The Philadelphia Phillies had the three most feared aces in baseball as recently as a year ago. But this year, Phillies fans like myself have seen Roy Halladay struggle and get hurt, have seen Cliff Lee rack up only two wins, and nearly saw Cole Hamels leave Philadelphia. The 'Big Three' for the Phils is nothing to fear anymore, at least in 2012 - which leaves the Los Angeles Angels to form the year's biggest trio of aces.
The Angels already had Cy Young favorite and no-hit ace Jared Weaver lead their pitching staff, with C.J. Wilson as their formidable No. 2. But now that former Milwaukee Brewers ace Zack Greinke has come to Los Angeles, the Angels may be this year's Phillies on the mound.
If Greinke can deliver on his promise, Los Angeles can turn him, Weaver and Wilson into the American League equivalent of Halladay, Lee and Hamels. Weaver is the Halladay of the group, although even Halladay hasn't started 14-1 with a no-hitter in the season's first four months.
Then again, there is also a bit of Hamels in Weaver, since he is the only long time Angel of the trio in between two newcomers. Halladay and Lee came fast and furious to Philadelphia and turned it into a pitching mecca alongside the established Hamels, just as Wilson and Greinke are trying to do with Weaver.
Of course, as the Phillies know, having three aces doesn't guarantee a World Series. After winning the 2008 title with just Hamels, the Phillies only seemed to falter when they got more aces. They lost the 2009 World Series with Hamels and Lee, then lost the 2010 NLCS with Hamels, Lee, Halladay and Roy Oswalt. Now in 2012, Halladay and Lee can't even get over .500, while Hamels has to carry the load even more than in 2008 - and with even less reward on the field, despite his new $144 million contract off of it.
For the Angels, their new star trio is untested together, so it's hard to know if they'll have more luck than the Phillies. Wilson has been to two World Series with the Texas Rangers, while Greinke went to last year's NLCS with the Brewers, so they have October experience - but no championships.
In addition, the Angels still have to catch the Rangers in the AL West just to avoid a one-game wild card playoff - perhaps with another AL West rival in the Oakland Athletics. However, if Los Angeles has to play one do-or-die game just to reach the divisional playoffs, it has no shortage of aces to choose from.
The Phillies are a cautionary tale for those who dare to put super rotations together. But the Angels didn't listen - plus these strategies usually work better for non-Philadelphia teams anyway. For good measure, the Angels actually have hot batters like Mike Trout, Mike Trumbo and a resurgent Albert Pujols to provide support, whereas the Phillies' superstar bats tended to go quiet for their aces.
Will Los Angeles actually ride three big arms to a World Series title and prove such a thing can be done? Or will the Angels be the West Coast version of the Phillies in more ways than one - down to having no rings for their three aces? Given that the Angels suffered an 11-10 come-from-ahead loss to the Rangers on Aug. 1 - albeit without Weaver, Wilson or Greinke pitching - there is still some work to do.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Phillies since he was eight years old.
Other stories from this contributor
- Sports & Recreation
- Philadelphia Phillies
- Cole Hamels
- Roy Halladay
- Los Angeles Angels
- Zack Greinke