Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Starting Cole?

Cole Hamels said something stupid.

"I can't wait for (the season) to end," he said following his latest debacle on Saturday night in Game 3.

Boy, was that dumb. Players aren't supposed to want the the season to just end. They're supposed to want to keep playing, to want to win. Giving up is not part of the game and shouldn't be part of any competitor's vocabulary.

Lots of people (including me when I first read the comments) were pissed off by these remarks. Hamels should have been apologizing for his performance and trying to figure out ways to do better if the need arises, not wishing for the whole thing to be over.

And many people concluded, based on these comments, that Hamels should not start Game 7, should the need arise.

Now, of course, every Phillies fan (myself included) hopes desperately that Charlie Manuel has to make the decision of who to start in Game 7. If only we have to make that hard decision, we'll all be happy.

But should Manuel in fact start Hamels?

Well, let's assume, just for the sake of discussion, that the Phillies win Game 6 without having to use absolutely everyone on their staff. Martinez pitches six innings, Chan Ho Park pitches the seventh, Scott Eyre and Brett Myers combine for the eighth, and Ryan Madson gets the save in the ninth.

That would probably be the best scenario for the Phillies since they wouldn't have to use Hamels, JA Happ, Joe Blanton, or Cliff Lee, all of whom are available because if the Phillies don't win Game 6, there's nothing else to talk about.

In that situation, whom should Charlie start?

Well, look at the options.

Joe Blanton pitched six innings and gave up 4 runs. Not bad, but no one's begging to put him back out there; and especially not on short rest.

JA Happ hasn't had a start since Game 4 against the Rockies, when he gave up three runs in three innings. He's rested because he hasn't seen much action out of the bullpen, but in that limited action he hasn't been impressive, twice walking the first batter he faced.

Cliff Lee would be working on 2 days of rest, so you couldn't expect to get more than three or four innings out of him. And since he probably hasn't pitched under those conditions in a very long time (if ever), you have no idea what to expect from him.

And then there's Hamels, who hasn't pitched well this postseason, and who said something really dumb. But who also won the World Series MVP last year and who has frequently risen to the occasion.

Maybe I'm too simple a mind, but I take Charlie Manuel at his word when he says that the only thing running through his mind when he makes decisions about what to do is winning the game.

So, what's the right move in this hypothetical situation?

Start Cole Hamels in Game 7.

Put him on a short leash. Have Happ warming up before the game and in the bottom of the first inning.... And have Lee warming up in the second, and Blanton in the third. Hell, have Matt Stairs warm up if it'll make you feel any better.

But there's no doubt in my mind that under those circumstances, Manuel should pitch Hamels, stupid comment and all.

Of course, the real hope is that Charlie is forced to make this tough decision in the first place.

And that's the far bigger issue. Starting pitching has absolutely been the deciding factor in every game this series, except for Brad Lidge's meltdown in Game 4.

So, what do you look for in Game 6? One word: Pedro.

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