It had to be done two, three years ago. With a 2008 world championship season fading in the rearview mirror a bit more with each passing pitch since 2011 ended with a first-round loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, Cole Hamels and his quality, professional left-handed arm held less and less value to the Philadelphia Phillies on the field. He was a commodity, a luxury whose performance had no impact on the team’s standing in the standings.
Once a team goes south, and the Phillies were a classic case of “downhill on roller skates” when a sore and slowed-down Roy “Heart of the Organization” Halladay showed up in the spring of 2012 to complement a once-powerful, but-by-then-punchless offense, a starting pitcher, no matter how good he is – and Hamels at times could be very good – becomes, essentially, one thing: a bargaining chip.
Finally, mercifully, the franchise pulled the trigger with its last tradeable piece from that magical campaign seven years ago. Oddly, Hamels had become the symbol for both the glory that had been and the team’s inability to see its current state, accept it and move on. He was Ruben Amaro’s “binky” as the GM displayed a refusal to grow up, afraid to let go of his fanhood and think more like a player-personnel businessman.
Just 31, Hamels could have several productive, perhaps even postseason-producing, seasons left in him. Despite Philly sports fans and media claims to the contrary, he was never an ace. He never reached the sustained level of greatness that Halladay displayed in 2010 and ’11, or that Lee showed in recording a 2.86 ERA in his first 105 starts for the Phillies. But he was good throughout his 10 years with the club, and he was very good at crunch time, as evidenced by his being named the World Series MVP in ’08.
In short, he was every bit worthy of commanding a cadre of high-caliber prospects in Wednesday’s trade deadline-beating deal with the Texas Rangers. Those thinking he wasn’t are just as silly as those thinking he was worthy of more.
Kudos to the Phillies for doing something that had to be done … albeit two to three years late.