Jim Thome will be appearing on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time and has a better than average shot at being elected to the Hall on the first ballot. In days of old, when a player who played for more than one team in their career went into the Hall of Fame, they were given the choice of which team’s cap to have them wearing on their plaque. Now, the Hall of Fame takes into consideration the player’s wishes for which cap he’ll wear, but ultimately, it’s the Hall of Fame that decides, based on which team he “made his most indelible mark.”
Why the change? You could call it the Boggs Rule. Rumors started to fly that teams were offering players financial compensation or honors such as having their number retired by the team or cushy organizational jobs in exchange for having the player choose to have their team cap depicted on their Hall of Fame plaque. Wade Boggs and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays – yes, they were Devils in those days – may have pushed it to the limit. While Boggs denied the claims, there were various reports that said his contract with Tampa Bay included a clause that he would go into the Hall of Fame wearing a Devil Rays cap, which would have been ridiculous considering he played just two of his 18 seasons in Tampa. He played 11 in Boston and five as a New York Yankee. Ultimately, when Boggs was inducted in 2005, his plaque shows him in a Red Sox hat.
So what do you do with Jim Thome? While Philadelphia fans would disagree, he likely has to go into the Hall with a Cleveland Indians cap. He spent 13 of his 22 seasons as a member of the Indians and hit 337 of his 612 career home runs with Cleveland. By comparison, he played just four seasons in Philadelphia – 391 games compared to 1,399 in Cleveland – and hit 101 home runs as a Phillie. He actually played more games (529) with the Chicago White Sox than he did with the Phillies.
There’s no denying that he was beloved in Philadelphia, and still is. What Phillies fans don’t realize is that he’s just as beloved – possibly, more – in Cleveland. The team even erected a statue to him that is on display at the ballpark and inducted him into their Hall of Fame.
The Phillies inducted Thome onto their Wall of Fame in August of 2016, making him the shortest tenured Phillie to be given the honor. Thome ushered in a new era of Phillies baseball when he signed with the team as a free agent in 2002 looking for an elusive World Series ring. Thome also helped to usher in Citizens Bank Park. At the closing ceremonies for Veterans Stadium, Mike Schmidt stood at home plate and raised Jim Thome‘s hand to the sky, signifying the passing of the torch from Schmidt’s reign at The Vet to Thome’s time at Citizens Bank Park.
There’s one other option for Thome’s plaque. If Thome were to ask, the Hall might consider inducting him with no team logo on his cap. There are 10 players and a number of managers, who don’t have a team shown on their cap. The last player and manager to go in without a team logo both entered the Hall in 2014; Greg Maddux and Tony LaRussa. Both cited having spent significant and meaningful parts of their careers in multiple cities and the Hall acquiesced and went with no team logo. In case you’re wondering, the other nine players are: Yogi Berra, Andy Cooper, Frank Grant, Pete Hill, Catfish Hunter, Biz Mackey, Luis Santop, Ben Taylor and Cristobal Torriente.
Of course, we’re technically way ahead of things here. After all, there is the minor detail of Thome getting elected to the Hall of Fame. His induction is going to happen, but the question is whether or not he’ll be a first ballot Hall of Famer. It says here that he will be.
Jim Thome’s career stats
|AL (||AL (||2135||8667||7064||1340||1976||384||22||511||1415||1479||2135||.280||.406||.557|
|NL (||NL (||408||1646||1358||243||352||67||4||101||284||268||413||.259||.382||.538|