Meet the Rotation
Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton held a news conference this afternoon at Bright House Field.
Here is the transcript:
Q. Cliff, in December you said you were thrilled to be back. You never wanted to leave in the first place. Now that you’re in uniform, it’s here, it’s real, you’re surrounded by these guys, what is going through your mind?
CLIFF LEE: Basically spring training, you know, just preparing for the season. I’m excited to be back. Obviously, this is a very talented group of guys and I’m just honored to be a part of it. Just preparing for the season. Just standard spring training stuff.
Q. (No Audio).
JOE BLANTON: (No Audio)if not, I just planned on being here the whole time.
Q. Each of you guys, obviously, has accomplished a lot. But when you watched the others pitch, are there any things that I don’t want to say envy you’d like to have from the others repertoire? Roy, I guess this is for each of you. Something that stands out about the other pitchers and how they go about their business.
ROY HALLADAY: I wish I threw left handed. Yeah, it’s fun to watch all of them. Everybody does something different, different ways of pitching. But I think the main thing is everybody up here works quick. They’re aggressive and they go after guys. It’s fun to watch guys pitch like that. It kind of keeps you in it. Seeing guys attacking, it’s it fun to watch.
Q. Cliff, what are the biggest reasons why you are sitting here today instead of Tampa? Why did you make this decision? Here instead of the Yankees?
CLIFF LEE: Oh, I felt like this was the best chance to win World Championships. That’s what it’s all about. Obviously, I played here in the past and enjoyed myself here and thought we had a really good team at that time. Since then they’ve made a couple of additions that I think have made the team that much better. I felt like if I ever got an opportunity to come back and be a part of what’s going on here, I would take advantage of it, and that’s why.
Q. Cole, you are the only one at this table with a ring. Looking at the guys to your right
COLE HAMELS: He’s got one too.
Q. I’m sorry. With you and Joe together and the other three guys now to your right along with Joe, I guess what are your expectations this year and how confident are you that you can get to where you want to go at the end of the year?
COLE HAMELS: I think every year we’ve gotten a lot smarter. We’ve gone against some big acquisitions, and I think that shows that the organization wants to keep pushing the envelope with going out and winning. I think that’s kind of what it takes. A lot of it has to do with us going out there and being ourselves. I think with all of us, and you meet us and seen us play, our personalities are that we love to play this game. We like to play it fast. We’re very aggressive. If we continue to stay healthy, we’ll take care of our own business and obviously see what happens in reaching the postseason. When you get to the postseason, it’s anybody’s game. But now that we have guys that all have postseason experience, it’s a good positive feature that we all have.
Q. None of you would be in the positions you are without wanting to be the best. Then when you put the best of the best together, how much do you want to be the best out of this group, and how much do you think that will drive all of you?
CLIFF LEE: To be honest with you, for me, I could care a less what the guy ahead of me did. I want to go out there and do the best I can regardless. I hope that we have shutouts every single day. No doubt about it. Obviously, the better they pitch, the better our team does. That’s great. But whether the guy that pitched ahead of me the day before threw a complete game shutout or gave up five in the first inning, I’m still going to go out there and do the same thing. I want to get deep in the game, put up as many zeros as I can and give the team a chance to win. That’s it for me. I don’t try to compete against these guys. I try to compete against the other team. That’s the way I look at it. There are a lot of guys that want to one up the next guy. And if that works for you and brings the best out of you, that’s great. More power to you. But personally I don’t look at it that way. I’m trying to do what I do regardless of what the guy before me or behind me does.
Q. Given where you were a couple years ago, do you ever just want to pinch yourself to go there and see what could be the best pitching staff?
ROY HALLADAY: Yeah, definitely. A big part of it for me is not having the best pitching staff in history, but having the best chance to get to the postseason and the best chance to win a World Series. To be on a team that has that chance is what every player wants. I remember five, six years ago wanting to go to Oakland to pitch with Mulder, Zito and Hudson. I think that’s something every pitcher wants to be a part of. You want to be a part of a good group like that. I’m definitely excited. You know, it’s why you come to places like this, to be around the best players. This is definitely a great group. But I think the ultimate is if it gives you the best chance to get to the postseason and win a World Series.
Q. You guys have been compared to many great staffs throughout history. I’d like to hear several of you answer this. What is the best staff or the best rotation that you guys can remember, and who would you like to be compared to?
