Jim Thome would help any team he joins whether it’s the Indians, White Sox, Yankees, Phillies or whichever other team that puts in a waiver claim for him; but for the two teams that have been most prominently associated with him—the Indians and White Sox—it’s an acquisition that’s more about sentiment than reality. For both of those teams, their only hope to make the playoffs this season is if the Tigers totally collapse and either goes on unlikely hot streaks. It would help the Indians and White Sox because it might bring a few extra fans into the park down the stretch, but that’s it.
The Indians have played far above what was predicted for them at the start of the season, leaped into first place and were 15 games over .500 in late May. Since then, they’ve been 15 games under .500. They’re still in contention because of the weakness of the AL Central, but the Tigers have taken command and currently lead by 6 games. The Indians have been aggressive with trades for Kosuke Fukudome and Ubaldo Jimenez; they could use Thome especially with another season-ending injury to Travis Hafner, but if you think that Thome will be the catalyst for a Major League-style Indians run, you’re deluding yourself. It would be a pleasant story for Thome—after hitting his 600th homer as a Twin—to return to his first baseball home in Cleveland where he’s still immensely popular, but that’s all it would be.
With the White Sox, why would anyone suddenly think they’re going to be anything more than the disappointment they’ve been all year long? They got off to a terrible start; have endured an embarrassingly disastrous year from Adam Dunn; have been screamed at, ridiculed and threatened by their manager and general manager, have played well for spurts and settled back into a helpless mediocrity.
The White Sox and Indians have six games each with the Tigers, but are playing each other eight times; the rest of the Tigers schedule is filled with the Athletics, Twins, Royals and Orioles. They’re not blowing it this time.
Thome, at 40, is still a productive player; but he’s been injured and wouldn’t even be playing regularly for the Twins had they not been beset by injuries; he’d be a welcome addition to any team, but he’s not a deciding factor for those that need a lot of help, a lot of luck, a major improvement in play or all three to make the playoffs.
Sentimental moves are generally either meaningless or wind up being mistakes. So enough with the Thome talk because on the field is where it counts and on the field it won’t make much difference one way or the other.