Cole Hamels is on the hill tonight for the Philadelphia Phillies. Hamels will get an opportunity to send the Dodgers vacationing to nearby Hawaii for the rest of the postseason and end the incessant Manny/Boston World Series talk. He can bring it to the “Will he re-sign with the team?” soap opera debuting in the offseason.
Hamels, who has been lights out this postseason, and threw a gem in Game One to put the Phillies up 1-0, has already been crowned NLCS MVP if the Phillies end the series tonight and clinch their first World Series berth in 16 years. But should he be considered?
Of course he should, because of his dominance throughout the postseason. But there has also been solid pitching from Brett Myers, who not only took care of business on the mound, but at the plate as well. Myers sparked the Phillies' Game Two win with his timely hitting early in the game.
But the MVP award, despite how deserving Hamels may be, should not be awarded to any player on the Phillies who doesn't play every day, but the one who does and plays every game as if it were his last.
If you walk around the Phillies' locker room and ask anyone who should be MVP, the overwhelming response would be the “Flyin' Hawaiian,” Shane Victorino.
The scrappy Victorino has embodied what the city of Philadelphia stands for in this series, and that's grit and toughness. If one man on the Phillies was going to be coined the “Broad Street Bully,” it would be him.
He was a “Brewer Killer” in the NLDS, he drove in five runs and stole a Casey Blake home run with a leaping catch at the wall in Game Two against L.A., he almost started a brawl in Game Three that had him squaring off with Manny Ramirez, and he hit a clutch game-tying home run in the eighth inning of Game Four, which eventually helped lead the Phillies to a comeback win and a commanding 3-1 series lead.
Entering the series, let alone the playoffs, the keys for the Phillies were listed in this order: Howard, Rollins, and Utley. There was never any mention of Victorino; but all that has changed.
In these playoffs, Victorino has cemented himself as not only an important cog of the Phillies' machine, but one of the 10 best clutch players in the sport. He not only has more RBI than Rollins, Utley, and Howard combined, but he also leads all postseason players with 11 RBI and has more hits and total bases than any one of his three star teammates.
The performance put forth by Victorino has been even more impressive because he's also going through the same rough stretch his manager Charlie Manuel is going through. Both men lost important figures in their life—Manuel lost his mother before Game Two, while Victorino learned of his grandmother's passing after leading the Phillies to a Game Two NLCS victory.
In a time of grave pain for both, Victorino and Manuel have managed to block it all out once they step on the field and deliver for their ballclub.
The team that Victorino is now helping to beat is the same team that drafted him in 1999 and gave up on him. No champagne or MVP award can be as sweet as proving your old team wrong. Nothing at all.