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Hamels becomes Phillies’ ace again: A fan’s take
The Philadelphia Phillies have a long list of aces right now. However, there was a time when the Phillies only had one pitching star—and perhaps one that us fans have forgotten about until now.
There was an ancient time, all the way in 2008, when Cole Hamels(notes) was the only ace we had, and no one at all worried about the Phillies' batters. Three years and one championship later, the pitching is making up for the lousy offense this time, yet Hamels is the only constant in between. But after plenty of turmoil, he is back to where he was when this era started—as Philadelphia's No. 1 ace.
That might sound like blasphemy, since Roy Halladay(notes) took over the No. 1 starting spot when he arrived last year. Technically, Hamels is still the No. 4 pitcher, behind Halladay, Cliff Lee(notes) and Roy Oswalt(notes). However, while Halladay is winning without being as overwhelming, Lee and Oswalt have hit some up-and-down times lately. Yet while these three stars have hit their speed bumps, Hamels has been the one consistent performer this season.
That hardly seemed likely when the year started, after we booed Hamels for getting torched by the New York Mets on April 5. Yet ever since that ugly opener, he has gone 8-1, and looked like his dominant self from 2008 along the way. In fact, he has had more gems than even Halladay these days, as he gave up just one hit in a no-decision to the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 3, and shut out the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 8.
In 2009, Hamels looked lost, and we never let him hear the end of it—especially when Cliff Lee stole his thunder by the playoffs, and Halladay came on board in the off-season. In fact, there were days when we wondered if Hamels could be traded, although the Phillies wouldn't have finally had a championship in 2008 without him. Even when he recovered in 2010, Halladay and Roy Oswalt overshadowed him, and he never got enough offensive support.
But so far this season, it has been a different story, as Hamels has retaken his place at the top of the rotation—even if he is still officially a No. 4. Yet we know that his old self is back, and may be even more valuable in crunch time than Halladay and the others. Since Hamels is the only one of the "Big Four" with an actual championship, and a World Series MVP as well, it certainly gives him the best October credentials.
Over the last two years, us fans waited for the other shoe to drop with Hamels, since it seemed it was only a matter of time before he melted down. Yet it has been a long wait this year, and hopefully, the wait will stretch past October. Should Hamels stay this hot, and should Halladay, Lee and Oswalt get themselves fully straightened out, the Phillies will indeed have the unstoppable rotation we've all said that they've had.
Of course, despite not having no-hit stuff lately, Halladay is still the official ace, with eight wins of his own. Meanwhile, Lee just needs some offensive support of his own, and more efforts like he had in his June 6 win over the Dodgers. In addition, Oswalt is still recovering from injury, and needs runs of his own to work with.
These aces are still keeping the Phillies in first place, despite their own troubles. However, while they are more vulnerable to struggles, Cole Hamels is our one superstar hurler who has consistently overcome everything in 2011— and that includes the demons of 2009 and 2010.
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