I understand why the girls in Philly all have “Utley” on their jerseys. The cute face combined with his innate ability to perform well athletically is exactly what kept their hands off me in high school. He might as well be wearing a varsity jacket and threatening to crush my larynx because the sound of my voice is “…just way too much like a bird farting.”
Cole Hamels, on the other hand, has a different kind of face. Its skinny and shaggy and there just seems like there’s a lot of bones where there don’t need to be. But Cole’s biggest problem isn’t his face anymore. And for some reason, in regards to heterosexual women, it never was.
In fact, Cole doesn’t so much as have problems so much as he… is one.
Whether your predictions are positive or negative, everybody wants Cole to be better, so when he does well, we will of course be jumping the gun and claiming “He’s back!”
And then something like his last start night happens, where he hurls a delicate, spiffy little game until the Diamondbacks hit the detonator and explode for three home runs in one inning, and we learn, through the groans, punching, and arson that come with a Phillies loss, that Cole is not back.
The time may be upon us to acknowledge that Cole, that 2008, skinny-faced champ, who looked more like a smiling corn stalk during the World Series than an MVP, may never be coming back. His paltry 2009 seemed to amputate all the untouchableness granted in 2008 (can you look at Cole Hamels facts today and still laugh?), turning 2010 into a seven month case of phantom limb.
Cole doesn’t suck. Keep in mind, the degree to which he pitched in 2008 was stellar. He’s going to win, and he’s going to lose. He’s going to be a major league pitcher. He’ll streak and show hints of dominance, giving the purists a chance to fill up message boards and wet themselves. But the days of a 20-win Cole are gone. It happens. It’s baseball.
You know Kevin Millwood once pitched a no-hitter as a Phillie? He’s on the Orioles rotation now. And he’s not the ace. He’s the grizzled vet in a pitching corps of guys who, for the last three years, were nothing but scouting reports.
This isn’t a white flag of surrender, more like a beige flag of… compromising. It would be great if Cole was having his 2008 season in 2010, next to Roy Halladay, erasing all the discordant “EHHHHH’s” that come clanging out of the “We-Should-Have-Kept-Lee” brigade (No shit, we should have. You sure know a lot about baseball by saying that). But he’s not. Chances are, he’s not going to.
We’ve all been watching the same Phillies for the last year and change, and we’ve yet to see a form of Cole Hamels that has gone beyond “Well, that certainly could have been worse.”
He’s being graded on a curve, which would be fair if we could expect him to do better, but if 2009 and 2010 are any indication, we can’t.
He is Cole Hamels, now, not Phillies Ace Cole Hamels. I still like him. I hope that we can one day be friends. I hope that we share that “friends bond,” where he pretends not to notice my lingering stare following his wife’s ass out the door. I hope we’re comfortable enough with each other that I can say, “Cole, these Xfinity commercials. They’re terrible. You smile like a crayfish,” and instead of punching me in the larynx, we’ll share a chuckle and down some whiskey.
“Please stop looking at Heidi like that,” he’ll say.
“No,” I’ll quietly reply.
And the sound of the ice cubes melting in our drinks will slowly be absorbed by the honking car horns surrounding Rittenhouse Square below.
His name will be Cole Hamels, and he will always be the Most Valuable Player of the 2008 World Series. But now, it is 2010, and we need him to be something else: consistent. And until then, he’s the number two starter in a rotation that needs him more than ever.