Inquirer staff writer Jim Salisbury reports from Phillies camp in Clearwater, Fla.
Stopped in the 7-Eleven on East Bay Drive for gas, a coffee and the morning papers on the way to the ballpark today and couldn’t help but notice the back page of the national edition of the New York Post.
Here we go again, I thought.
Cole Hamels was splashed all over it with the accompanying headline: COLE WAR.
That’s writing it haaaaaahd, as they like to say at the Post.
I plunked down a buck and a half and tucked the paper under my arm.
The story inside turned out to be a whole lot of nothing. The Post regurgitated some comments Hamels made on WIP last week. The Phillies ace essentially stood by comments he had made in December, when he called the Mets "choke artists," but he has done that all along. Hamels also explained that he was led into the initial comment by a New York radio show host who first used those words. He had done that before, as well.
Hamels laughed when he saw his picture on the back page of the Post this morning.
"I think it kind of gets out of hand," he said of all the Phillies-Mets rivalry chatter that he helped stir. "But you know what? If it spurs enough (interest) to where we get a lot more attention when we face each other, that’s fine."
Hamels made a point to say he respects the Mets.
"I don’t want it to be bad blood against their players and us because we respect each other," he said. "But if it really gets the fans involved, that’s OK.
"I know that I have the Phillies fans on my side and I know I’m never going to have the Mets fans on my side. So it’s not like they’re going to cheer me when I go out there. I guess if it gets more exciting when we play, I think that’s good for baseball. I think that’s what baseball needs. It needs some good rivalries to forget about the other stuff off the field that’s been happening."
Hamels doesn’t regret making the initial comment.
"I’ll live with it, and I’ll never regret anything I say because I learn from it," he said. "It’s a situation where I can try to apologize to players because I don’t want them to be offended by it. I have a lot of respect for all the players on their team. I guess it’s just something to stir the pot. Hopefully it’ll get things going for when we compete during the season."
Will Hamels say anything to Mets players when he sees them?
"Yeah, most likely," he said. "And I think they’ll understand. They know. They know the game. We try to play it as best we can. We like to be competitive. But we’re not trying to kill each other out on the field because further down the line we might be playing with these guys. It’s not like it used to be back in the day when players could go at each other because they knew they were never going to see them because they never had the free agency or trades that they do now. I have a lot of respect for them. They’re major leaguers and they play for a big-time franchise and city."
Over in Atlanta Braves camp, Chipper Jones has been amused by the byplay that has gone on between the Phils and Mets over the last couple of years.
Jones offers his thoughts in Wednesday’s Inquirer.
In actual baseball matters, Hamels threw 41 pitches in the bullpen today and is on track to start March 4.
Phillies players scattered quickly after today’s workout and headed off for the team’s annual golf outing.
The first Grapefruit League game is tomorrow against the Pirates in Bradenton. Jamie Moyer will start.