Over the last three days, three different Phillies veteran pitchers sat at the dais in Clearwater to answer reporters questions.
Cliff Lee on Thursday, Jonathan Papelbon on Friday, and Cole Hamels on Saturday have differences in their individual situations, but also share some important similarities.
An unbiased examination, without any agenda regarding the media-driven storyline of distraction and awkwardness at this Phillies spring training, of what the three actually said shows that they are basically in agreement.
The three pitchers have all been involved in trade speculation during the off-season as Phillies brass publicly acknowledged an intentional move away from high-salaried older players towards a complete rebuilding effort.
But in their statements and in their answers to reporters questions, they all are on the same page. They want to win, they have confidence in the talent here, they all remain intensely competitive and unwilling to concede to deterioration in their individual effectiveness, they all have enjoyed their time in Philly and look forward to that continuing.
“I’m going to do everything I can to help this team win. Hopefully, we’re contending and hopefully, we’re in the World Series in Philadelphia.” ~ Cliff Lee
While much attention was paid to Lee’s playful use of a ‘Magic 8-ball’ to field some of the questions, the substance is much more important: “I’m going to do everything I can to help this team win. Hopefully, we’re contending and hopefully, we’re in the World Series in Philadelphia. I mean that should answer every single trade question I could possibly be faced with until whenever. Because that’s the answer.“
Papelbon came out for his interview with a “Fan Favorite” t-shirt, a play on his villain role, which has come largely because he has quite often been painfully honest as the team, a contender when he signed, has deteriorated around him.
The veteran closer, acknowledged internally as a solid mentor for the improving young bullpen, said: “I still think we can compete. Is that crazy for me to think that? You tell me. I’m still not so sold on this entire rebuilding. I know that that’s one of the things that myself and some of the veterans that are going to be coming into camp want to probably sit down with Pat, Ruben and Ryno.”
Then it was Hamels turn: “I’ve made my home in Philadelphia since the very beginning. This is where I’m fully committed.”
He later said: “Right now I know that as we start, I think we’re 0-0 — I think everybody’s in first place. So you know it’s something where we get to do something special. I know from what we all understand, I don’t think media has written anything about how we’re going to compete and win our division. So it’s something for us to take as a group and to go out there and prove to people the type of players that we are.”
There has been much speculation in the media in the aftermath of Hamels presser in particular that he was giving political answers. Some in the media just love to get into player’s heads, and especially love to put words in their mouths. But the players clearly have their own mouths, and they spoke with them over the last three days.
“I still think we can compete. Is that crazy for me to think that? You tell me.” ~ Jonathan Papelbon
All three of these pitchers are veterans. All three are extremely well paid. All three are healthy, if you count Lee’s assessment of himself and the stories coming out regarding his bullpen sessions to this point. All three have a contract with the Philadelphia Phillies for 2015. None has demanded or requested to be traded.
All three also have expressed sincere desires to be with a winning team. There is, of course, nothing wrong or unusual with such a desire.
Everyone knows that Phillies management believes that is not likely to happen here for the next couple of seasons. That management has publicly stated so, and also publicly stated that it wants to move on and rebuild with youth.
The three Phillies pitchers who spoke over the last three days are all prepared to move forward professionally in red and white pinstripes, and to pitch in front of the fans at Citizens Bank Park again in 2015. All will ensure they are ready to do their part to help the team win baseball games.
For a media that wants to get them on record as stating that they want to be traded, that wants to stoke fires of dissension publicly to make for good copy, as Howard Eskin clearly did with Hamels yesterday, these last three days must be very frustrating.
None did anything but act professionally, albeit in a couple of cases with a humorous tinge, speaking of their support for their teammates, and speaking to their affection for the city and the fans here in Philly.
Yes, they know that they can be traded. Yes, they want to win. But all three demonstrated with their words their agreement that the former is out of their hands almost completely.
They are moving forward, preparing to make the latter happen right here, if at all possible. Now, let’s see if the media allows them to prepare in peace.