Why Hamels could be the NL East's most influential player
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Phillies left-hander
In one of the most honest press conferences anyone will have this spring, Dubee said Thursday that it isn't just the technical aspect of Hamels' game that needs work. It's his emotional side, too. It isn't just the curveball that needs adjustment, though that is a main goal of the spring. It is his mound demeanor, as well.
Dubee went on at length about Hamels being too emotional and much too demonstrative last year, about how he sabotaged his season by over-emoting, over-reacting and over-reaching. "His approach wasn't very good last year,'' Dubee said, flat out. And his comments didn't end there. He went on.
"The big problem with Cole last year was he pitched with a lot of anger -- with himself mostly,'' Dubee said.
If the Phillies aren't angry, they are at least annoyed. As much as anyone, they don't like to see talent wasted. Dubee mentioned that Hamels' problems stem from the perfectionist in him. But the Phillies also have high standards for the 2008 World Series MVP. They expect a lot from him, as evidenced by the fact they didn't even think about trading him and instead flipped more established star
It's clear now, if it wasn't already, just how vital Hamels is to the Phillies' success this season. He is the single most key player in the N.L. East, and maybe the entire National League. If he returns to his 2008 form, when he went 14-10 with a 3.09 ERA in the regular season then posted a 1.80 ERA in leading Philadelphia to its World Series championship, the Phillies are probably unbeatable in their division. If he doesn't, if he repeats the 10-11 mark with 4.32 ERA of a year ago, not to mention the 7.58 postseason ERA that led to the very veteran
Dubee and the Phillies want Hamels back to being the guy from 2008, the one whose emotionless mound demeanor was as much of a plus as his devastating changeup. They want him to stop stomping around on the mound when a bloop hit hurts him, to stop snatching the ball in anger when he walks a batter or two.
Dubee said they have reminded Hamels frequently that he needs to stay calm, cool and composed and not to let small disappointments turn into devastations. Dubee said Hamels needs to "not get upset about flare base hits or by bases on balls ... he got upset about a lot.'' He believes the perfectionist in Hamels came out, and it hurt him. "He expects to pitch a no-hitter every game. When you have those expectations and it doesn't go that way, it's not good. When he wasn't able to attain that, he got upset with himself.''
Dubee revealed they have shown Hamels film of his misdeeds last year, the snapping of the balls and the stomping around the mound. Hamels, though, said he didn't need to watch it. "No,'' he said, "I was there.''
Whether he watched the tapes or not, Hamels said he understands what he needs to do. He needs not to take one bad pitch into the next, one bad break into another, one bloop hit into an inning of utter distraction. He has to recall that "it's not the end of the world when I don't make the pitch in the right spot.'' Even if he isn't watching the horror show of the films he's shown, it's apparent Hamels got the message.
Teams sources say they believe Hamels was "overwhelmed'' by all that went on, that while he didn't necessarily let the success go to his head, he did allow himself to become distracted. Hamels is a San Diego native and showed a California cool persona in 2008, but he winters now in Philly, and people around the team believe he let too many people get a piece of him in his adopted town the winter after the championship. It was all too much too soon.
Speaking of expectations, Hamels allowed, "I kind of let that get to me.''
As Dubee pointed out, Hamels went from fewer 200 minor-league innings
Phillies people believe Hamels needed to relax this winter, and they believe he has done that. "I think what he needed was a breath of fresh air, to think about it, to change the results and to change his mound presence,'' Dubee said. Phillies people believe he got the message. "He took it to heart,'' Dubee said. "He could have gone home and sulked. And no, he didn't do that.''
If Hamels continues on the 2009 path, it doesn't hurt that the Phillies have
Such a drastic move isn't likely with Hamels. But he does need to get back to his old self. For his benefit, and his team's.
Hamels isn't the only player who could shape an entire division. Here is each division's swing player, the one guy who could impact an entire race.
Soriano was just one of several Cubs to disappoint last year. But he is the one who carries the potential to turn things around for the team and help them unseat the favored Cardinals. His 2009 season of 20 home runs and a .241 average is patently unacceptable, and not just for someone with a $136-million, eight-year contract but for someone with his ability. He declined in every statistic last year, but despite missing a month after knee surgery, his strikeout total is the one number that increased, from 103 to 118. His season was
Webb recently got back on a mound after 10 months off it following summer shoulder surgery, and he gives the Diamondbacks the potential to match any team's rotation in their pitching-strong division -- if he's sound. Arizona judged that his $8.5-million option was worth the gamble, and understandably so. At his best, he's Cy Young-quality. And there is hope he will be at his best soon. "He's right where he needs to be,'' Diamondbacks GM
He comes to the Bronx off what was in many ways a disappointing season for him, and he's being counted on to replace popular and productive
There were whispers about his declining range and even about a lessening ability catch up with a great fastball that arose as potential explanations for Dodgers manager
We've been hearing a lot about Wood for a lot of years. But he's been having a lot of difficulty cracking their lineup, as he's struggled offensively in limited opportunities. He has 74 strikeouts in 224 big-league at-bats, with only seven walks and seven home runs. But the defection of
• Some Mets people preferred
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• One NL exec said he believes
• The Mariners have received more praise than anyone for their offseason moves (including from me), but some competing execs still wonder whether they have enough firepower to compete in the AL. "Good defense isn't going to do it against the Yankees and Red Sox,'' one AL exec opined. That exec said the Mariners overachieved last year and predicted they'll be lucky to play .500 ball this year.
• Not only is Webb a key for the D-backs, so is returning lineup staple
• The Indians' expected promotions of