CLIFF LEE: I think we haven’t thrown a single pitch as a group yet. So it’s kind of early to say we’re one of the best rotations in the history of the game. Obviously, we’re a very talented group, and there is potential for all of that. But it’s just that, it’s potential. I think the best rotation I can remember is the Braves back with Glavine, Smoltz, Steve Avery and Maddux. I mean, that was I don’t even remember who the fifth guy was, but those four were pretty dang good. Obviously, being from Arkansas there wasn’t really a team to follow, but the Braves were always on TBS and you could watch a lot of their games. I remember watching them, and that was the best rotation I can remember.
Q. Roy, where were you I believe you were hunting when Cliff re signed? Do you remember how you found out? Also, last summer you talked about how maybe you could retire after this season. I know you have an option. With the potential of you pitching another season, does that change your thinking about retirement at all?
ROY OSWALT: Actually didn’t find out until the next day after he signed. Someone text me, I think and said that we signed Cliff. But I don’t know how many. I’m going to play this year and see how it goes. I’m going to see where my body’s at pretty much and go from there. I’d like to stay here. I love Philly. Had a great time last year, and hopefully this year will be better. But just kind of see where I’m at during the season.
Q. Roy and Cole, what’s it like dealing with this group away from the ballpark? How much time do you guys actually spend conversing with each other on non baseball stuff? What do you like about the camaraderie that seems to go on here?
ROY HALLADAY: We’ve spent, what, two and a half hours so far (laughing)?
COLE HAMELS: Yeah, we’re really tight.
ROY HALLADAY: But, for me, that’s what surprised me most about last year coming over with Cole and Joe, you know, even when Roy came over and Jamie, obviously, when he was here, everybody did get along really well. I think that’s the big reason why this team is so good. Not only the pitching staff, but the entire team. I was surprised. It was fun to be around these guys. We all had a lot in common. I think during the season it’s a lot of games. You’re not always going out to dinner with each other and doing stuff like that. I think the time you do spend together on the field when you’re traveling, you get to know guys and you definitely build a bond with them.
COLE HAMELS: I think we do. You’ll meet us, or if you haven’t met us already, we all have kind of the same values, and that makes it a lot easier for us to really relate and to have conversations. I know we hang out a lot in the outfield during batting practice, so I think that always helps because you’re just able to converse and get to know everybody and get a better understanding. But I think the organization has sensed that and seen that, and that’s why they kind of wanted to put us together because we do. We all get along really well. And it does. I think it helps when the good times are really high, and when you get into those rough patches we know how to handle ourselves really well.
Q. The expectations for you guys are as high as they’ve ever been for the whole team. Would anything less than a World Series win be a disappointment this year?
CLIFF LEE: Obviously, that is the ultimate goal. The first thing you’ve got to do is get there. We’ve got to play 162 games to get to the postseason. Once you’re in the postseason, yeah, you’ve got to win the last game to do the ultimate. It’s hard to say right now. It’s disappointing not to get a World Series ring, but that’s what we’re playing for. That’s what every team that’s in spring training at this point should be playing for. It’s why you go out and play the game. That’s what it’s all about. I know there are expectations there. We should have expectations in ourselves. I probably expect more out of myself than anyone expects of me. That’s just the competitive nature. Yeah, that’s the ultimate goal. There are a lot of things that we have to take care of between now and then to make sure that happens. That’s what we’ve got to focus on. I know there is a lot of hype. Everyone expects this and expects that, but that’s in October. It’s February right now, so we’ve got a lot of work to do between now and then to give ourselves the best chance to do that. That’s really all we can do is focus on what can we do today to prepare for tomorrow and let it build up to the World Series. If we’re healthy and take care of business, focus on our routines, and what we need to do to prepare, we’re going to give ourselves a pretty good chance. But if we’re saying right now we’re going to win the World Series, that’s kind of getting the cart ahead of the horse. That’s not really that’s for you guys to say that kind of stuff. We’re focused on spring training, and preparing, and doing everything we need to do. If we do all that, we expect that to happen. But nothing’s going to be given to us because we’ve got a good rotation and great offense and the right people. There’s a lot of things that can happen between now and then. So we need to focus on today, and tomorrow focus on tomorrow.
Q. Roy Oswalt, you were part of a great rotation in Houston in the middle of the decade. Couple of great pitchers along with yourself. What did you learn from those guys at that point in your career? Are you at a point now where you can still learn from the guys around you?
ROY OSWALT: I think the biggest thing from Pettite and Clemens is preparation. Those guys had a plan before they got to the field of what they were trying to do during the game. Their preparation is probably the best thing I picked up from them. You know, step on the field, everyone pitches their own style. You don’t really get mechanics or anything like that from anybody on the field. But the preparation is probably the biggest thing from those guys. I come here and these guys do the same thing. First day I get here, I see doc and Cole in the video room taking notes on different things they’re going to try to do in the game. I think good pitchers that are trying to get better, you try to do every little thing to (No Audio).
