I was in a meeting yesterday morning when I heard about Cole Hamels' setback. I opened my mouth as if I was emitting a silent shriek, then I sighed resignedly and went back to looking at Twitter. Um, I mean I went back to listening intently to every single detail of this incredibly important meeting. Of course.
This new wrinkle in the Phillies' "Let's Not Suck" game plan feels both terrible and inevitable. A sighing gut punch. Hamels is a great pitcher, and I love watching him. And this injury is unfortunate, because he's been so durable during his career. It's disappointing that he won't be able to pitch in April (probably), because again, I love watching him pitch a game. But in the grand scheme of things, what does this change for the Phillies? It's not like Cole Hamels was the one thing that could keep the Phillies in contention.
I think the sighing gut punch is going to repeat itself all season. There will be the momentary gut punch when I find out someone is injured, because it will affect my enjoyment of the game. And then will come the sigh, because it's not like the Phillies were setting the world on fire, and my enjoyment of the game has no bearing on the actual outcome. They were bad, and now they're still bad. Ryan Howard falls into a gopher hole at first base? Oh well. Jimmy Rollins gets lifted from the field mid-game by a swarm of massive, winged stallions? It happens. Ben Revere finally hits his first home run and his arms fly off in the process? Par for the course. Cody Asche is exposed to radioactive goo and develops a disorder where his feet turn into hands and his hands turn into feet and he has to walk around upside down on his new mutant hand-feet? Yeah, what can you do.
While I'll always be upset about the injury and absence of a player I like, I'm finding it hard to get worked up over that in a larger sense. If the Phillies were headed somewhere, if I felt like a plan or strategy were in place, then maybe I could. But looking at the team now and through the offseason, all I can see is them treading water. All the moves they made, the players they signed, it all feels like they're just trying to make it through the season until a better plan presents itself. The future isn't two years or five years or ten years. The future is their next injury. Or next month. Or October. And while that is admirable in a one-day-at-a-time way (or Cole Hamels' one-pitch-at-a-time strategy), the GM and the rest of the front office have to think further down the line than that. Cole Hamels can have a one-pitch-at-a-time attitude because a game is nine innings and then it's over. For a franchise, there is no over. There's always a future to think about. You may say "Well, what options did they really have this offseason?", and while that's true, they painted themselves into this corner. They voluntarily committed themselves to this course of action, accepted the risk, and now the chickens are coming home to roost. Coo coo ca cha! Coo coo ca cha!
It's hard to get my dander up when it feels like the front office is desperately trying to prevent people from noticing that the team is held together by sad, aging silly putty that's all gray because you used it to copy the funny pages too many times. They say they want to win, and they believe the team can contend, but they have to say that. The point of baseball is to be the best and win the most games and get to the playoffs and win the World Series. And sure, lightning could strike and they could win the lottery. They could contend. It could conceivably happen. But it probably won't. Losing Cole Hamels will make the team worse, but how much will it matter when they're "battling" for 4th place in the NL East?
Of course, the season hasn't started yet. In a month I could very well be eating all these words and vomiting up newer, angrier, more distressed words because someone else has gotten injured or the Phillies have done something inconceivably stupid. Honestly, I hope that happens. Because if I had my druthers, I'd rather the gut punch without the sigh.