Factor in the increasingly pathetic conditions of the "Vet" and the very public fiasco's involving JD Drew (1997), Curt Schilling (2000) and Scott Rolen (2002)... there really wasn't much to be excited about as a Phillies fan.
Then along came Jim Thome. For some reason (I still don't understand how or why) the club was able to convince this popular coveted star free-agent to join my left for dead team in December of 2002. He arrived when the franchise needed a star and he delivered.
Thome was a hard-working throwback ballplayer that made it easy for Philadelphia baseball fans to re-emerge from their decade long hibernation. I truly believe, this single decsion and stroke of fortune laid the foundation for the golden era of Phillies baseball we are experiencing now. Along the way he led the NL in Home Runs, helped close the Vet and open Citizens Bank Park, made an All Star team and memorably blasted career home run #400.
He even helped when he departed to the White Sox via trade, because he opened the door for a ready-to-dominate Ryan Howard. If you are still not convinced: look at it this way... if it wasn't for Jim Thome the Phillies would have never considered hiring Charlie Manuel. Take away Charlie and you don't have five consecutive NL East titles, two NL pennants, and a World Series ring.
I will end my Jim Thome stump speech with this... at this moment in the long and glorious history of baseball there have been 8 players "credited" with hitting 600 home runs.
Barry Bonds - 762*
Hank Aaron - 755
Babe Ruth - 714
Willie Mays - 660
Ken Griffey Jr. - 630
Alex Rodriguez - 629*
Sammy Sosa - 609*
Jim Thome - 604
Bonds, Rodriguez, and Sosa's totals are each tainted by performance drug usage. That means Jim Thome is standing in the company of Aaron, Ruth, Mays, and Griffey. That is pretty darn good company.