Q. You’re number three and then some in rotations, now you’re number five. What kind of advantage will that give you going against the other team’s number five the way you pitched in the past?
JOE BLANTON: I don’t know that it will really give an advantage going into the other five. I’m really kind of facing the lineup. Hopefully, the other lineup falls asleep and thinks they have to face these four guys and I’ll just kind of slip right in. But, no, it’s great to be a part of it. (No Audio).
Q. If you could take us back a little bit to the negotiations that went on last winter, the longest time everybody thought it was a two team race, and nobody even talked about the Phillies. But in your own heart and mind, did you have the Phillies the team that you were going to wind up all the time or did that only happen because the Phillies jumped in and bail a competitive bidder for you?
CLIFF LEE: This is where I’m at right here. That says enough, I think. I could have gotten more money in other places. That really wasn’t what it was all about for me. It was really about what team gave me the best chance to win World Championships over the life of the contract. I think this is it. The Rangers were a great team. We went back to the World Series. That could have been a good option too. If we went to the World Series, that could have been a good option too. The Yankees and their history, what they’ve done, that’s a good option. I mean, it was really three pretty good options to be honest with you. I just honestly stepped back and looked at each team and evaluated. I felt like this is the team that’s going to give me the best chance to win a ring, and hopefully multiple rings. But that was what the decision was based on. Obviously, the fans had a lot to do with it. They sell out every game. A lot of the stadiums were packed. There was a lot of hype every game. It’s a great feeling playing in that park, and I wanted to come back and do some more of it.
Q. So it was Phillies all the way then?
CLIFF LEE: I mean, I guess, sure. Sure, yeah. Phillies all the way.
Q. I know it’s counter productive at times in this business to have feelings, but is there any part of you you laughed about it, but is there any part of you that feels that people overlook you in this rotation? Do you expect to be here throughout the duration of the season? For the four other guys, is there any part of you that cringes a little bit when people do overlook Joe? Kind of labeled as the Phantastic Phour or whatever?
JOE BLANTON: Me personally, I’m not big on attention, and I don’t think these other four guys are either. I don’t think they’re the one that wants to stand out and say, look, I’m the head of this rotation. It doesn’t matter to me. Winning is the biggest part for me. Like he keeps saying, the opportunity to get to go back, and this is a great opportunity. Paragraph I like where I’m at. As far as expectations going somewhere else, it’s kind of what I said earlier. Sometimes you can’t really think about that. All I’m worried about is going out and trying to win another World Series with Philadelphia. I can’t worry about the other part. That is the business part. That is what the people upstairs are for, and they handle that. I love it here. Hope I stay here. Sometimes that’s the nature of the business and things like that happen that are out of your control. Like with Cliff, I’m sure he didn’t want to leave or he wouldn’t have come back, but it’s out of his hands and there wasn’t anything he could do about it.
Q. The focus today is on you five guys and the expectations are right through the charts. What is your expectation for the eight guys that are going to be on the field, behind you, and helping you win these games?
CLIFF LEE: What is our expectations for the other guys that are on the field, is that what you’re asking?
Q. Yeah. How do you think the eight guys behind you are going to measure up to the expectations that you’ve given to what this team can be?
CLIFF LEE: I really don’t know how to answer that, but I’m going to try. I’m going to say I he hope they prepare and come in and do everything they need to do to prepare. If they do that, our talent should play out. We’ve got good pitching, we’ve got a good bullpen, we’ve got a good offense, and we play good defense. If everyone comes in prepared and does what they need to do each day to get ready for the game and takes care of business, good things should happen. It’s not about us five or those eight or whatever. It’s 25 guys. We’ve all got to contribute. If we all do our work and prepare each day and carry our weight, good things should happen. We should match up pretty well.
Q. Who among you is the best hitter?
CLIFF LEE: That’s me (laughing). No, I don’t know.
COLE HAMELS: I’m going to compete against him. I think Joe’s the only one with a home run. Oh, I forgot, I forgot. Yours wasn’t in the World Series, sorry.
Q. Cole and Joe have the World Series rings and from ’08. Do you have an appreciation of how unusual it is for a team to be able to acquire really an ace four times. Oswalt and Halladay, just in the year since you’ve won the World Series. How rare that is to get this assembled?
