Here’s why Phillies fans are upset about Óscar Mercado

Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images) /

Phillies fans demand Cole Hamels’ number be retired after team announces newcomer Óscar Mercado will wear it

On Monday, the Philadelphia Phillies announced that they claimed outfielder Óscar Mercado off waivers from the Cleveland Guardians, a move to bolster their lack of outfield depth.

Fans were optimistic about the addition at first, noting that Mercado received Rookie of the Year votes in 2019, and that with consistent playing time, might find his form again.

But on Tuesday, the Phillies angered fans with the update that Mercado would take Zach Eflin’s spot on the roster (15-Day IL) and wear #35.

35, of course, was Cole Hamels’ number.

Hamels spent the first decade of his MLB career with the Phillies and has the distinction of being one of the only top pitching prospects they’ve developed in this century. During his time in Philly, he was a three-time All-Star and the NLCS and World Series MVP in their 2008 championship run. As an individual, he also finished in the top-eight in NL Cy Young voting four times.

Certainly a retired number-caliber player.

Fans made their displeasure clear in the comments section, telling the Phillies,

"“No one should be wearing Cole’s number.”“I just love it when you guys give out beloved former Phillies numbers to mediocre utility players.”“So no we’re just handing out legendary Phillies #’s to anyone”"

They have a point. The Phillies are one of the stingiest teams when it comes to retiring numbers, an outrageous concept when you consider that they’re also one of the oldest franchises. Aside from Jackie Robinson’s 42, which is retired leaguewide, the Phillies have only retired nine numbers, and two of them – Grover Cleveland Alexander and Chuck Klein – aren’t even numbers. Because they each wore multiple numbers during their time in Philadephia, their retired number is the letter P. Roy Halladay’s 34 is the only retired number from this century.

All this to say, the Phillies are overdue to add some numbers to the list, and the 2008 team is ripe for the picking. One of their greatest players even said so himself. Back in January, the legendary Jimmy Rollins suggested the Phillies put members of the championship team on their Wall of Fame:

"“11, 26, 6, 51, 35, throw the Flyin’ Hawaiian in there, 8, you might wanna put them numbers on the Wall [of Fame] and let guys get their day, because what we were able to accomplish here was special. We knew we had a good team, I think we just needed that boost of confidence, and I came out and said it.”"

Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz, Hamels, and Shane Victorino.

There is a difference between the Wall of Fame and a retired number, but it’s true that none of the players Rollins mentioned have received either honor. Their manager, Charlie Manuel, joined the Wall in 2014, and teammate Pat Burrell followed him in 2015.

Individually and together, the 2008 team gave fans some of the greatest moments in franchise history. Honoring them is long overdue.