Charlie Manuel as hitting coach. Charlie would serve as his personal valet as well as  keep him company while he became used to his new digs.

But Jim Phony is not a leader nor does he inspire anyone. He likes to jump up and down with the guys when they win, but he's the first one down the tunnel to hide and sulk after a heartbreaking loss. The Phillies learned the expensive way that he's the wrong player to build a team around.

By 2005 he had become a pariah that was holding back the young phenom Ryan Howard at first base. Happy Jack and his bad back were a liability for a National League team that had a strong nucleus, so the Phillies actually paid the White Sox $20 million or so (half his remaining salary) to rid themselves of the future designated hitter. He would become just another aging player on a Chicago team that won the championship in 2005 but was declining fast. 

When Philadelphia fired hotheaded manager Larry Bowa the next year, it left Charlie Manuel with an opportunity to try his down-home old-school style of managing on the Phillies.

And so the guy that was too out of touch to manage the young up and coming Indians in 2002 takes his place on baseballs biggest stage with a shot to win it all. How sweet it would be to see Charlie holding up that trophy knowing the Indians brass and Little Jimmy Thome were watching  from home.

Aw shucks, what a story. Go Phills!

"Tellum in Cleveland we won a World Series!"

Charlie gets the ring; Jim Phony goes a huntin' and Shapiro and Wedge go back to the drawing board

Did you hear or read about Charlie Manuel's message to Cleveland?

"Tell them in Cleveland, we just won a World Series . . . I wasn't working on trying to prove nothing. Don't take this in a cocky way, but I already knew how good I was."

Apparently the Indians didn't.


Phillies repeat as NL Champs

Team rides Cliff Lee’s outstanding postseason performances to its second consecutive World Series appearance

“Lemme tell you,” Charlie Manuel told 46,214 delirious fans at Citizens Bank Park. “We’ve got one more step, and we’re gonna get it!”

That was Manuel’s Joe Namath-like pledge after the Phillies defeated the L.A. Dodgers 10-4 on Wednesday night to claim the National League Championship Series. Charlie’s team relentlessly hammered Joe Torre’s Dodgers right out of the playoffs after L.A. posted the league’s best regular season record at 95-67.

A key player in the Phils 2009 success story is lefty Cliff Lee, who was obtained from the Cleveland Indians during their July salary dump and fire sale.

Lee was traded for a bunch of Philadelphia’s second tier prospects, which consisted of “not ready for prime time players” Carlos Carrasco, Lou Marson, Jason Donald and right-handed pitcher Jason Knapp. Knapp, who was reported to be the Tribe’s “must have” component to the deal, had surgery for “loose bodies” in his pitching shoulder last September. The term “loose bodies” pretty much sums up the entire group that the Tribe intelligentsia landed for our former All-Star and Cy Young award winner, who was, by the way, signed for the 2010 season. If the people running the Cleveland Indians can’t afford to pay their ace starter $9 million for one year, they have no business owning a MLB franchise. But I digress…

 Lee is 2-0 with a 0.74 ERA in three postseason starts. In Sunday night’s 11-0 drubbing of the Dodgers, Lee hit a single in the eighth and scored on Shane Victorino’s three run homer.

 Cliff Lee, the guy Cleveland couldn’t figure out what to do with for the last few years, is giving Charlie Manuel and the Phillies exactly what they need to repeat as World Champions. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Indians have fired the hapless Eric Wedge, raised the white flag on 2009 and 2010, and are saving their nickels and dimes for 2011. The baseball world better watch out then, boy!

The Curse of Jim Phony: Part 3

Thome’s California preening a comic footnote as Phils pound Dodgers senseless

Pariah extraordinaire Jim Thome just torpedoed another team’s hopes of a return to greatness. This time it was Joe Torre’s Dodgers, where he was reunited with the disgustingly obese Manny Ramirez (ramiroid washtupicus).

You would think that a great baseball guy like Torre would have picked up on the fact that his opposite number, Charlie Manuel, had to rid himself of Happy Jack and his bad back before his club blasted off to Championship status. But nooooo: Joe went and thomenated himself in the foot by procuring homeboy for the stretch run.

