All hardcore loyalists knew that the 2013 edition of the Philadelphia Phillies wasn't World Series-worthy during spring training. But, they also understand that having a pitcher of Cole Hamels' caliber in the starting rotation through 2018 gives their team a chance to return to the 'Fall Classic' within that time frame.
Playoff contenders are generally loaded with great players, or good players who collectively become great. Then, as every October series plays out, the two top squads that survived the summer crunch create the ultimate diamond decision.
A strong rotation can be filled with journeymen, but more often than not it's led by one, or two, exceptional mound men. Hamels proved that his left arm and inner drive were exceptional when he won the National League Championship Series and World Series Most Valuable Player Awards in 2008.
'Hollywood' turns 30 in December (27). As long as the left-hander maintains his physical regimen and mental composure, he will pitch through the prime of his career in red pinstripes.
The Citizens Bank Park money-machine, along with a hefty television contract, should enable whoever leads the Phillies' front office contingent to spend freely on the major league roster and keep the farm system fertile. But, smarter short- and long-term allocations must be made so that Hamels is surrounded by plenty of quality colleagues.
Every baseball mind knows that one man can affect the outcome of any one game. But, a strong team pushes through the regular season and then makes an impact in October.