Cole Hamels is back in the National League East, but with the wrong team, in a move that Philadelphia Phillies fans can most accurately describe as “gross”.
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Aside from maybe the New York Mets, there is no team that I would dislike seeing Hamels pitch for than the Braves. But in a few short months, that will be the reality, an upcoming black mark on an admirable career.
I don’t fault Hamels for signing in Atlanta. They appear to be primed for another solid season, with an offense likely to give him plenty of support. Plus, the money he signed for is certainly nothing to sneeze at. When you pair a good situation with solid money, it makes sense to sign on the dotted line, especially when you are nearly 36 years old and look to be entering the “hired gun” phase of your career.
But it’s definitely disheartening to those who still hold a romanticized view of the Phillies of yesteryear, like myself, and don’t want to see any tarnishing via non-Philadelphia exploits.
It was bad enough watching Chase Utley on the Los Angeles Dodgers for those couple seasons. Hamels we could at least live with pitching for the Texas Rangers and then the Chicago Cubs, because he still clearly had plenty left in the tank and those teams are not rivals for the Phillies.
Meanwhile, there was a feeling that someday he might still come back and finish up with the Phils.
Wednesday’s signing doesn’t necessarily rule that out, but the sight of Hamels in a Braves uniform, presumably facing the Phillies numerous times this year, just feels wrong on so many levels.
It seems like there can be no return trip to Philadelphia after this scenario, although one couldn’t say that with 100 percent certainty.
Did Hamels hurt his “Philly image” by signing with a direct rival? I’d like to say that we’re not that petty, but yes, it does change things a bit.
I’ve talked before about my strong feeling that Hamels will be the only member of the 2008 Phillies to eventually end up in the Baseball Hall of Fame. I believe that he will reach 200 wins and 3000 strikeouts, and he should end his career among the top 20 in MLB history in the latter category.
When he goes into the Hall, it will be as a Phillie, since his first professional home is where he played the longest and had his greatest success.
But his Hall-worthiness will be determined in part by what he did elsewhere: Texas, Chicago, now Atlanta, and who knows wherever else to come. In a way, each stop makes his Philadelphia accomplishments seem somehow less special, even slightly. But maybe that’s just my bitterness over the Phillies letting the Braves outbid them for his services this year.
Again, the Phillies clearly had more of an interest in a younger pitcher like Wheeler, and I can’t totally fault them. But it wouldn’t have broken the bank to have made a more serious play for Hamels in addition to that.
In the end, I’ll still be proud to see Cole Hamels go into Cooperstown as a Philadelphia Phillie on a sunny July afternoon in upstate New York a decade or so from now.
But at some point afterward, I’m sneaking a sharp object into that building and scratching off the part of his plaque that says “Atlanta”.