Cole could collect Cy Young and a big contract

The Cy Young Award is sort of like the Holy Grail when it comes to individual honors for pitchers.

It basically tells both current and future generations that, for one season at least, you were the most dominant pitcher in your league.

When you are in a starting rotation that includes the reigning Cy Young Award winner, a past Cy Young winner and a guy that is consistently in the Cy Young conversation, though, it can be hard to get noticed.

It probably helps for Cole Hamels then that he’s the only one of the four that holds a World Series ring as well as a World Series MVP award to go along with it.

Or maybe it’s that he is the hometown boy that did good for a city starved for a championship.

Or it could just be that he has been that good this season that people simply could not ignore him.

Coming into the season the talk was about Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, the two past award winners, leading the Phillies on their quest for another World Series ring.

Supplemented by Hamels and Roy Oswalt, these starters were purported to be unstoppable.

Well, if the season were to end right now it would be hard to argue that Hamels has not done just as much for this team as Halladay or Lee.

Just look at any of the leader boards for pitching statistics and you will find Hamels right near the top in most.

In his start Sunday against the Seattle Mariners, he picked up his 1000th career strikeout in the 2–0 loss.

He is the third-fastest active pitcher in all of baseball to that mark, behind San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum and Seattle’s Felix Hernandez.

Both of them already have won the Cy Young.

Hamels has done all of this in a city where athletes are notoriously run out of town when they do not perform well.

He arguably could be the most loved of the three simply for the fact that we got to watch him grow from the start.

We got to see him hurl us to our first championship in 28 years back in 2008.

We got to see him stumble and fight his way through a subpar 2009 season, most likely because of his lack of preparation after that 2008 campaign coupled with the banquet tour he went on following the World Series.

But most important we were privy to his Rocky-style rebound from potential trade candidate to indispensible cog in this rotation.

Hamels’ career could be at a crossroads come the end of the season, however.

He is due for a new contract, with his current deal running out at the end of this season.

A lot of people think the Phillies are tapped out after the big money deals they used to sign Halladay and Lee.

I get the sense that they would not and cannot let Hamels walk away after all that he has done here.

I also get the sense that both the Halladay and Lee moves were done with the assumption that Hamels would be here long-term as well.

Whether he is having a stellar season because he sees dollar signs at the end of it or whether he is doing it because he wants another championship remains to be seen.

If he does, in fact, cap off this season with another World Series ring, then the likelihood of another big money suitor stealing him away from us grows exponentially.

Either way, the lefties’ ascension in the ranks of Phillies starters is being solidified in front of your eyes. ••