Sunday, May 22, 2016

On Surviving The Greatest Phillies Rotation Ever

Not shown: Joe Blanton
Back in the day, the Philadelphia Phillies employed what was supposed to be one of the all-time great rotations. It featured Cy Young winner Roy Halladay, Cy Young winner Cliff Lee, rising star Cole Hamels, and perennial Cy Young contender Roy Oswalt. People drooled over this rotation. It was going to be one for the ages. The Phillies were going to sling their way back to the World Series and possibly win every game by shutout along the way. (I exaggerate, but only slightly.)

Oh, and there was a fifth guy in the rotation, a perfectly serviceable innings-eater acquired from Oakland by the name of Joe Blanton. Blanton was not one of the Big Four, nor was he mentioned much in the articles that talked about their impending awesomeness. He was, to be honest, a little chunky-looking, and he didn't have a cool nickname like "Doc" or "The Wizard of Os", and he didn't have a cool backstory about how he got traded for and then traded away and then came back, or how he once got a tractor as a bonus. The guys who were traded for him weren't hot, sexy prospects - if you're holding onto that Josh Outman rookie card, I have bad news for you - and really, he was seen as Just A Guy. Which, honestly, seemed to be fine with all concerned.

Fast forward half a decade. Halladay's gone, felled by injuries in an increasingly painful to watch series of breakdowns. Lee's gone, the last flailing attempt at a comeback short-circuited in this year's spring training.  Oswalt went down almost immediately, riding three increasingly injury-interrupted years to Texas, then Colorado, then out of the league, with a weird and unpleasant digression about refusing to pitch out of the bullpen along the way. 

Which brings us to now. And the last two members of that rotation standing are Cole Hamels, currently out-pitching his peripherals (and with the lowest K/BB ratio of his career) in Texas, and Blanton, who has become an indispensable cog in the newly functional Dodgers bullpen. If that long-ago Phillies rotation was the Beatles, then Hamels is Paul and Blanton is Ringo, except he was supposed to be Pete Best. 

And at this point, I wouldn't put money on the idea of Blanton outlasting Hamels. But I wouldn't bet against it, either.
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