You get picked up in the off-season by a team cobbling together a roster for a developmental year. You’re going to be surrounded by players five, six, seven years younger than you, who were starting high school while you were hurling your way through the bowels of the Tampa Rays’ farm system.
It’s a good deal; one-year, $7 million. You avoided a long commitment and managed to get paid, which is not bad for a guy who is looked at as more of a mid-rotation veteran presence than a fire-balling game-changer. It’s going to be a fine summer, but you know the drill: You’re not just pitching to win the game, you’re pitching to up your value. You’re pitching so someone else notices. You’re pitching so you can be wearing a different uniform by the end of the season - and maybe even wearing a ring.
You’re not a bitter man, but you’re a realist. And while you like your teammates, you wouldn’t have much of an issue leaving your final start in this city, packing a bag, and catching a flight to start anew somewhere where they’re checking the Wild Card standings every morning.
This could be a fair assumption of Jeremy Hellickson’s situation, but the fact of the matter is, he likes it here in Philadelphia with the fourth place, 44-52, offensively absent, incredibly young Phillies; he is apparently okay standing in the corner with his arms folded while Pete Mackanin screams at everyone about leaving runners in scoring position. And he doesn’t just like his team, according to Ryan Lawrence - he likes their chances.
But, wouldn't you rather pitch for a team that could reach the playoffs, you know, a contender and not a rebuilding team?
"I feel like we’re a contender, so I would like to be here," [Hellickson] said. "Again, I’ll worry about that when it happens."
Hey, maybe Hellickson knows something we don’t. I mean, he actually goes into the Phillies locker room every day, unlike us, so he definitely knows things we don’t. And maybe in one or two or five years a statement like that is easier to believe. We’ve certainly watched a lot of Phillies baseball, and this team definitely gives off a “fifth place” vibe most nights, saved from that fate only by the truly horrid Atlanta Braves. Chances are, Hellickson is just a normal guy, saying the right things publicly.
But it’s a nice thought that the atmosphere isn’t so toxic and the optimism is fervent enough that a veteran would want to stick around. It wasn’t that long ago that Ryne Sandberg’s locker room was full of muttering and discontent while Jonathan Papelbon was bitching at everyone and grabbing his junk at the fans, so at least everybody seems to like each other. The hits - and the wins - will come, and it’s cool to see that Hellickson knows that.
However. Let’s, uh, at least listen to what the Marlins and Orioles are offering.