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Wednesday, July 23, 2014
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Published: Wednesday, 12/4/2002

Too much `me' in Thome to sign with Tribe

Jim Thome wants to have it both ways.

He wants you to love him unconditionally because he pledged his undying love for the Cleveland Indians.

But he wants you to forget that he reneged on his word and followed the dollar signs to Philadelphia.

I have no problem with Thome signing with the Phillies. Thome would have been foolish to sign a long-term contract with the Indians.

There was no reason for Thome to stay in Cleveland.

The Indians are not committed to winning.

Sports are no fun when it's not about winning.

The window of opportunity for the talent that Cleveland cultivated has passed. Last year's trade of All-Star pitcher Bartolo Colon highlighted an unsettling fact: The Larry Dolan-owned Indians are only interested in surviving; winning is third or fourth on the franchise's list of priorities.

Manny Ramirez, Robbie Alomar, Juan Gonzalez and Kenny Lofton - they're all gone.

After seeing his talented teammates leave, why should Thome believe the Indians care about winning?

Still, Thome should have canned the talk about wanting to finish his career in Cleveland. Looking back, those words ring hollow and insincere.

He has known for at least a year the Indians weren't committed to winning.

If he really wanted to win, Thome should have told the Indians they were too late to sign him at the end of last season.

So we can only assume that Thome's going on record saying he still wanted to play for the Indians was part of a clever negotiating strategy designed to increase his price tag.

Last week, Thome was still telling reporters who cover the Indians he wanted to remain in Cleveland, even after receiving Philadelphia's initial five-year, $75 million offer.

At some point, Dolan was going to have to ante up and lay a load of cash on the table.

Dolan surprised me. Based on his history of not retaining free agents, I never figured Dolan would be so compliant. Dolan sweetened his offer to $62 million over five years with the possibility of a sixth and seventh year.

Dolan really wanted to keep Thome.

Thome - who portrayed himself as an ordinary Joe from the Midwest who would never leave Cleveland - was the only Indian that loyal fans could still identify with.

Plus, Thome could flat-out play. He was the Indians' career home run leader. He had the ability to put fannies in the seats at Jacobs Field.

Dolan's counter-offer worked - in Thome's favor. Philadelphia tacked on another year and $12 million, forcing Thome's hand.

In the end, Thome left Cleveland for about $25 million. Ironically, when former Indians Ramirez and Albert Belle left to play elsewhere for more money, they were vilified by fans and local media for being selfish.

Like Ramirez and Belle, Thome wanted to get paid. There's nothing wrong with that.

I would have had more respect for him if he had just stated his intentions right up front.



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