Thursday, May 24, 2012

Phils need Cole to Contend

The Phillies cannot afford to lose Cole Hamels. On a staff of aces, he's emerged as the ace.

As strange as it may seem, I'd wager that Hamels and Carlos Ruiz would be the top two vote getters in a pole of least expendable names on the roster.

Hamels is the young, left-handed home grown dominant pitcher. The Phils just can't lose him. He's been "the guy" this year. The guy who takes the mound and ends a losing streak (as he did last night) when you need him to. The guy who delivers a win when you need it. The guy who welcomes a 19 year old cocky rookie to the league with a fastball in the ribs.

He's a team best 7-1; the next closest in wins are Joe Blanton and Roy Halladay, each are 4-4. His 2.17 leads the starting staff, as do his 66 strikeouts by a wide margin. Halladay is second with with 56, but he's pitched 70.1 innings compared to Hamels' 62.1. Opponents are batting just .220 against Hamels, only Cliff Lee (.213) is better.

Last season, Hamels was just a notch beneath Halladay and Lee. This season, he's certainly on the same level if not having surpassed them. But, Hamels is just 28 years old. Halladay is 35, and Lee is 33.

Hamels will be a major investment for the club, but it is clearly one they need to make if they expect to be contenders in the near future. Doc and Lee may have their best years behind them. They are still dominant, top-tier pitchers. No doubt. But a young, dominant lefty like Hamels is a rare thing. He's the type of player you HAVE to keep in your organization when you have the opportunity. If that means moving someone, you do it. Lee's wife may not let Ruben Amaro Jr. leave with his manhood if he traded him a second time, but if it cleared up payroll and replenished the minor leagues, it may be the right move. That is, of course, only if a deal for Hamels was in place first and they needed to clear some payroll to dot the I's and cross the T's. There's no I or T in Cole Hamels? Eh, you get the point.

We love Doc. We love Lee. We love J-Roll and Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. But none of them are less expendable than Hamels. King Cole is the key to this franchise's future success. If he leaves, expect some dark years of Phillies' baseball. Lee will regret not resigning with Texas, who appear to be a power house. Other players, like Doc and Jonathan Papelbon may grow to resent ending up Philly; especially Doc who is in search of a World Championship and may not have a ton of time left to achieve it.  But if Amaro can lock up Hamels and keep Doc and Lee on the staff, this team will continue to be a contender. And if they get healthy, which is a big if, they could emerge as a front runner once again. But they need Cole in pin-stripes to have that chance.

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