Tue Mar 17 04:00pm EDT
Phew, go the Phillies fans.
His status for opening day is to be determined, but the worst fears can subside. If the defending world bleeping champions missed Hamels for a significant amount of time, or if his effectiveness were limited by an injury, they would be hurting to defend a steak sandwich, much less the tltle.
Hamels isn't the Phillies best player (Chase Utley, Ryan Howard) but he might be the one they could least afford to lose. Even a season ago, when the Series was won, the Phils filled gaps when either Utley and Howard slumped.
Brad Lidge and his perfect season in save opportunities also screams "indispensable," but take away Hamels' 227 innings (plus the playoffs) and Lidge doesn't get to 41 saves (plus more in the playoffs). Take away Hamels and the Phillies rely on Brett Myers and — no offense to Grampa, but — Jamie Moyer to lead the staff. At least Charlie Manuel could use Ryan Madson if Lidge goes down.
Most teams have a guy like Hamels; one who would make fans go "Uh oh," if he were lost. He's maybe not the biggest start or the highest-paid player, but it starts to unravel once he's gone.
Here's a short list that can be added to, subtracted from, or square-rooted:
• Mets: Carlos Beltran — Led in games played; third in SLG; made three errors in 1,407 inn.
• Marlins: Jorge Cantu — Led in games played, doubles and RBI.
• Cubs: Carlos Marmol — 40 hits allowed and 114 K in 87 IP of relief; he is the security blanket to Lou Piniella's Linus from "Peanuts."
• Brewers: J.J. Hardy — Harder to prove statistically on such a good offensive club — but my gut tells me Hardy's the man.
• Dodgers: Russell Martin — Logged 1,238 innings behind the plate; led in walks and on-base among non-Mannies; like the other Dodgers, the home stadium hurts his numbers.
• Rays: Grant Balfour — Came almost from nowhere to be an AL version of Marmol, though his workload was much less until the playoffs.
• White Sox: Mark Buehrle — Behind Danks and Floyd statistically, but take him away and the Sox's rotation is too scary (in a bad way) to have much confidence in.