A friend from Texas, whenever he eats junk food, is fond of saying that he can hear himself getting fatter. Its canned comedy. Most days, when Cole Hamels takes the mound, zipping pitch after pitch into the catchers mitt with a loud pop, you can hear the hurlers wallet getting fatter. That is not so much a joke as it is the truth.
Hamels didnt have his best outing of the year on Saturday at Citizens Bank Park. Not at all. Hamels had eight strikeouts and just two walks, but he also allowed five runs and seven hits over 6 23 innings, and the Marlins beat the Phils, 5-4 (see recap). It was the first time Hamels has allowed that many earned runs since July of last year.
Theyre a good team, said Hamels, who is 0-2 against the Marlins but 8-0 against everyone else this season. Unfortunately, I think its a matter of both games Ive pitched against them, just making too many mistakes. You have that stretch where you have a good inning, another good inning. But theyve been able to get on base and get the big hit, as opposed to me not being able to get out of a jam.
Even so, Saturdays performance was essentially a hiccup in an otherwise smooth season so far for Hamels. He looked good last year and, on the whole, hes looked even better this season. Entering the game, Hamels sported a stingy 2.43 ERA while averaging 9.3 strikeouts and just 1.8 walks per nine innings. Those are excellent numbers. You can also add these digits to the list that will make all sorts of potential suitors get hot and bothered like unsupervised teenagers at a co-ed mixer: 28. Thats how old he is. Hammels wont turn 29 until the first year of his next contract. You wonder more and more which organization will throw him the birthday party and buy the confetti cake.
The off-season is rapidly approaching. The-soon-to-be free agent is going to get paid big-time bucks. The only question is, which team will pull out the company checks and write out all those zeroes?
Its always been important, Amaro insisted earlier in the week during an interview with WIP. The importance of signing Cole and keeping him in our uniform has not ever changed. Theres no fluctuation our goal is to sign him.
Good to know. But the question has never really been whether they want to sign Hamels. The question has always been whether they will. It certainly wont be easy or cheap to do so. Consider some of the oversized contracts recently inked by pitchers. Before this season, Matt Cain got 127.5 million over six years and C.C. Sabathia got 122 million over five years. Prior to last season, Cliff Lee pocketed 125 million over five years. Those are cartoonish figures and the Phillies would be lucky to give Hamels a deal thats even remotely close to it.
Hamels 3.34 career ERA is lower than any of those three listed above, and hes also averaged more strikeouts per nine innings over than span the aforementioned trio. When he signs his next deal, he will be three years younger than Lee was when he signed his last one. And it certainly doesnt hurt his bargaining position that everyone around here is a wee or more than a wee, whatever a wee actually is freaked out about Roy Halladay being on the disabled list for an estimated six-to-eight weeks due to what the team termed a grade 12 strain of his right latissimus dorsi.
Its not my money and its not your money, which is why its easy to look at an aging, often-injured team and a pitcher of Hamels caliber and advocate that the Phillies pay him whatever ransom money he demands before the threat of him leaving town becomes a grim reality. Except, thats not really the way it works. The Phils have a healthy revenue stream, but it is not unlimited. Nor is Hamels the only problem the organization must solve in the near future. The Phils have Hunter Pence and Carlos Ruiz under control for one more season after this. They must also decide what to do about Shane Victorino (who becomes a free agent following this season) and Placido Polanco (both the team and player can opt out after this season).
We have like 27,000 other things we have to deal with, Amaro said during that radio interview. Yes, this is a priority. But we also have about four or five or six other things for now and for the future that we have to deal with. We have free agents coming off the books left and right.
Theres a whole slew of things were trying to plan for now and for the future to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. Cole remains a very important piece of it, but hes not the only piece, and so we have to try to assess all of it.
Hes right about that. They have a lot to assess. That can be complicated. Where Hamels is concerned, matters get a bit simpler. Either the Phillies pay him like he just knocked over a very big bank, or some other team will simply hand him the keys to its vault.
E-mail John Gonzalez at email@example.com