Phillies

Roy Halladay taught Cole Hamels more than just the game

Roy Halladay taught Cole Hamels more than just the game

Cole Hamels looked up to Roy Halladay.

The 6-foot-6 frame, the unrivaled work ethic, the mastery of his craft.

Hamels saw it all.

But he also appreciated something else in Halladay.

Fatherhood.

As he marveled at the qualities of his old teammate and friend just hours after learning Halladay had died in a plane crash (see story), Hamels' voice grew shaky when family came to mind.

Halladay was a loving father of two sons, Ryan and Braden (see story).

And that's what Hamels admired, what he learned and what he aspires to be, just as much as emulating the machine on the mound. When remembering Halladay on the tragic Tuesday, Hamels thought of his own sons, Braxton and Caleb.

"Now, I have two boys of my own," Hamels said. "And I got to see what that meant to him every time he was able to bring them (Ryan and Braden) around the ballpark. That was something that really did leave an impression. Hopefully I'll be able to do what he was able to do for his boys."

Halladay, already established and revered as one of the game's best pitchers, came to the Phillies in 2010. Hamels was recovering from a disastrous season in which he went from 2008 World Series MVP to career lows and mental exhaustion in 2009.

Hamels, only 26 at the time, found a mentor in the 33-year-old "Doc."

Through example and experience, Halladay molded the skinny lefty from California.

He exemplified the importance of approach and preparation. Hamels even recalls watching Halladay's tendencies when the big righty was with the Toronto Blue Jays in spring training, before he ever joined the Phillies in that transformational 2010.

"In order to be great at something, you have to have mentors. You have to have great mentors, and he was one for me," Hamels said. "I watched from afar with being here and him being in Dunedin for the Blue Jays, we got to see him pitch. Seeing him pitch in spring training and then watching him during the season, he was the greatest of that decade. He was the greatest pitcher. You wanted to watch him, see how he attacked hitters, what was he doing different that everybody else wasn't, why was he so great?

"And then to finally play catch with him and see that he had a purpose. Behind everything that he did, he had a purpose. And I think you come to realize that you have very small, short moments in life to be able to do something great, so you have to maximize it, you have to make the best of it — and he did."

At times, Hamels felt like a kid watching in awe from the stands.

"A lot of us grew up watching Roy Halladay play. I was fortunate to be able to sit in the dugout and share a locker with him for some of the best years I've had," Hamels said. "He's really given me such a way to perceive and to look at baseball and to try to improve and be the best at what I do. He was a man of few words, but you just sat back and you just watched him, you watched what he did, his work ethic was second to none. I mean, you couldn't beat him to the ballpark, and if you did, you were going to lose from there on out. 

"You didn't miss those moments when he pitched. Baseball can be a long, grueling season, but when you had Roy Halladay on the mound, you didn't miss an inning, you didn't miss a pitch, you were watching every moment. And I know those are kind of the moments when you're playing this game and you look up in the stands, and there are people there to watch you and watch you perform — I was one of those people. I obviously had a closer seat and got to kind of talk to him a bit in between innings, but I was there to watch him perform. He raised my bar, he raised the game for me."

He was also influential in developing Hamels' new, difference-making two-seam fastball.

"There was always times when I would be throwing it and it wouldn't be working very well, and I'd ask him and he would just tell me where to put the fingers, the placement and then obviously where to envision where to release it," Hamels said. "He really did help me out with introducing that pitch."

Hamels and Halladay remained close once the latter retired in December 2013. Hamels said their families had vacationed together and he would frequently text with Halladay throughout the busy baseball season. And Hamels knew well of his buddy's passion for flying planes.

"Knowing that his father was a pilot, I think that was right there," Hamels said. "You look up to your dad always."

Hamels looked up to Halladay.

Not just the pitcher, but the father, too.

"We play this game and we love every minute of it, and then, it is over," Hamels said. "And then you get to go to your family and spend time with your family. To see that it's cut short for somebody that was such a good, good person, to him and his wife Brandy, it's hard to think about what's really going to transpire. He means a lot to all of us and we're really, really going to miss him."

Trades, a pennant race and maybe a big award await Phillies in 2nd half

Trades, a pennant race and maybe a big award await Phillies in 2nd half

Are you ready for a pennant race, Phillies fans?

Of course, you are.

It has been too long.

The Phillies get back to work Friday night and for the first time since 2011 find themselves in legitimate position to make a run at a postseason berth. They lead the National League East by a half-game over the Atlanta Braves and 5½ over the Washington Nationals.

As the players return to town for a weekend series against the San Diego Padres, let’s look ahead at a few of the important storylines that will unfold as the pennant race begins.

The Manny hangover

Fans are disappointed that the team did not land slugging infielder Manny Machado in a trade. The front office has to be disappointed. But the disappointment cannot seep into the clubhouse. This mostly young Phillies team has displayed resilience and toughness all season and that must continue as the intensity of the games increases.

Machado is still a great long-term fit for this team at shortstop for a while, then over to third base and ultimately at first base as he finishes a long contract. The Phillies had two windows to get him. One has closed. But one remains open as Machado will test the free-agent market in the offseason. The Phils were reluctant to empty their prospect vault for him, but you know they will write a big check this winter.