The White Sox, tired of carrying the overpaid DH around like an anvil, unceremoniously dumped Jimbob and his remaining salary on the unsuspecting Dodgers. There he sat behind Joe Torre, looking deeply concerned until Charlie Manuel’s Phillies booted L.A. from the playoffs. The whole scenario just drips with irony.

Behind his “aw, shucks” good guy façade, Thome’s real concern was his lack of at-bats. It’s really not about the money anymore; he already got that when he bolted Cleveland. The fact that Jimbo couldn’t pad his precious stats for his future Hall of Fame bid is what must have really gnawed at him. No home runs for two whole months! What a shame.

"In fact, the night before the deadline he called me,” General Manager Ned Colletti said. He said: 'I just want to be honest with you. I'd love to come. I want to help you guys any way I can. But playing first base is not something I'm going to be able to do -- maybe in an emergency situation, perhaps.'"

"We're not bringing you over here to play first base," Torre told him. "We're bringing you here to come off the bench and be a great influence in the clubhouse.”

Well, the only emergency that came was when the Dodgers went looking for a doctor to put their brains back in. Ole Jim had to settle for posing behind manager Joe Torre (who he knew the camera was always on) while looking like a bewildered misfit. Not to worry, though. Being a free agent next year, some naive American League team will sign the jinxed designated hitter for his all or nothing swing for the fences. Then they’ll wonder what dragged them down to oblivion as they’re picking up the pieces of their shattered season.  J.Ladd 10-22-09

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Lee not enough

Phils fall to the Yanks in six despite the lefty’s two sparkling performances

It’s too bad that Cliff Lee couldn’t have started all four games in the World Series for the Phillies. They would have swept the Yankees, and Lee’s fans would have a lifetimes worth of highlight clips to savor.

Lefty went 4-0 in the postseason for Philadelphia after being traded from the Indians on July 29th.

In his first World Series start, Lee seemed to have nerves of steel as he pitched a masterful complete game six-hitter to lead the Phillies to a 6-1 victory over the Yankees. In a meeting between former Indians Cy Young winners, Lee not only out-pitched CC Sabathia, but he looked cool doing it.

Lee's signature moment came in the sixth inning when Jhonny Damon sent a pop-up to the mound, with one out and Derek Jeter on first. Lee didn't even raise his glove above his head to make the catch. He caught the ball at waist level, almost yawning as he did.

It drew a smile from manager Charlie Manuel on a cold and rainy night in the Bronx.

If that didn't get the Yankees' attention, his behind-the-back grab of Robinson Cano's hot-shot back to the mound to start the eighth certainly did. Lee just shrugged his shoulders to his teammates, just like Michael Jordan sinking a 30-footer against the Cavs.

But there was more to Lee’s attitude than nonchalance, as there has been ever since the Indians sent him to Class AAA Buffalo in 2007, kept him there for almost a month, and then didn't put him on their postseason roster. Whatever beast that snub awoke in Lee hasn't stopped roaring since.

Lee looked borderline cocky, a look every Indians fans had seen from the left-hander at one time or another from 2002 until he was traded to the Phillies along with Ben Fransisco for a bunch of injured minor league prospects. It was a senseless move that irritated Tribe fans to no end and left us without an ace for the 2010 season. In a no-brainer of a move, the Phillies picked up Lee’s $9 million option for next year - adding salt to the already gaping wound that is the Indians starting rotation. J.Ladd 11/7/09

Jim Phony

It’s funny how the story went from, “It’s not about the money” to “You understand the way business is” in 3 years.

I must admit that I have a new respect for Albert Belle and Manny Ramirez. In fact, the honesty of being called village idiots by Belle in the 90’s should be refreshing to Clevelanders when compared to the sickening spin bombarding us from the Jim Thome apologists.

I’ll also admit being fooled by Thome in July of 2002. When he said, “They’ll have to pry this uniform off my back” to Mike Trivisonno, I didn’t realize that it was to avoid waiving his no-trade clause so that Mark Shapiro could get a prospect for him before he walked away in November.

