Jim Thome thanks Charlie Manuel in Hall of Fame speech

Jim Thome thanks Charlie Manuel in Hall of Fame speech

Jim Thome was officially inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday.

The slugger was one of six 2018 class members to be enshrined in Cooperstown, New York, along with Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Alan Tramell, Trevor Hoffman and Jack Morris.

After a 22-year MLB career, Thome finished eighth all-time in home runs with 612. The five-time All-Star also drove in 1,699 runs and had a career slash line of .276/.402/.554.

And one of the first people Thome thanked in his speech for playing a part in the illustrious career that landed him in Cooperstown? Charlie Manuel. 

"From the moment I met Charlie Manuel as a wide-eyed kid in the Gulf Coast League, I knew this was someone I could connect with instantly," Thome said. "Charlie took a scrappy young kid who was anxious to hit a million home runs and actually encouraged those crazy dreams. He told me I could hit as many home runs as I wanted to. From Day 1 in that dugout in Kissimmee, he always believed in me."

Thome was a 13th-round selection by the Indians in the 1989 draft and Manuel was one of his managers during his time in Cleveland's minor league system. In 1993 it was actually Manuel who, after watching Robert Redford's character, Roy Hobbs, do something similar in The Natural, came up with the idea for Thome to point his bat at the pitcher in an effort to slow down and ease the tension in his batting stance load

"Chuck, I'll never forget the day you called me in your office in Scranton," Thome said. " You had this idea that I could benefit from what Roy Hobbs was doing. Little did I know that day in Pennsylvania would change everything for me. From that day on, all we did was work, work, and work some more. You know I wouldn't be standing here today without you. Thank you for everything, but most of all thank you for your loyalty."

Manuel and Thome also crossed paths at the major league level, as Manuel was made the Indians' hitting coach in 1994 and then elevated to the managerial position from 2000-02.  Thome, who went into the Hall of Fame as a member of the Indians, hit 337 of his career homers in his 12-plus seasons in Cleveland. 

Following the 2002 season, Thome hit free agency and signed a six-year, $85 million deal with the Phillies. He hit 89 total home runs and made an All-Star team in his first two seasons in Philly before an injury-riddled 2005 campaign when he only appeared in 59 games, which was Manuel's first season as the Phillies' manager. With fellow first baseman Ryan Howard also having won the NL Rookie of the Year in 2005, Thome was dealt in the subsequent offseason to the White Sox.

"Cleveland is where my career was born, but Philadelphia is where I had to grow up fast," Thome said. "I needed every single tool in my toolbox in Philly. The city welcomed me with open arms from the moment those electricians met us wearing those hardhats. The fans couldn't have been better. Larry Bowa was the manager and he was tough as nails. He pushed me and our team to a whole new level. Thanks, Bow and the front office of Philly. First class all the way. David Montgomery, Bill Giles alongside Ed Wade and Ruben Amaro Jr. made my time there so meaningful."

Thome would go on to play seven more seasons for six different teams following the trade, even returning for short second stints with the Indians in 2011 and the Phillies 2012, reuniting with Manuel one last time. That 2012 season would be Thome's last in the majors, as he finished it at age 42. He officially retired in 2014 as an Indian after signing a one-day contract with Cleveland.

After slugging 101 home runs in three-plus seasons in Philly, Thome was inducted into the Phillies' Wall of Fame in August of 2016. 

"I'm so honored to be a part of something so special, something greater than the individual," Thome said as he closed his speech Sunday. "It's been my great privilege to have played the game for as long as I did and I can say this with certainty: The possibilities are just as important as the outcome. In living the dream that is Major League Baseball, the best part is not the result, but taking the journey with the people whose contributions make it all possible. Baseball is beautiful, and I am forever in its service."

You can watch Thome's full speech here.

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Phillies place four players on injured list for unspecified reasons

Phillies place four players on injured list for unspecified reasons

According to the transactions list on the Phillies' official website, the team has placed four players on the 10-day injured list. 

The players are Scott Kingery, Ranger Suarez, Tommy Hunter and Hector Neris.

The moves come as the team is about to officially open a three-week training period Friday in preparation of a shortened 60-game season.

No official reason was offered for the placements on the injured list and there have been no reports of any of the four players suffering an injury during pre-camp workouts. It is possible that one or all of the players is on the new COVID-19 injury list. Major League Baseball is not required to identify a reason for players going on the injured list if it is indeed for COVID-19.

Being placed on the COVID-19 IL does not necessarily mean that a player has tested positive for the virus. A player can be placed on that list for showing symptoms of having the virus or for coming in contact with someone who has the virus.

A player must test negative twice before he can be reinstated to the roster.

All four of the assignments to the IL have been backdated to June 30, meaning the players will be eligible to return a week from Friday. That would give all four two weeks to get ready for the season opener.

Kingery projects as the Phillies' starting second baseman. Neris is the team’s closer. Hunter and Suarez are relievers, though Suarez had been a candidate for the fifth starter’s job when camp shut down in March.

Hunter, Suarez and Neris had all been working out in recent weeks at the Phillies’ spring training facility in Clearwater, where there was a recent outbreak of COVID-19.

More information could become available when manager Joe Girardi speaks with reporters on Thursday afternoon.

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National League dominates MLB fan loyalty rankings, Phillies land in Top 10

National League dominates MLB fan loyalty rankings, Phillies land in Top 10

Will baseball's 60-game return have enough oomph to keep fans interested? It's a question that scares some of the game's biggest names, but I have no doubt Phillies fans will be supporting their team in late July.

And according to a new ranking of MLB fans' loyalty, the Phils will probably fare better than most.

The new Forbes ranking, released Wednesday, attempts to rank each fanbase by its respective loyalty, a tall task. The ranking factors in things like local TV ratings, stadium attendance, ticket demand, merch sales, and social media reach, then adjusts for local population. 

It's an imperfect science, but it's not a bad approach. And the Phillies finished in the Top 10, so I'll take it - even if they could've been higher.

Phillies fans rank No. 9 in loyalty among all 30 teams, according to Forbes, and sixth among seven NL teams in the Top 10. Here's the Forbes explanation:

9. Philadelphia Phillies

Sales of right fielder Bryce Harper’s jersey set a record for any sport for any player during the first 24 hours after his signing last year, helping to make the team’s merchandise among the league’s best-selling. But Phillies fans are a notoriously tough crowd. After witnessing a 6-5 win at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates in late September, Phillies fans booed Harper and the team for not winning by more, prompting former utility player Sean Rodriguez, whose home run won the game, to call them "entitled" in the press. Because of the backlash he received from fans, he apologized the next day for the use of the word—proving the fans are always right.

You'll be happy to know the Phillies finish atop the NL East, just one spot ahead of the Atlanta Braves. That's enjoyable.

I won't take issue with the Red Sox, Cubs, Cardinals, Yankees, and Dodgers representing the Top 5. Those are basically immovable. But after that, things get a bit more interesting.

The Brewers, Giants, and Indians all have loyal fanbases, but I don't know if I'd argue they're any more loyal than Phillies fans. Every fanbase ebbs and flows with its team's success, especially teams that aren't traditional powerhouses. When the Phils are on top of their game, South Philly is a borderline Top 5 place to watch a ball game.

I could see the Phils landing anywhere between No. 6 and No. 9 on this list. Personally, I'd put them above the Indians and Brewers - but, again, this is all imperfect science.

Earlier this year, Forbes released a ranking of the 10 most passionate sports fanbases in the country, and the Eagles finished No. 5 overall, behind four other NFL teams. Not a bad year for the area's fan reputation.

The 2020 Major League Baseball season is scheduled to begin July 23.

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