Machado might end up loving Los Angeles and look to stay there. But, for now, he looks like just a short-term fit with the Dodgers, who lost shortstop Corey Seager to injury and are desperate to win a World Series with a ripe core. Machado is from Miami. He has told friends that he wants to play on the East Coast with a team that has spring training in Florida. He has “a thing” for the Yankees so they will be a team to watch. But the Phillies fill a lot of his criteria, too, and winning the division, or at least making the postseason, will help make Philadelphia attractive to Machado. The money will be huge wherever the guy goes. He wants to win and though he’s focused on winning with the Dodgers, he’s watching what happens the rest of season in other potential destinations.

What's plan B?

In pursuing Machado, the Phillies were trying to upgrade their offense. Yes, the team sees pitches, grinds out at-bats and walks, but the overall offense is below average. The team batting average is just .236 and the slugging percentage .390, both in the bottom third in the majors. The lack of offense hurt the Phils on their recent 11-game road trip. They surely could have finished better than 6-5 if they hadn’t averaged under three runs over the final 10 games and been shut out twice.

Improving the offense is a must. Shortstop might be the spot to do it as the pursuit of Machado confirmed. Minnesota’s Eduardo Escobar has been mentioned as a trade target and that would make sense. Landing a shortstop could improve the bench as Scott Kingery could be used in the super-utility role that was envisioned for him at the start of the season.

Message to Maikel

Maikel Franco sat. He was dropped to eighth in the batting order and that can be humiliating for a player no matter how much importance is placed on the spot in a carefully constructed lineup.

Whether the message was intentional or not, Franco seems to have gotten it. He is in the midst of his most productive stretch of the season, hitting .352 with a 1.106 OPS in 22 games since sitting out on June 22 in favor of utility man Jesmuel Valentin. Now, the possibility exists that Franco has, at least for now, played himself out of trade-bait status. If he continues to produce, he could be better than any of the third basemen on the trade market that are viewed as upgrades.

It’s still difficult to see Franco being part of this front office’s long-term plan, but in the short term he might be the best option.

Other ways to improve

Unable to improve the offense with the addition of Machado, the Phils could look for an overall upgrade by improving their run prevention. Bullpen is clearly an area the team would like to address with the addition of a top arm. The team pursued Zach Britton, the Orioles’ lefty closer, in a Machado package and will stay on him. Brad Hand was on the Phils’ radar before he was dealt to Cleveland. Pittsburgh’s Felipe Vazquez, another lefty, and Mets closer Jeurys Familia could also help shorten games.

Yet another way to help the bullpen would be to acquire Toronto’s J.A. Happ in a trade. That could conceivably turn Vince Velasquez or Nick Pivetta into a power-armed bullpen piece.

The importance of Jake

With an average age of 26 years and 7 months, the Phillies are the youngest team in the majors. They have arrived in a pennant race a year before most expected, but that does not mitigate the need to capitalize on that unexpected position. All of this makes it imperative that Jake Arrieta continue to produce quality starts. He has allowed just four earned runs over 19 innings in his last three starts and the Phils have won all three.

Arrieta is 32. He has pitched in pennant races and won a World Series and a Cy Young Award. Aaron Nola has emerged as the ace of the Phillies’ staff, but Arrieta’s experience and presence will be vital in the second half. Pennant races have a different intensity that much of this team has never felt. Arrieta’s been-there-done-that experience will be valuable. Carlos Santana’s, too.

From the day he arrived, Arrieta has said he wants to lead and is comfortable doing that. Fittingly, he gets the ball Friday night and the game will be a tone-setter.

Awards race

The Phillies will give Nola a few extra days of rest coming out of the All-Star break — he won’t face the Padres this weekend — and that is smart given his importance to the team’s postseason chances. When he was drafted No. 7 overall out of LSU in 2014, Nola was projected to be a quick-riser who could eventually be a quality mid-rotation starter. He has become so much more and has a legitimate chance to become the Phillies’ first Cy Young Award winner since Roy Halladay in 2010. With 2½ months to go, Nola is right there in the conversation with Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer, who has won the last two NL Cy Young Awards.

Nola is tied for the NL lead with 12 wins and is second in ERA (2.30), innings (129), quality starts (16) and pitchers WAR (5.9). He has allowed the fewest home runs per nine innings (0.42). He is third in opponent batting average (.199) and WHIP (0.98) and fourth in strikeouts (131).

Seranthony Dominguez, Gabe Kapler’s favorite bullpen kill shot, is on his way to garnering a serious look for NL Rookie of the Year, and Kapler himself is in position to get votes for NL Manager of the Year. The Phils won just 66 games last season. They are on pace for 90 under the first-year manager.

More on the Phillies

The making of 'World Champions: The Story of the '08 Phillies'

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The making of 'World Champions: The Story of the '08 Phillies'

On this special edition of At The Yard, Jim Salisbury chats with Sean Kane and Brian Brennan, the makers of "World Champions: The Story of the '08 Phillies." They discuss how the documentary was put together, deciding which parts to keep and take out and their overall memories from that magical season.

1:30 - How did this documentary get started?
4:00 - Difficult decisions made producing the documentary.
7:30 - Favorite interviews conducted.
14:00 - Chase Utley's parade speech.
20:00 - Importance of the 2007 season leading up to 2008.
26:00 - Final out of the World Series.
30:30 - Favorite stories.

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