If you’re a Boston Red Sox fan, and don’t live in a cave, you’ve heard the rumors of a trade for Philadelphia Phillies ace pitcher Cole Hamels since the beginning of the season. This publication and thousands of other media sources have covered the topic to death. Some experts have said that they need Hamels right now, to continue their chances at catching the American League East leaders. Some experts have said that Hamels is too expensive and would be an albatross of a contract to deal with in the future.
Now, it may be time for the Red Sox to end any pursuit of Hamels, not because of the money but because of his play.
With nothing else going on last night, as the Red Sox game against the Los Angeles Angels in California was rained out, the pert observers and the blind pundits discussed trade possibilities. One tweet out of the verbal melee from ESPN baseball insider Buster Olney was like a shout to Red Sox Nation and their hopes of a blockbuster trade:
With all of the other games coming before ESPN‘s broadcast began Sunday night, the network had ample time to analyse the game Hamels pitched that afternoon, which wasn’t a good one. In the 7-8 loss to the Miami Marlins, Hamels allowed five earned runs on eight hits and a strikeout in just three innings. Was the hook quick because of his play or that the Red Sox sent a scout to Philadelphia to check out his start? Gordon Edes of ESPN reported that “vice president Allard Baird, one of general manager Ben Cherington’s top lieutenants,” was at the game. Did the Phillies not want their top trading piece to look bad in front of Boston’s brass in person?
Brad Johnson of MLBTradeRumors.com also added some light into Olney’s tweet: “In his last two outings, Hamels has thrown a combined 6.1 innings while allowing 14 runs, 20 hits, and two walks. Hamels has a history of minor elbow and shoulder injuries. He missed a few starts earlier this season with a hamstring strain. For what it’s worth, his velocity has remained consistent through his recent plunge. A decline in velocity is often a leading indicator of injury.”
Hamels, however, isn’t worried.
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When asked about his health or his recent play becoming a problem for his current team or a future team wanting to trade for him, Hamels said he was healthy and replied, “I think my track record speaks for itself […] 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.”
That’s great optimism, but not everyone is buying it. Edes wrote, “He may insist he’s healthy, but outings like that increase the ‘buyer beware’ factor exponentially.” Edes also highlighted the main point as to the Red Sox and their trust in Hamels: “As much as the Sox have looked at Hamels, you might wonder why Baird needed to parachute in for another peek.”
Conversations about that very point happened even before the Phillies game yesterday:
The reply back to that tweet was “answer: nothing.”
Nothing may not be accurate, at least not when reviewing Hamels’ health. When a 10-year veteran is 0-3 in his last seven starts, with a balloon of an ERA (6.10), you start to worry about him. It’s not just a bad streak when your three-time All-Star is 5-5 with a 3.95 ERA in his last 15 starts, either. Especially when he’s 31 years old and has given up almost as many runs in a little more than half of the season as he did the previous year. Hamels has given up 52 runs so far, just four shy of the 56 runs he gave up in 2014. His ERA has not been this bad since 2009. Is this body of work a sign of a savior for Boston?
Of course Hamels is a great pitcher, if you look at his complete history. You don’t even need to look too far; just go back to last year. However, dismiss the money for a moment. Disregard the fact that other teams like the L.A. Dodgers, the Baltimore Orioles, the Texas Rangers, the Chicago Cubs, and a host of other teams have an interest in Hamels’ services. Shield your eyes and ears from the horrifying fact that the Red Sox would have to trade away a bunch of young prospects, who could be better used as Red Sox players in the future, in order to gain Hamels on the slim possibility that every fifth game could spell a better chance of being a victory.
Pay attention to the present day, please. Here and now, Cole Hamels is pitching below his usual standards. So low, in fact, that Clay Buchholz, the man whom everyone said was not as good as Hamels, was looking like a rock star in comparison, with a 2.78 ERA in his last 15 games. If it wasn’t for Buchholz injuring his elbow, the trend would have likely continued to make the so-called experts look very foolish. Buchholz will come back from his injury. Will Hamels come back from his poor play? Would you make a multi-million-dollar trade with evidence like that? Not many people would feel very comfortable with that kind of agenda, not even some die-hard Red Sox fans, blinded by team loyalty.
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