One of the biggest storylines coming in the 2012 season was the future of Phillies ace Cole Hamels, who last time I checked is still set to be a free agent when the season ends. Naturally, that spells trouble for the Phillies, who will have to compete with the rest of the league for the services of the 28-year-old left-hander.
That is, unless, he signs an extension before the end of the season, in which case, Phillies fans won't need to worry about him leaving town. While they might be behind the eight-ball in that capacity, Hamels had some comments about homegrown stars leaving for bigger paydays. And those words might prove to be encouraging.
Speaking with the Union Tribune in San Diego last week, Hamels -- who grew up a Padres fan in Southern California -- said he was sad to see his team lose their big players to free agency, just like anyone else.
“I mean, I loved that team, and all of a sudden it disappeared. I remember watching Fred McGriff before that, loving that guy, and boom, he’s gone. I think it’s hard to be a fan to devote your time to players, then see them leave like that.”
It's certainly sounds encouraging, considering that Hamels was drafted by the Phillies, came up in their system, and has been a mainstay in the rotation since he broke in during the 2006 season. Of course, it is just talk, and I highly doubt Hamels will stay with the Phillies solely on the principle of the fans not wanting to be left out in the cold when one of their homegrown guys leaves town.
Still, it is interesting to get a fan's take from one of the players. Sometimes it's easy to forget that these guys grew up rooting for the same teams that we do, and that they -- more or less -- abandon their fanhood when they get called up to The Show.
The one thing the Phillies do have going for them is that they, unlike the Pads of Hamels' youth, have a budget and a consistently packed stadium that allows them to keep their homegrown stars in town for the duration. And so far, they've been exceptional at doing so, as they've kept guys Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley around for the long haul.
Will the same be said for Hamels? For the fans' sake, I certainly hope so.