|Name:||James Howard Thome||Position:||3B/1B|
|Accolades:||3 Time All-Star (1997-99), 1996 3B Silver Slugger, Top 7 MVP (1997, 2001-02), Top 21 MVP 1996, 1998)|
|Best Season (2001)||156||526||101||153||26||1||49||124||328||111||185||0||1||.416||.624||.291||1.040||.333|
|Post Season Career||55||188||32||43||1||1||17||36||97||25||61||0||0||.319||.516||.229||.835||.287|
Jim Thome was such a tremendous presence in the Indians lineup for so long, it is difficult to list all his accomplishments. Thome was one of the Indians own, in an age of rampant free agency on a team filled with players who were acquired via trade. Thome was drafted by Cleveland in 1989 in the thirteenth round and made his debut in 1991 as a skinny third baseman. He played just 114 games in his first three seasons, before putting on around 100 pounds and being made starter in 1994. Before things were done, he would become the greatest Indians first baseman of all time and arguably the greatest overall batter.
Like most of the players from the mid-1990's, Thome was signed long term early in his career, guaranteeing him more than a decade in an Indians uniform. He made the most of it, setting team records in home run and walks while breaking the top five career records in RBI, runs, OBP and slugging percent. More importantly than any stats, however, Thome lead the Indians to the playoffs six times during his tenure. While he never got his ring (with or without the Indians), he did set career records for post season home runs and RBI while in Cleveland.
In 1997. the departure of Albert Belle hurt the team, but allowed Thome to shine when he hit a career high 40 home runs and walked 120 times, making him the first and second Indian to accomplish that feat. Sadly, Thome hit his peak just before his exit from the team, in 2001 and 2002. In 2001, he hit 49 home runs, the second most by an Indian ever in a single season (behind Belle in 1995), and he increased that in 2002 to set a new team record of 52. He also walked 122 times in 2002, giving him each of the top five single season walk records. When he left the team in 2003, it ended his team record streak of hitting 30 or more home runs in seven consecutive years and nine straight years of 20. As far as power goes, no hitter in Indians history can come anywhere close to Thome.
With free agency looming at the end of 2002, the Indians made multiple attempts to sign Thome long term, eventually having an experience that caused them to trade away stars for prospects on future teams. Thome went back and forth between the Phillies and Indians that offseason with the Indians offering him the opportunity to become the next Bob Feller, including statue and position with the team for life, while the Phillies were offering near $100 million over seven years. The Phillies won that round and Thome, while struggling with back injuries, hit hundreds of more home runs between the Phillies and White Sox.
At the end of that contract, the White Sox (who had acquired Thome in a trade), traded him again to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The long term loyal first baseman had become and oft-injured journeyman and he continued that journey to Minnesota, where he played two seasons and hit another 37 home runs. This also set up his swan song and final return to Cleveland.
In 2011, with the Indians in a late season playoff run, the Indians claimed Thome off waivers and were able to make a trade after the July trade deadline to reacquire the aging slugger. He managed to get into 22 games with the Indians as a DH and pinch hitter, where he managed to add to his home run, strike out and walk record. Thome is the only player to ever strike out more than 900 times (he has 1,400), walk more than 900 times (1,008) and hit more than 300 home runs for the Indians. In honor of his return and pending retirement, the Indians announced that they will be giving him a statue in center field to commemorate his career, in the place where his longest home run landed, and allowed him one final start at third base to bring his career full circle.
Of course, rather than go out on a good note, Thome had to be forced from baseball, so he signed with the Phillies and was eventually traded to the Orioles, where he ended his career. Largely due to his time away from the Indians, Thome currently ranks seventh in Major League history with 612 career home runs and seventh in walks with 1,747. His most prodigious accomplishment is that he ranks second in MLB history, just 49 strike outs behind Reggie Jackson's all time record of 2,597.
With no real steroid allegations to this point, Thome is almost a guarantee to be inducted into the Hall of Fame if any player will ever be inducted again, and it should be as an Indian after playing more than half his career in Cleveland. At that time, his number 25 will likely be retired as well as he had the best career of any player involved with the successful Indians teams from 1994-2001.