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Has the Phillies' Cole Hamels Let Success Go to His Head?

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Has the Phillies' Cole Hamels Let Success Go to His Head?
(Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

It's the clinching game for the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2009 National League Championship Series, and their 2008 ace takes the mound.

With two outs in the first inning, Andre Ethier stands in.

Hamels gets the sign from catcher Carlos Ruiz.

Fastball, away.

Hamels shakes him off.

TBS's cameras zoom in to show Ruiz again, dropping his index finger, pressed against his left leg.

Fastball, away.

Cut back to reveal Hamels, dropping his chin in disgust, sighing, and stepping off the mound.

Ruiz quickly visits the mound to quickly to diffuse this little temper tantrum. 

As a parent of a two-year-old boy, I've learned redirection is sometimes the easiest way to regain control of situation when the little one objects to daddy's request.

So Ruiz retreats to his crouch behind the plate, and sets up outside.

Except Hamels misses his mark.

Mr. Ether did not.

And all of a sudden, it's 1-0 Dodgers and Cole Hamels looks like he's thinking, "OMG, whatever," prompting my buddy Thom—also a die-hard Phillies fan—to text me, "Cole is such a bitch."

In the bottom of the inning, while the Phillies are starting to mount their comeback, TBS cameras catch Hamels staring out on the field, just shaking his head.

Dude, grow up.

This isn't the first time this season—or even this series—that Hamels has shown a lack of maturity on the mound.

In Game One against the Dodgers, Hamels threw his arms up in the air when Chase Utley was unable to turn a sure doubleplay ball.

Back in the NLDS against Colorado, Hamels slapped his glove at the ball when Ryan Howard threw the ball away after a good pickoff move from the pitcher should have had Phillie-killer Carolos Gonzalez picked off.

Manuel was quoted as saying he was going to have a word with the young lefthander.

“First of all, I think Cole is more professional than that, and I think that right there is kind of being in control of yourself, and I know he's much better than that,” Manuel told Comcast SportsNet in Philadelphia.

“You can't show up a teammate and I did that,” Hamels said. “I walked back to the dugout and said, ‘Oops I hope nobody saw that.’”

Yeah, we saw it Cole.

And apparently, you didn't learn your lesson yet.

What's with this guy?

Last season, the Phillies rode their now-25-year-old left-handed wunderkind all the way to its first championship in 28 years.

Hamels was brilliant last postseason, evidenced by his NLCS and World Series MVP awards.

But 2009 has been anything but brilliant.

It certainly started good enough for the tall, dark and lanky left-hander. He signed a three-year, $20.5 million contract on January 17 of this year.

He's been on Letterman. He has his own insurance commercial.

And, oh yeah, he's married to the former Heidi Strobel. You know, the blonde bombshell Playboy pinup and Survivor castaway.

The two just welcomed their first child into the world, Caleb, on October 9. Heidi went into labor during Cole's start against Colorado.

Of course, watching Hamels pitch lately has nearly sent me into labor.

And I'm a dude.

Hamels went 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA in this past regular season—a far cry from his 4-0 postseason last October.

Perhaps it's frustration with his own performance that's causing Hamels to act out?

Was it nerves about his impending fatherhood? I remember my head wasn't so clear in the months leading up to the birth of my first child. The Eagles' Donovan McNabb seemed to suffer from the same symptoms leading up to the birth of his twins at the end of last year.

Is it now sleep deprivation from a screaming kid at night?

Is it a lack of focus because he was able to reach the mountaintop so young, he just expects it will happen again without putting in the same amount of work?

That would surprise me, because the rest of his Phillies teammates seem to have realized what had to be done to return to the World Series for this second consecutive season.

Whatever the case, Cole is going to get the ball again this World Series. The odds of a Phillies repeat increase significantly if he can regain the magical form he displayed last year.

His nickname is "Hollywood" after all—he likes the bright lights.

But that name also offers a cautionary tale, for Hollywood has seen many a bright, rising star come crashing down into obscurity after getting caught up in the limelight.

Hamels would be wise to remember what got him to the summit in the first place.

 

Information gathered from Comcast SportsNet, ESPN.com, Rotoworld.com, Wikipedia and Philly.com contributed to this article

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