Thursday, July 30, 2015

Cole Hamels Traded to Texas

It was revealed through numerous sources last night that the Phillies and Texas Rangers have agreed to a trade sending lefty ace Cole Hamels and lefty reliever Jake Diekman from Philly to Texas.
In exchange, the Phils will receive lefty Matt Harrison and a quintet of prospects: catcher Jorge Alfaro, outfielder Nick Williams, and pitchers Jake ThompsonAlec Asher, and Jerad Eickhoff.
It marks the 2nd straight day that the Phillies completed a major trade involving a heavily rumored pitcher, following Tuesday's swap of closer Jonathan Papelbon to the Washington Nationals.
Nobody was more tuned in to this developing deal over the last couple of days than Jim Salisbury. The Comcast SportsNet insider has taken to Twitter a handful of times since the lefty finished off his historic final-start no-hitter on Saturday with revealing information, and he was first on the story yesterday.
For the franchise, another chapter closes in the book which I frequently have come to refer to as the "Glory Era", covering that period of consistently winning Phillies baseball from 2001-2012 which included just a single losing season, and that one at just 80-81 in 2002.
Hamels was the Phillies 1st round selection at the 17th overall pick in the 2002 MLB Amateur Draft out of Rancho Bernardino High School in his native San Diego, California.
In a minor league career that lasted just 39 starts over parts of 4 seasons, Hamels went 14-4, allowing just 117 hits in 201 innings with a strong 276/74 K:BB ratio.
He was first called to the big leagues in May of 2006, making his first start at Great America Ball Park in Cincinnati. 
While he did not gain the official Win on that night, he was strong. Over five innings, Hamels allowed just one hit while striking out seven Reds. He did show some first-start jitters, however, walking five batters.
In the starting lineup that day were a half-dozen players with whom Hamels would forge a strong bond, and with whom he would win a ton of baseball games over the ensuing years: Jimmy RollinsChase UtleyPat BurrellRyan HowardShane Victorino, and Carlos Ruiz.
He gained his first official big league Win on June 6th of 2006 at Chase Field in Arizona, as the Phillies drubbed the DBacks 10-1. Hamels went 5.2 innings that evening, allowing just three hits. Overall he would go 9-8 across 23 starts as a rookie, allowing 117 hits over 132.1 innings with a 145/48 K:BB ratio.
That exciting freshman performance was the beginning of his career, and brought him into the tremendous nucleus that the club was forming. 
That nucleus would win the next five consecutive National League East crowns, would win back-to-back NL Pennants in 2008 and 2009, and would most importantly win the 2008 World Series.
In that 2008 World Series run, Hamels was named the Most Valuable Player of both the National League Championship Series and the World Series. 
He went 4-0 in that postseason, possibly missing out on a record-tying 5th victory only due to the rain deluge that turned Game 6 of the World Series into a historic four-day long epic saga clincher.
Overall in parts of 10 seasons with the Phillies, Hamels accumulated a 114-90 record with a 3.30 ERA and 1.145 WHIP across 295 games, 294 of those as a member of the starting rotation. In his 1930 innings pitched, Hamels allowed 1717 hits with an 1844/492 K:BB ratio.
In 2011, the final winning season of that "Glory Year" period, Hamels was part of the "Four Aces" rotation along with Roy HalladayCliff Lee, and Roy Oswalt. The group was largely responsible for a record-setting 102 regular season Phillies victories.
As his slightly older "Glory Era" teammates aged around him, some were traded off and found success elsewhere, such as Victorino, who won a World Series with Boston, Burrell, who won a World Series with San Francisco, and Jayson Werth, who remains with a contender in Washington.
Most of the others either have retired, such as Halladay, Oswalt, Jamie Moyer, and Brett Myers, or are dealing with the twilight of their careers with declining results or injuries, including Lee and the only three remaining 2008 champions: Howard, Utley, and Ruiz.
In Texas, Hamels joins a team that is just four games out of the 2nd AL Wildcard playoff position, but that would have to jump over a half-dozen other teams to ultimately earn that postseason spot. They trail the first place Houston Astros by eight games in the AL West race.
It is rumored that the Astros were the other finalist for Hamels services, and the Phillies brain trust may have actually preferred the package of prospects that Houston was offering. 
However, Houston was also not on Hamels list of nine teams to whom he would accept a trade per his contract, and it is rumored that he turned down a request to go to the Astros.
If the Rangers don't make a run to the postseason this year, they still have what they wanted in Hamels. 
Outside of Coors Field in Colorado, Texas is probably the 2nd best hitters park in Major League Baseball. It is extremely hard to lure a big name free agent to the club. Hamels was willing to accept a trade there, and is now under team control for the next 3-4 seasons as well at a fair market value.
Texas has righty ace Yu Darvish currently on the disabled list after he underwent Tommy John surgery back in the spring. The supremely talented Darvish should return sometime around next May or June, giving the Rangers a strong 1-2, lefty-righty combo atop their rotation for the next few years.
This is an emotional moment for Phillies fans, the 2nd one that we have had to deal with in recent months, following the winter trade of iconic shortstop and franchise all-time Hits leader Rollins to Los Angeles. There will be more to come in the months ahead as Howard, Ruiz, and Utley also leave, one way or another.
On Sunday, September 7th of last season, with none of us having any clue that it was taking place, Hamels took the mound in what history reveals was a goodbye of sorts to that "Glory Era" club.
In a 3-2 loss at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. on that Sunday afternoon, Hamels went 6.1 innings and took the loss. Rollins and Ruiz were in the starting lineup with him. Howard and Utley would make pinch-hitting appearances. 
It would be the final time that what has to be considered as the "Core Five" of that club would appear in a game together in a Phillies uniform. As a side note, Werth was in the Nats lineup that day.
Hamels not only has been a tremendous performer on the field, but through his and wife Heidi's charitable efforts with 'The Hamels Foundation', he has been a contributing member of the local and broader community, and a positive example for young fans and other players to emulate.
It's an emotional time for me personally, as it is for most of you reading this piece. I clearly remember the day that Hamels was being called up to make his first career start. It frankly doesn't seem that long ago, and yet it has now been over nine years since that May day in 2006.
He and the group of players that came through the system with him, and those who came to the team during those late-00's seasons, provided so much entertainment, so many joyful memories, so much great baseball to a town that was starved for that kind of sustained performance from our Fightin' Phils.
No doubt, we will have opportunities to cheer them again. Not only in person when some actually return during their playing careers as opponents, but also in future reunions of the great 2008 championship team, and the memorable 2011 record-setting team as well. 
I look forward to each of those opportunities to thank and pay tribute to performers who gave us all so many wonderful moments and memories.
Twice in my lifetime, I have been blessed to enjoy such a sustained run by Phillies teams. The other time being as a teen and young man during the mid-70's through early-80's period which also yielded a World Series victory. 
I feel blessed to have enjoyed both runs fully. I think we all hope to enjoy another at some point in the not-too-distant future.
This trade has been rumored, discussed, and anticipated for months. No doubt it will be dissected numerous times in the coming days, months, and years. But it is done, and the franchise continues to look towards the future more and more.

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