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Sports Then and Now

Will Jim Thome’s Homecoming be a Successful One?

Posted on August 26, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Jim Thome's return to Cleveland is a reminder of past glory.

The decision by Jim Thome to waive his no-trade clause with the Minnesota Twins and accept a return to the Cleveland Indians brings the career of baseball’s newest 600 Club member full circle.

It was the Indians that picked Thome in the 13th round of the 1989 baseball draft and for the Indians that Thome blasted a franchise record 334 home runs while helping the team reach two World Series.

Cleveland fell just short in both of those Fall Classic appearances and the perfect ending to the Thome story would be for the slugger to help his old team finally achieve championship glory.

However, not every sports story has a happy “fairy tale” ending and it isn’t likely that even Thome playing at his best would be the enough to get this Cleveland team to championship glory.

The Indians are currently six games out of first place in the AL Central and are 30-44 since June 1st.

While Thome has enjoyed a brief resurgence with four home runs and 13 RBI in August, he is still on pace for his lowest full season home run total (not counting his injury-plagued 2005 campaign) since hitting 20 homers with the Indians in 1994.

Even if Thome and the Indians can catch lightning in a bottle and somehow reach the playoffs, Thome will have to change his recent postseason ways to help the Indians advance to the World Series.

He has participated in the playoffs in each of the last three seasons for the White Sox, Dodgers and Twins and during that time has hit .139 (four for 29) with no home runs and one RBI. For his career, Thome has endured his struggles in the post season as he has a career playoff average of .217 with 17 home runs and 37 RBI in 15 series.

However, even if the Indians don’t make it to the playoffs, it could be a fitting final act for Thome to complete his career in the place where he started his assault on Cooperstown.

It is certainly still possible that Thome returns to play in 2012, but if not, getting a final curtain call with the team he began his career could be a special opportunity for Thome. It also could help heal some of the hard feelings created when Thome left the Indians following the 2002 season.

In the decade since he left, Cleveland has posted just two winning seasons and made one playoff appearance. It is hard to say that the Indians would have been significantly better even with the slugger on the roster, but certainly Indian faithful would have rather the slugger hit his last 267 home runs for them, rather for other squads.

With Thome back at Jacobs Field and former Cleveland second baseman Roberto Alomar recently inducted into the Hall of Fame, it provides Cleveland faithful with the opportunity to remember the fond moments that saw the franchise make six playoff appearances in seven seasons between 1995 and 2001.

The Indians may never again enjoy such lasting success, but Thome is a reminder that you can come home again and that anything is possible.

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