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Former Phillie Jim Thome joins MLB Network

By Rob Riches, Sports Talk Philly contributor 

One of the most beloved Phillies to take the field in recent memory will take on a new role as a TV analyst.

Jim Thome, a longtime major league veteran and one of baseball's most prolific sluggers, will join MLB Network as a studio analyst, the network announced Wednesday.

Thome, 46, spent parts of four seasons with the Phillies, signing a six-year, $85 million contract at the end of the 2002 season. That signing was lauded by many as a monumental step to getting the Phillies out of the National League basement, and made a statement that mediocre baseball was not welcome in this town any longer. With a hitter-friendly ballpark on the way in South Philly, the move made sense.

His first season as a Phillie saw him lead the National League with 47 home runs -- just one short of Mike Schmidt's then-franchise record for homers in a season. On June 14, 2004, he hit his 400th home run out to left-center, earning a thunderous ovation from the Citizens Bank Park faithful.

Injuries took a toll on Thome and with young Ryan Howard quickly ascending up the ranks, he quickly became expendable. He was sent to the Chicago White Sox at the end of the season for Aaron Rowand, Gio Gonzalez and Daniel Haigwood

In 2012, Thome returned to reunite with Charlie Manuel  on a one-year, $1.25 million deal, as the team looked to build off their franchise-best season the year before. They fell flat, though, and Thome was sent to Baltimore in June after slashing .242/.333/.516 in 30 games. Last season, he was inducted into the Phillies Wall of Fame.

Consistently considered one of the game's most positive and friendliest personalities, Thome will surely be an interesting fit on the MLB Network's staff. It's a responsibility he'll split with his duties in the White Sox front office, and his 22 seasons' worth of major-league insight will surely benefit the network.

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