Phillies and Hamels Agree on Extension - Great For Fans and Hamels

Earlier today, Cole Hamels ended the speculation that he would be testing the free-agent market by agreeing to a six-year $144 million extension to remain with the Phillies.

The deal includes a seventh year vesting option that could escalate the deal over $160 million.  As reported, Hamels' contract is the second-largest in baseball history behind the contract that the Yankees gave C.C. Sabathia in 2008 (seven years and $161 million with an opt-out clause in year three).  

There were some baseball executives that believed the Phillies weren't going to let Hamels, a home-grown product, walk away but for fans in Philadelphia, the feeling was that, if the opportunity presented itself, Hamels would be swayed by the allure of the West Coast and the theory that the Dodgers and others would be willing to write a blank check.  In short, if the extension didn't get done, the Phillies would be forced to face life without 2008 World Series MVP.

In hindsight, Hamels tenure in Philadelphia has truly taken fans on a roller coaster of emotion.  Hamels came into the organization as a young and cocky kid - his pre-season bar fight in 2005 serves as a regretful testament to that - but blossomed and matured into one of the premier pitchers in the game.  

Philadelphia gave him a chance and taught him invaluable lessons on maturity.

Prior to Hamels reaching the big leagues, the Phillies had endured thirteen painful seasons without a division title.  Over that span, they had witnessed star after star leave Philadelphia (or refuse to play here) because of the perception that the city was tough, unloving and unfaithful... disappointment was synonymous with the Phillies.  But Hamels embraced the passion of the city and allowed it to be his advocate.  He forced the fans to trust in him; he put his chips on the table and hoped that they would be there for him and I think that it's clear that the call was answered.  The pleas to keep Hamels in Philly have grown louder and louder over the past few weeks - the fans put the pressure on Ruben Amaro, Jr. to get something done.

Cole Hamels taught this fan base how to stand faithfully together in the face of adversity.

His performance in big situations is arguably the single biggest reason why the Phillies have been so successful over the past six seasons.  Without Hamels, there would be no division titles or World Series trophies.  Without Hamels, there would be no Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee because the perception of this city would still be very unfavorable.  

The cost is certainly steep and it might hinder the team's ability to fill holes next season but I actually believe that the Phillies may have actually gotten a bargain with Hamels.

Many people close to the situation believe that Hamels would have gotten a deal worth more than the one that C.C. Sabathia received in 2008 (note -CC was the same age as Hamels at that time) and although the money appears to be close, on the surface, the absence of an opt-out clause is huge, in my opinion, because the opt-out got Sabathia an extra $30 million.  When all is said and done (and assuming Sabathia doesn't leave New York and assuming he earns the vesting option for 2017), Sabathia's tenure with the Yankees will be nine years and he will have been paid just shy of $206 million.  In that light, getting Hamels for 6/7 years and $144-160 million could end up being a good bargain for the Phillies.

Regardless, getting Hamels back is a plea to the fans to keep filling the seats.  The perception early on was that Hamels would walk but somewhere over the past few weeks that perception changed and it seemed like Cole genuinely felt compelled to stay in Philadelphia.  Maybe it was July 15th when he went 8 innings strong against the Rockies while giving up one run at Coors Field with many Phillies fans making their presence known in the stands thousands of miles from home.  Or maybe it was June 19th when Hamels stopped a 3 game losing skid at home by tossing 8 strong innings.  But I think it was his last start on July 21st against the Giants that cemented things for Hamels.  On that day, Hamels lost.  On that day, the Phillies fell to 13 games below .500.  Despite the abysmal record, the stadium was full - for the 267th consecutive home game - in fact, it was the largest home attendance of the season for the Phillies.  The fans came out to cheer for Hamels, hoping that it wouldn't be the last time they'd be able to do that and symbolically, Hamels hit a home run... the first of his career... he returned to the bench amidst a standing ovation and waved his hand to the crowd, hoping it wouldn't be the last time he would be able to thank the crowd for their support.

Thankfully, the good byes never materialized and Hamels will have the opportunity to thank the Phillies fans with more winning seasons (2012 mulligan aside) and great pitching.


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