In saying nothing tonite, Cole Hamels actually said plenty
— Jim Salisbury (@JSalisburyCSN) May 21, 2013
Cole Hamels pitched perhaps his best game of the season tonight, but his feckless comrades in arms failed to score more than one run against Alex Sanabia, one of the worst pitchers in baseball. So they lost. And the man who signed the richest contract in franchise history left Jeffrey Loria’s Taxpayer-Funded Stately Pleasure Dome without speaking to reporters.
Considering that I haven’t gotten tomorrow’s copies of the Philadelphia papers, I don’t know for sure that someone’s going to write a pointed opinion piece about Hamels’ failure to answer to the press this evening, but I hope nobody does.
Because the fact of the matter is that Cole Hamels doesn’t owe us a goddamn thing. He dragged this team to the only championship Philadelphia has earned in my lifetime, then turned around a season later to see the National League and batted ball luck take less of a shine to him. And instead of being patient with the best pitching prospect the franchise produced in 60 years, the media and fans that had feted Hamels as a conquering hero turned on him in 2009 like a pack of jackals.
And when Hamels, during the 2009 World Series, said he’d like that season to be over, I felt for him, because he’d had a rough time of it. It’s what happens when things don’t go your way for the first time in your life, when the league catches up to you, and when your manager leaves you hanging on the cross in a playoff game while your wife is in labor. But Brett Myers (intent on punching another man for once) and the Philadelphia fans and editorial press had procured a length of rope and were determined to hang Hamels with it.
If I were Cole Hamels, and I were one of the more promising talents at my position, I’d have demanded a trade on the spot. Yet Hamels persevered, while the organization put veteran ace after veteran ace in front of him in the rotation while he turned into the pitcher that his potential indicated he might one day become.
And yet here he is, finally getting over the hump after a rough start to the season, and the lineup that supports him, one that is paid roughly the GDP of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, can’t scratch out enough offense to bloody the nose of a pitcher who barely merits the sobriquet of “replacement-level.”
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but as far forward as we can see, Cole Hamels is this franchise. Despite fulfilling the wildest dreams of this city’s fans and media, he was met with scorn, and yet he stuck around (and not just for the money–don’t think the Dodgers or Angels wouldn’t have offered him the contract the Phillies gave him and more) past the point where any sane man’s emotional endurance would have given out.
So to the writers who might pillory Hamels for refusing to talk to the media–cut the man some slack. Every single Phillies beat writer is a better reporter than I am, and I’ve had athletes stonewall me on deadline and managed to turn out harder stories than “The Phillies wasted a strong pitching performance.” You’re all grown-ups, and you’ll recover.
While watching the building furor over Hamels’ media strategy, a thought occurred to me. I’m trying to make a career as a writer, and I’ve had many professional failures. But I’ve never had a professional failure, even one as relatively trivial in the long run as Hamels losing to the Marlins tonight, that wasn’t of my own making. I’ve never had a professional failure viewed with such great regional interest as tonight’s game, and I’ve never been expected to explain myself to a media scrum after such a failure. I can’t begin to imagine the frustration Hamels might have felt tonight, and the ultimately destructive things he might have been inclined to say, if he’d gone out to utter his platitudes to a bunch of men with digital recorders.
In closing, if you think Cole Hamels owes us anything more than ten strikeouts against two earned runs in six innings, you can go fuck yourself. Over the next five years, this franchise is going to redefine moribund. But it’s not going to be Cole Hamels’ fault, and he doesn’t owe you an explanation why.