Can the Baseball Gods give Ruben Amaro any more concise signs that Cole Hamels needs to stay in Philadelphia? It’s almost as if the universe is trying to sway the Evil Genius to get this contract done before it’s too late, but time may be running out on that possibility.
Cole Hamels went out yesterday and did exactly what he’s been doing all year… he won. He went 8 innings, gave up four runs and passed the ball of to Papelbon to notch his 8th win, tied for the MLB leader with Lance Lynn of St. Louis. While giving up four runs may not seem like a commanding performance, the most important thing I drew from this game was that this team believes they are going to win every time Cole steps on the rubber.
The Mets tied the game in the 6th inning on a two run homer by Scott Hairston, and it looked as if Hamels would end up stuck with a no-decision at best. Instead, the very next half inning, Ty Wigginton drove in Jimmy Rollins with an RBI single and the Phillies retook the lead for the final time. It’s an incredible swing in psyche whenever King Cole takes the mound. The team battles for him, and it seems like they really get behind him no matter what.
That fire and commitment has seemed to be lacking to other pitchers like Cliff Lee, who was again a victim of poor fielding and anemic offense this week. In fact, it got so bad that he almost got into a fist fight with Shane Victorino in the dugout. It makes you wonder if those frustrations are Cliff getting upset at the team or the team getting upset at Cliff. Lets face it, he is one of the highest paid pitchers in baseball and he isn’t in the win column yet. It seems almost impossible.
Then we have the Roy Halladay fiasco. It’s been no secret that his velocity has been down this year, and he hasn’t looked himself since he blew a 6-0 lead in Atlanta at the beginning of the month. However, nobody expected to see what we saw on Sunday afternoon. Halladay had gone 2 innings only two times in his entire career. Sunday was number three. After he gave up a grand slam to Yadier Molina in the first inning, Doc seemed to settle down and got through the second without a blemish.
However, Charlie Manuel removed him as a “precaution” because of shoulder soreness. Then, we find out he’s going to visit a doctor today. I’m no conspiracy theorist, but I remember once upon a time that we were told, “Chase Utley is just experience some stiffness in his knees. He’ll be ready for Spring Training.”
I’m not saying that Roy is done for the year, but I am saying that I won’t rule it out. This team, and this entire city, has been known to downplay injuries as much as they can until we finally get the shocking news without any sort of warning. Let’s hope that’s not the situation here. But either way, it’s obvious that Doc will not be a Cy Young contender this year. It’s nothing to hold against him. Even first ballot Hall of Famers are allowed to have tough seasons.
What does this all mean for Cole Hamels and his contract situation? Well let’s look at from both perspectives. For the Phillies, if Doc has any sort of structural damage or other long term injury, it could mean that we will never see that dominant performer ever again. Couple that with Cliff Lee’s awful luck so far this season, and that leaves you with Cole as your de facto ace on this staff. Now, that in no way is meant to disrespect Hamels. Personally, I’ve viewed Hamels as our number one guy ever since I watched him ride down Broad Street with the entire Delaware Valley chanting “MVP! MVP!”
But regardless of the past, in the present Cole Hamels is the most important member of the Phillies pitching staff. It’s not even arguable at this point, except for maybe Papelbon. Moving forward, Cole has at least another half decade of dominance in the tank, barring any serious injury. This has to be the horse that Amaro puts his money on. With all the injuries and inconsistency of the pitching staff, it’s hard for me to think that Ruben won’t take out his checkbook and make this happen at all costs.
The only thing that may put a kink in that plan is Cole Hamels himself. Just like we all see his stock rising, I’m sure he does, too. At this rate, he will be a serious contender for the Cy Young at worst and a runaway winner at best. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past few years, it’s that pitchers in the open market end up making Donald Trump money. C.J. Wilson got a $15 million a year deal going 16-7 with an ERA just a shred under 3.00. Cole Hamels is halfway to 16 wins already and it’s not even June yet. He’s also three years younger than Wilson with an NLCS MVP, World Series MVP and World Series Championship notched into his bedpost. I think it’s safe to say the Cole will be garnishing plenty of suitors in the offseason.
Why wouldn’t he want to explore his options? I know I would. It would be foolish to think he would be willing to sign for any less than $20 million a year at the rate he is pitching now. While I do think he is loyal enough to this city to let the Phillies match any legitimate offer, teams like the Red Sox, Yankees and Magic Johnson’s Dodgers will probably be willing to break the bank for a young lefty with lights out stuff. Let’s just hope that Big Rube is ready to do the same.
HAMELS WATCH SCALE
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Cole’s Importance To The Phillies Today: 8.5
Likelihood That Cole Returns Next Season: 4.5
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