April 12, 2010
Mr. Colbert Michael Hamels
c/o The Philadelphia Phillies
1 Citizens Park Way
Philadelphia, PA 19148
Dear Mr. Hamels:
I am writing in regards to your recent performance as number two starting pitcher of the Philadelphia Phillies. As you are certainly aware you are currently 2-0 with a second-rate 5.06 ERA. Considering your tenure as a professional baseball player I assume you are familiar with the criticism of W-L records accurately depicting a pitcher’s reliability to lead one’s team to a victory. Based on this assumption it would be safe to say that you realize your record means nothing to the city of Philadelphia right now.
In 2008 you were named both NLCS and World Series MVP. You were our ace ending the season with a record of 14-10 and a 3.09 ERA. You made hitters fear you and fans of every other team envy the Phillies for having you in their arsenal. Philadelphia will forever remember 2008 as a magical year, something that was meant to be, and you will always be part of that story when those of us who lived to see it tell our grandchildren about that glorious run at the title 50 years from now.
I won’t dwell on your off-season behavior because it’s neither here nor there. The Phillies fell short in 2009 and as much as I would like to blame it all on you I am smarter than that to know that wasn’t the case. The 2009 season certainly would have had a brighter sheen to it had you performed the way you expected to but we all know the problems lied in the bullpen and more specifically in Brad Lidge. Your 2009 record was 10-11 with a mediocre 4.32 ERA. You went on to lose both of your post-season starts and let your emotions get the best of you on the mound. By the end of the season you had figured out that yes, it would indeed be impossible to replicate the year you had in 2008 and you started to settle finally, but it didn’t last long and you became visibly rattled almost immediately after your first sub-par outing. You left the fans holding their breath with every pitch you threw and rarely gave us cause to exhale. We all hoped that you would spend the off-season focused and reflective and come to spring training ready to prove everyone wrong and you almost had us fooled – almost.
Rich Dubee said you looked the best you had ever looked coming into spring training. You spoke about spending more time training and conditioning and less time touring the late-night talk show circuit. But when the regular season began the fans were on the edge of their seats – and not because they were witnessing you pitch a gem.
The Phillies were riding high on their 11-1 win over the Nationals on MLB Opening Day in front of 41,290 fans (mostly their own) in the nation’s capital. The fans were anticipating what you had seemed to promise us going into the regular season and it wasn’t long before we were clenching our fists and biting our tongues just like last year. Our all-star lineup gave you a two run cushion in the first – whether they were carrying over their success from the previous game or just trying to give you breathing room early on remains to be seen. It didn’t take you very long to settle into your 2009 mid-season form giving up a home run to Desmond and allowing a single to Willingham bringing Zim home – all of a sudden the lead was erased and the people in the stands were left muttering “not this again.” If it wasn’t for such high-caliber offense backing you up (and yes, even your own hitting proved more effective than your pitching that day) you would not have been so lucky as to somehow end up with the “W.” I’m not going to read you back the box score verbatim because that doesn’t change anything and truth be told you didn’t technically throw all that bad of a game, but it wasn’t what we wanted to see from you fresh out of the gate. When you are given a head start and eliminate any good it did in the blink of an eye it’s enough to make the fans leave the ballpark giving you the stink-eye and trying to figure out if this is what they’re in for all season long.
This brings me today’s game. I regretfully could not watch my beloved Phillies take to their home field for the first time in 2010 and had to turn the radio broadcast off (the only thing I was looking forward to all day) by the fourth inning because you were just making it too painful. I could handle giving up a Willingham home run in the first, in fact I almost expected it, but when the runs kept piling on I couldn’t bear to listen anymore. Somehow, thanks to the offense yet again, you managed to sneak away with another “W.”
I can’t say you deserve either of those wins. I can’t say I’m confident in you when you take the mound for the Phillies again on Sunday. I can’t say I want to see what happens when you have to pitch against a team that isn’t the Nationals or the completely defeated 0-7 Astros. I can’t say I look at you and see one of the best pitchers in the National League anymore. To be honest, I personally don’t respect you as our number two or even number three starting pitcher and quite frankly I think the city of Philadelphia deserves better. I shouldn’t feel that way about the man who led us to a World Series victory just a year and a half ago especially just two games into your season. But Roy Halladay cannot pitch 162 games a year. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Placido Polanco and Jayson Werth cannot score 7, 8, 9 runs every time you pitch just in case you let your focus slip for a nano-second and find yourself mid-meltdown before the Phanatic can even do one complete belly roll. We don’t expect you to be a 2009 Cliff Lee. We don’t expect you to be Mr. 0.56 ERA Roy Halladay. You are Cole Hamels and we expect you to pitch like someone who used to be our ace – no one ever said a team could only have one.
We may call you Princess Cole, we may joke about you carrying a puppy in a backpack, but to be honest it’s only to keep the matter at hand off our minds – you’ve wandered off the beaten path, Cole, and we need you to find your way back.
Your prompt attention to this matter is greatly appreciated.
Michelle O’Malley for the people of Philadelphia