By Harry Allison
You’ve all heard the meme:
Cole Hamels is the Phillies’ best trade chip as they try to turn the page from woefulness to respectability.
And it is true that the ace lefty has a great record to fall back on.
But what have you done lately, Cole, that has enhanced your value and made one of the many teams who have kicked your tires want to offer blue-chip prospects to the Phillies in return?
If Hamels made his final start for the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday, it will be a forgettable conclusion to a memorable career.
Hamels allowed five runs on eight hits and struck out one in just three innings in an 8-7 victory over the Marlins, which gave the Phillies their first series sweep since May. Hamels’ poor effort Sunday followed his July 10 start at AT&T Park in San Francisco, where he allowed a career-high nine runs in 3 1/3 innings against the Giants.
“What I’ve done in the last week and a half hasn’t been up to my standards or the expectations of many,” Hamels said afterward.
Hamels has one more start officially scheduled before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, and he might need to pitch well Saturday afternoon against the Cubs at Wrigley Field to ease the minds of teams like the Dodgers, Red Sox, Cubs and Rangers, who have expressed interest in him.
That is not to say teams will forget about Hamels’ lengthy and successful career — he has the eighth-best ERA out of 101 qualified pitchers from 2010-15 — but it might be difficult to trade a top prospect or two for a pitcher with a 19.89 ERA in his last two starts.
“I think my track record speaks for itself,” Hamels said. “But sometimes you can get yourself in a rut and you’ve got to get yourself out, and sometimes you get on a hot streak and you can go for months, so it’s just being able to start back over and see what I can do from the first pitch.”
Hamels, who said falling behind in the count has hurt him these last two starts, has allowed five or more runs in six of 19 starts this season. He has not had more than seven of those starts in any other season in his career.
His pronounced struggles recently and his season-long inconsistencies have raised a few questions about him.
Is he healthy?
“Yeah, I am,” he said.
Is he distracted by the incessant trade talk?
“It can become an exciting time or difficult times for others,” Hamels said. “It is what it is. I know that being able to play the game of baseball and being able to pitch for this city or for any city, I’m fortunate to be able to do so and I want to do it for as long as I possibly can and help whatever team. Just to be able to go out there and help win a ballgame, I think that’s what I focus on. That’s the only thing I can control. There’s a lot of scenarios and situations that you look to, and I don’t have that type of control.”
So Hamels seems confident he will bounce back Saturday. The Phillies hope he will. They would like to trade him to help their rebuilding efforts.
“You’re never really safe until the game’s over, I guess. Until you’re retired,” Hamels said. “It’s a business and I’m just happy enough I get to play in it.”