If the fan base's treatment of Cliff Lee is a barometer, Hamels might want to think on it some more.
When the Phillies signed Cliff Lee to his five-year, $120 million deal two offseasons ago, the prevailing narrative was that the fans never wanted Lee to leave Philadelphia in the first place. It was also pretty apparent that Lee never wanted to leave Philadelphia, either, as he moped publicly about being traded away from Philadelphia.
Prominent athletes almost never do that.
But there Lee was, when the Texas Rangers landed him in the World Series in October 2010, and the Phillies were facing the San Francisco Giants in the other semifinal. Lee made it known he would love to pitch against the Phillies and beat them. It still bothered him. It was like hearing a buddy grouse just a little too much about his ex-girlfriend—if he was really over her, she would never come up again.
At Lee's December 2010 press conference announcing his return to Philadelphia, Lee said things that Phillies fans always wanted to hear.
“I don’t know what the fans do to create that much more volume and excitement in the stadium, but it’s definitely something extra here,” Lee said. “They’re passionate fans. They understand what’s going on. They don’t need a teleprompter to tell them to get up and cheer.”
Smash cut to July 2012, though, and look at Phillies fans now. Lee is 1-6 with an earned run average of 3.72.
Granted, his WHIP is 1.16 and he has 106 strikeouts in 111.1 innings pitched. Comparing those numbers against his career to date, he is more or less in line: career ERA of 3.65, WHIP of 1.22, 1429 strikeouts in 1753 innings pitched.
And, it's not enough.
Lee is one of the first names mentioned these days when the fans call "WIP" or "The Fanatic" to propose trades as they bail out on this season. Trade Lee back to Texas, he was there before. Trade Lee to the Yankees, they wanted him when he was a free agent and they can afford his contract.
Just get rid of him for whatever you can get, they say.
That didn't take long.
So, here is Cole Hamels, 2008 World Series Most Valuable Player, a Phillie right from the start whose time has come to take the Phillies' offer to stay, or to finish out the season and wait for the rest of the league to back up armored trucks to his front door.
Of all the ridiculous things that fans say about players in Hamels' situation, No. 1 on the list is the idea of the "hometown discount." And, No. 2 on the list is the idea that a player should want to stay with "his team."
Cole Hamels cannot be thinking about giving anyone a discount. Cole Hamels has one chance to sign this deal—and by "this deal" it must be understood as the contract that sets him up for life (unless he goes all Curt Schilling on us.) Leaving even $5 million on the table in this circumstance is just silly. Make the Phillies, or whoever, pay every cent they can.
As for staying in Philadelphia because he began here, well, so what? Steve Carlton was the greatest Phillie pitcher of the modern era. Where did he pitch for the first seven seasons of his career?
St. Louis, that's where.
This is Cole Hamels' seventh season in Philadelphia.
The Phillies fans' hue and cry to retain Hamels today is real and constant. But, he should not hear any of it.