CLEVELAND — Charlie Manuel is big in this city. He was fired as Indians manager in 2002, but Cleveland featured prolific offenses under Manuel's guidance as hitting coach and manager, and that has made him a folk hero.
Another such figure is Jim Thome. A statue of him is being erected at Progressive Field. Manuel and Thome are forever connected; Manuel once said he views Thome as a son.
Thome, 42, is training in Arizona with hopes of being a ringer for some team this summer. He called Manuel two weeks ago with a request:
"Chuck, can I come hang out with you?"
"You can come and live with me," Manuel told him.
But the Phillies manager was distressed when he spoke about Thome, the man with 612 homers to his name and a future speech at Cooperstown.
"He still thinks he can play," Manuel said. "He misses the game. Baseball is his identity. That's all he's done for 20-some years or so. He's kind of having a hard time adjusting."
It would surprise no one if Thome somehow stayed in the game as a coach. Maybe it's with the Phillies in some capacity.