ANAHEIM, Calif. - For more than 6 weeks, from a month before the trade deadline until nearly 2 weeks after the deadline, Cole Hamels has had to answer questions about the possibility of playing somewhere other than Philly.
On July 2, he made his stance clear. "I want to be here," Hamels said. "I'm happy to be here."
A month later, his family home in Newtown Square is up for sale and, well, people are connecting the dots. Even if the dots are on two different pages.
Hamels, however, isn't looking for a new home in Philadelphia just yet.
"We're building a house in Missouri," Hamels said before last night's game in Anaheim.
Hamels is from San Diego. But his wife, Heidi, is from the St. Louis area, and all of her family lives in Missouri.
The couple has three children and wants to be settled before school begins in the coming months.
But that's the 30-year-old pitcher's family life.
In his baseball life, nothing has changed. He's still atop the Phillies' rotation, and plans to be when the 2015 season begins.
But perhaps the losing is beginning to wear on him. Yesterday, Hamels did at least leave open the possibility that he might have to go elsewhere to realize his career goals.
Two years ago, Hamels signed a 6-year, $144 million contract extension to stay with the team he helped guide to a World Series title in 2008. So, unlike current teammate Cliff Lee or former teammate Roy Halladay, it's not as if the need to collect his first ring is pushing him to go somewhere else to win, right?
"Yeah," Hamels said. "But at the same time I want to try to get as many [rings] as I can. And I know my window of opportunity is only so large . . . I'm in my prime, so I want to maximize what I can do and be an asset. I want to be an asset. That's the only thing I can do - be accountable, and be an asset for something. And winning is the something."
Hamels was approached yesterday because the never-ending trade rumor mill churned out his name again this weekend.
On Sunday, the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo wrote: "Don't think in 30 years of covering baseball I've ever seen a team [the Phillies] spend so much time scouting another team [the Red Sox] and not pull the trigger on a deal."
Cafardo surmised that Hamels could be the match, since the Red Sox need to replace Jon Lester and the Phillies need young, major league-ready players, which Boston has to offer.
In one sense, it's difficult to envision the Phillies trading Hamels this winter because he represents their best chance of reloading and returning to contention in the next 2 years (he's under contract for 4 more years, with an option for a fifth year, too). But you also can certainly make the argument that, as the only Phillies star player in his prime and performing at an All-Star caliber, he also represents the organization's best chance of rebuilding; the Phils would undoubtedly want three to four young players in return for their ace.
Hamels, again, would like to stay if he had a say. (He does, somewhat: the pitcher can block trades to 20 teams each season.) Again, Hamels said as much 2 weeks ago: "This is the place I want to win again."
So would it do any good to go into Ruben Amaro Jr.'s office this winter and tell his boss that?
"I don't think I can," Hamels said. "I think the nature of the business and what it entails - the organization lasts longer than the player. I think the player, as fortunate as we are to do what we do, you have to take it with a grain of salt. And you should just be happy to play wherever you're needed and wanted. If you're fortunate where you get to play for an extended period of time and hopefully get a chance to win championships, great.
"But when it comes to business, there are going to be tough decisions they're going to have to make. All I can do is go out and play . . . I want to win. I want to see how many world championships I can get to. I know they're attainable. But it takes a group of us to make it happen. If I go out and play, I don't have to make those decisions. I don't think it's probably in my best interests to be a demanding player, you know, that's never been my personality. So I go out and play, and if moves are made, I just accept the terms of being wherever you are, and getting to be somewhere for as long as you get to be."
Since Hamels has won in Philadelphia, he obviously has a different perspective then, say, Jonathan Papelbon. The Phillies won division titles in five of his first six major league seasons.
"[Winning] is all I've known so far - except for the last 2 1/2 seasons," he said. "It is a long time."
When asked if he was confident the front office could change that trend in the next year, Hamels said he "hoped so."
"I think when it really comes down to it, the Phillies organization has been nothing but the best to me, and the fans have been outstanding," Hamels said. "But we were winning [back then]. And I think that makes it easier. I was never here when Jimmy [Rollins] and some of these guys were trying to build up to [being a winning team]. I kind of came in at the right time and helped.
"The way I play the game of baseball, I want to win. I want to know that I'm in it from April 1. So as much as when they're asking me to be the guy to go out and win, I'm going to try to respond and be accountable for that. That's all I can live up to.
"I don't know how the cards are going to fall or what they're planning on doing, because I'm not there, but if I just mention that I'm here to win and that I'm going to do everything in the 4 days [between starts] to win, hopefully I'm one little piece they can count on. Or if that's not the case, they're going to have to do what they've got to do."
Hamels will make his 22nd start of the season tomorrow night in San Francisco, following today's scheduled day off. His 2.37 ERA ranks fourth best in the National League.