The rumors of last minute phone calls by Jim begging for a sixth year (which he knew the Tribe wouldn’t give), and of how close he came to coming back to Cleveland this year are all part of protecting Thome’s “nicest guy in baseball’ image. His image is a falsehood and a fraud.

Looking back at the 2002 season, Thome’s demeanor should have tipped me off that he was a goner. His mood seemed angry after the spring training contract negotiations abruptly broke off. It worsened after Charlie Manuel forced Mark Shapiro to fire him at the All-Star break. Manuel, who was Thome’s friend and father figure, saw the writing on the wall and paved the way for his departure. Manuel joined Thome in Philly the next year as hitting instructor and is presently the manager of the hapless Phillies. Coincidence? You make the call.

Thome returned to Cleveland last week with the World Champion White Sox, his love for the city of Philadelphia and its fans apparently dissipated like a wisp of smoke after 3 crummy years there. The Phillies used him as the centerpiece when they opened their new ballpark in 2003, and today they’re left holding the bag. At least they recouped some of they’re money and got a couple of the White Sox best prospects.

 After professing to being surprised at being booed in his first game back, he said that he felt bad for Cleveland. “I was sitting there that night and looking through the crowd, and the vibe in Jacobs Field is nothing like what we had there in the 90’s.”

And therein lies the real reason why he left. Once the glory days were over and it came time to stick by Cleveland through a few years of painful rebuilding, Thome bolted. He would have had to stand up to the Players Union and take the lesser deal, which was similar for 5 years. It was the Phillies 6th year that blew the Indians offer away. And after all, didn’t John Hart tell him the Phillies were the 1994 Indians? Who has time for loyalty when you’re chasing records, rings and money?

John Hart, by the way, is another gem. Facing the prospect of working for a fiscally responsible owner in Larry Dolan, Hart says he wants some time to sink his toes into the Florida sand and “retires.” Now his toes are sunk into Rangers billionaire owner Tom Hick’s money in Texas. But I digress.  

I can’t help thinking back to the Home Run derby in 1997 when the All-Star game was at Jacobs Field, and Jim was fawning all over Mark McGuire in awe. He fits in well with the steroid crowds mentality. Pretend to be an old-school ballplayer while hiding behind deceit, falsehoods and lies. J. Ladd 5-7-06

   The Curse of Jim Phony

Thome just can’t seem to jump on the right bandwagon-Infected World Champions succumb and are eliminated

The nice-guy facade is still intact, but the miasma that follows Jim Thome seems to have infected his latest team.

After the Phillies gladly paid half of his remaining salary to be rid of him, Jimmy thought his quest for a ring (at any cost) was a done deal when he attached himself to the White Sox this year. He sanctimoniously told the Chicago press that he felt sorry for Cleveland when he was booed during his first appearance at Jacobs Field since he took the money and ran in 2003. Being the DH for the first time in his career, he was able to focus all his attention on hitting the ball over the fence and nothing else-and to his credit he did have a great season. But like the bad marksman he keeps missing the target. No playoffs, no World Series, no ring.

Both of his former teams, which he pledged his undying loyalty to before he bolted, did better after he left. Though the Indians took a step back in 2006, they built a strong nucleus in ’04 and fielded a superb team in ’05 that won 93 games. Charlie Manuel found a new hitter in Ryan Howard to replace Thome and drove Philadelphia to the brink of the playoffs before being eliminated on the second last day of the season.

And now the powerful White Sox, who destroyed every team that stood in their way on the road to a championship last year, find themselves Thomenated.

Jim Thome’s problem lies in the fact that with all of his talent, he is not a leader. Nor does he know how to be, or even want to be. He loves to be one of the guys jumping up and down after the victory and spraying champagne on everyone, but is incapable of picking up his teammates when their backs are against the wall. Jim Thome does not inspire.

He’s also running out of time. At this stage of his career, he’ll only have to lose a little off of that swing to become an overpaid pariah that his team needs to unload. J.Ladd 10/1/06