Cole Hamels, nicknamed “Hollywood” by some for his SoCal origins and matinee idol look, has been nothing short of phenomenal on the mound this season. Entering his start Saturday against the Marlins, Hamels was tied with Lance Lynn of the Cardinals for the MLB lead in wins with 8. Hamels is also 8th in the majors in ERA (2.43) and 2nd in the NL in strikeouts (72).
But it really does start with Hamels. As we all know, Hamels is a free agent at the end of this season. To his credit, Hamels has said that he wants to remain a Phillie, but is following his agent John Boggs’ advice as to where to set the market. A contract like what Matt Cain (5 year, $100 million extension with $21 million option or $7.5 million buyout), Cliff Lee (5 years, $107.5 million with $27.5 million vesting option or $12.5 million buyout) or C.C. Sabathia (8 years, $182 million, with $25 million vesting option or $5 million buyout) earned should give a good indication of what Hamels would get. It’s fair to say we’re looking at a minimum of 6 years and $150 million, with some sort of 7th year vesting option, pushing $30 million.
Hamels has also been candid about both liking it here and not knowing anything else but a career as a Phillie, which seems to suit him fine. Hamels and his wife Heidi have been active in the community, supporting a number of charities, and have two young children. This would be the time in most young families’ lives to decide where to put down roots.
But if Albert Pujols could only know life as a Cardinal, taste frequent success there, and ultimately choose to leave, the theory goes than anyone who is a fixture of sorts could leave – whether for more money, a new challenge or any other seemingly good reason.
That “anyone” could certainly include Cole Hamels.
What is most impressive about Hamels in 2012 is that he is embracing the challenge of proving his value. In a season where Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay have already landed on the DL and have a combined 3 wins, Hamels has been lights-out on the mound, even though the spotlight shines brightly on him.
Contrast that with statements he gave during the 2009 World Series that questioned whether he had the wherewithall to start a potential Game 7 if the Philies won Game 6 against the Yankees (they didn’t). Hamels has famously refused to go on 3 days’ rest and overall, his mental toughness has been questioned in the past.
To embrace a situation with an uncertain future the way he has is remarkable. Hamels is not only emerging as the Phillies’ ace in terms of performance, he is also leading by example.
In short, we want him back in red pinstripes for the next 6-7 years or so.
No way, Jose: Just as it was looking like the Phillies had figured out who their top right-handed setup man is, comes news that Jose Contreras tore both his ulnar collateral ligament and flexor pronator tendon in his right elbow in the 7th inning of Friday night’s win over Miami. Contreras had the tendon surgically repaired in September. At age 40, and with a more severe injury this time, his future as a major league pitcher is uncertain. At minimum, his season is over. The Phils recalled Michael Schwimer to take Contreras’ roster spot.
Just last week, I had pointed out that Contreras’ last 2 weeks on the mound have been quite good. Earlier, though, I had said that I felt he was rushed back. I had also said that Ruben Amaro missed a great opportunity to trade for then-Padre Ernesto Frieri, at a very reasonable price. The Angels snapped him up for two marginal prospects about a month ago. All Frieri has done since is strike out 27 in 13 scoreless innings.
No biggie – those kinds of guys grow on those little trees planted all around Citizens Bank Park.
Doc on the shelf, too: As we led with last week in Phillies Notebook, Roy Halladay was battling shoulder woes. As predicted, the injury was a muscle strain in the area surrounding his shoulder (in this case, the latissimus dorsi), and not structural damage within the shoulder. That’s what we know as of now, anyway. Halladay sought a second opinion from Mets’ team physician David Altchek, who is familiar with ace pitchers and bad shoulders (see below for more on the triumphant return of Johan Santana). The results of Altchek’s exam are not yet known.
The remedy prescribed is 3 weeks of complete rest and then a rehab process that is expected to take at least 3 more weeks. That puts Halladay out past the All-Star break, and possibly until around the July 31 trade deadline.
Vanimal to be unleashed soon? Vance Worley, on the DL with elbow discomfort, is trying to pitch through having bone chips in the elbow, and hoping they resolve on their own or at least that they can wait until the off-season to deal with surgically. Even after Halladay’s injury, the Phillies have managed to go without calling up a starter from AAA, due to the Thursday off-day. That luxury will end on Tuesday against the Dodgers, where Worley will either be called upon to start, or one of Scott Elarton, Dave Bush or Tyler Cloyd will become the 7th different Phillies starter so far this season.
No-swalt: Roy Oswalt will not be an option for the Phillies in 2012. Earlier this week, Oswalt agreed to terms with the Texas Rangers, for a prorated $5 million, plus incentives reported to be worth about $1 million. Given that Oswalt will probably not be ready to pitch in the majors for about another month, the $2.5 million price tag for half a season is very reasonable.
Texas gave Oswalt the best combination of being near his Mississippi home and a shot at a championship. Like the Phillies, the Rangers have an elbow problem in their rotation – none other than former closer Neftali Feliz, whose elbow is sprained (a much worse fate than Worley’s).
Based on my AL West season preview, you can’t say we didn’t see this coming in terms of leaving well enough alone with Feliz in the 9th inning.
NL East tightens: We keep mentioning that everyone in the National League East has a winning record – which in and of itself is remarkable. But with Miami’s hot streak at the expense of Washington, teams entered play Saturday with the standings shuffled as compared to last week. Atlanta, which was trading first and second place with Washington recently, was sitting in 4th. The Phillies are in last, but only 2.5 games back. In fact, only two non-NL East teams have more wins than the Phils (the Dodgers and the Reds).
The AL East also has 5 teams with winning records, and they are all separated by 3 games.
Oye como va: Johan Santana threw the first no-hitter in New York Mets history on Friday night. That alone is pretty – shall we say – amazin’, especially for a franchise that has boasted stellar starters like Nolan Ryan (for a little while), Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, Pedro Martinez and others. In fact, I once saw Ron Darling take a no-hitter into the 8th inning at Veterans Stadium, only to lose both the no-no and the game, by a 5-4 score.
The snakebitten franchise, at least when it comes to no-hitters, got the benefit of a missed call on a line drive called foul by former Met Carlos Beltran, which replays showed hit the chalk, and also got a great catch by Mike Baxter, who grew up in Queens, to preserve history.
The fact it was Santana may not have been big news a few years ago, but coming as it did after shoulder surgery supposedly reduced the one-time ace to “I’m here because they still owe me $45 million” status, again, it was nothing short of amazing.
Time will tell if manager Terry Collins’ decision to let Santana throw 134 pitches on that surgically repaired shoulder was a wise move for the Mets.
Looking ahead: The Philies have day games Saturday and Sunday hosting the Marlins, then continue the homestand with 4 against the team with the best record in the NL – and a rumored future destination for Cole Hamels – the L.A. Dodgers. After that, the Phillies add a DH to their lineup with a weekend series in Baltimore with the surprisingly solid Orioles. The AL road trip continues in Toronto and Minnesota before the team returns home on June 19.