Hey you, you and everyone else in that cave, sheltered from the cold, it’s time come out. Baseball’s back. Aren’t you excited? I know I am. The 2013 season, like each that came before it, brings with it rejuvenation, tradition, hope, and of course, fun. Every team, even the predicted to be lowly Astros can share in the hope and excitement of opening day. In fact, the young Astros did just that on Sunday night by starting the season with an 8-2 victory over the Texas Rangers.
For the Phillies, this season could go one of two ways. It’s similar to that Robert Frost poem, you know the one I’m referring to, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and sorry I could not travel both.” Frost might have been a New Englander, but some of his most famous words accurately describe a mid-Atlantic team’s position. The Phillies are full of veterans, with some youth sprinkled in. This season could turn out well, with a best-case scenario being a return to the playoffs where anything can happen, and a worst-case scenario looking like a major salary dump at the trade deadline, and a number of AAA call ups.
Still, no matter which path the Phillies follow, it isn’t a choice the team can make now, like most things in life, it’s something that must play itself out in the daily grind. Still, it’s the beginning, and so I say let’s forget about that worst-case scenario and focus on the positives. For instance, Cole Hamels, mustache and all, will be on the hill starting for the Phillies tonight in Atlanta.
About a month ago an incredibly knowledgeable baseball fan I know posed a simple yet difficult question to me. “How many opening day pitchers for the Phillies were originally drafted by Philadelphia, and who were they?” This question became even more pertinent when Charlie Manuel tabbed Cole Hamels to start on opening day because once Cole throws that first pitch, he will become the most recent answer to that question. After failing to answer the trivia question completely correct (I got 1 our of 2), I decided to pose it to other Phillies faithful on Twitter. No one got it correct, in fact, the guesses, while creative, weren’t very close.
I don’t want to hold you in suspense, but since by this po
int you’re most likely googling the answer, I’ll just tell you. There have been three Phillies starters to start on opening day who were drafted by the Phillies. One will be Cole Hamels, the second was Brett Myers, and the third was Bruce Ruffin. Myers did it started on opening day 3 times, from 2007-2009 after originally being drafted by the team in the 1st round in the 1999 draft. Ruffin started only once on opening day for the Phillies, doing so in 1990. The Phillies drafted Ruffin in the 2nd round of the 1985 draft.
So, one paragraph of edification later, you, like I was, might be surprised to see so few names on this list. The Phillies haven’t done a great job of drafting, developing, and keeping good young pitchers. Just look at their current starting rotation. Hamels and Kendrick are both home grown, we know Hamels is an ace and will deservedly start opening day this season, and Kendrick is right where he should be, #4 slot. Otherwise, Lee was drafted by the now defunct Expos, Halladay by the Blue Jays, and Lannan by the updated Expos, I mean the Nationals.
One thing that’s important to keep in mind is that the 1st rule 4 draft, the first-year player draft that isn’t to be confused with the rule 5 draft, occurred in 1965 with Rick Monday, another good trivia answer, was drafted 1st overall by the Kansas City Athletics (more defunct teams, YAY!). That means that players signed by the Phillies prior to 1965 who started for the Fightins on opening day don’t qualify. Just as an example, Robin Roberts, whom the Phillies signed in 1948 started 12 consecutive seasons for the Phillies on opening day. Only Steve Carlton started more opening days than Roberts, accomplishing the feat 14 times, although not all consecutively.
So, Phillies fans, it’s safe to leave your domicile and enjoy the sunshine, freshly cut grass, a beer and a hotdog because baseball is back. More importantly, Phillies baseball is back. More Ryan Howard mammoth home runs, Chase Utley hustle plays, Rollins’ cannon throws from deep shortstop, and maybe some strikeouts from Lee, Halladay, and of course, Cole Hamels. Celebrate, as I will, but be ready for a season that could go down two distinctly different paths, one to glory, and one to dispair. Still, Cole Hamels becomes the 3rd Phillies draftee to start on opening day, now isn’t that just the best news you’ve heard all winter?