COLE HAMELS: Yeah, in the same time in ’08, we were able to get Joe which was a huge help for us, and Joe was number one in Oakland. All of a sudden you add that, and we win the World Series. Being able to trade for Cliff, the same situation with getting Joe. That was pretty spectacular in itself, then getting Doc in the trade, Oswalt again. I mean, the organization has done a phenomenal job of getting guys. Because it is, everybody really talks about in the postseason it’s all about pitching. We have guys with postseason experience, and you want that. I think we’re just fortunate enough to be in this sort of situation, because I know when I was drafted by the Phillies, the whole team’s almost completely different. Everything evolves, and we’re able to kind of pick apart a team and then get a few of the top guys throughout the league and put them all together. Just going out there to enjoy ourselves and to compete. We’re all very deep and competitors. So we’re just going to go and get ready for spring training the best we possibly can, and enjoy it. Because I think we have the understanding that being together is just going to be something that’s going to be fun.
Q. You were the World Series MVP, won a World Series. Some guys after that would say, okay, I’m the man. And all Ruben has done is add aces after that. What’s it say about you and this team that everyone checks their egos at the door and allows this to work? Because this sometimes can’t work where everybody wants attention, everybody wants to be the man?
COLE HAMELS: That’s why I think the organization’s done a really good job of getting players that don’t have the egos. I’ve never looked at myself as ever having an ego. Just being able to add guys that are good, because I am young. If I can learn from these guys, I feel like I can get better. That is the whole idea is to get better and compete at another level. Enjoy the moments that we get to play baseball because that’s why we’re here. We love this game so much, and the ultimate goal is to go to the World Series. Joe and I obviously have rings, but we want to get another one and another one after that. So that’s just why we’re sitting here is to get that ring and to eventually try to just play baseball as long as we possibly can.
Q. I know you’re the youngest of this group, but you are the longest tenured Philly. When you were drafted and a young minor leaguer, the team was kind of an also ran. When they got into the new stadium there were pitchers that said they’re not going to attract a pitcher to this ballpark. Now you look to your right and look at the talent that you have attracted, the Phillies have attracted. Do you ever marvel at that kind of evolution?
COLE HAMELS: You have to. I think that’s why when you’re able to have the offense that we have, that attracts guys knowing that if you’re able to pitch well, the offense will put up a lot of runs and give you a good opportunity. We’re able to do that. We’re able to get the fans. The fans have been behind us 100%. I think everyone here can attest to that. Seeing the excitement in Philadelphia and seeing them come out to different ballparks, they really do. It’s been an enjoyment. I think I’ve been able to see that transformation. And I’m going to take it for all it’s worth because Philadelphia’s a great baseball town.
Q. There have been a bunch of nicknames thrown out for you so far. I know you haven’t had a chance to put your heads together. But is there any one that might stick or should stick or something that you would call yourselves?
CLIFF LEE: What are our nicknames, anyway? What are they?
Q. (No Audio).
CLIFF LEE: All those add up to four it seems like, and there’s five of us. So I haven’t heard one that sounded any good yet.
Q. (No Audio)?
CLIFF LEE: You’ve got to come up with it. We haven’t heard one with five included yet.
COLE HAMELS: That’s why we have the fans. They come up with something good. They always do.
CLIFF LEE: Whatever. We don’t get caught up in that kind of stuff, really to be honest with you. That’s for the media to come up with, and the fans to enjoy and sell T shirts whatever they’ve got to do. We could care a less about the nicknames. Bottom line for us is just winning.
Q. Those Atlanta Braves stats that you were referring to before, those pitchers would talk about how there would be a natural competition that would settle between each of the guys and how it would manifest itself on a day to day basis. For your personalities would you feed off that?
COLE HAMELS: They were talking about their golf game. They’re really good golfers, I don’t know about us. But I think knowing that every guy can come in and do a phenomenal job pitching, can go nine innings, can throw shutouts, it just kind of eases some of the tension in a sort of retrospect of you don’t have to be the man. We are true competitors. We’re going to try to do the best we possibly can. But at the same time I don’t think we have to put any other stress on it. That may be the easiest fact.
Q. I know it’s been a couple months since you signed. Putting the uniform back on today though, is there any element of surprise left that you’re back with Philly? And secondly going back to those negotiations, who was it that you first heard from in the Phillies organization, the initial phone call in the free agent derby and when you knew you could return here? What was your reaction at the time?
CLIFF LEE: What was the first question again?
Q. Any element of surprise left?
CLIFF LEE: No, I’m not surprised at all. I’ve known I was a Philly since I signed. More anticipation and anxious and ready to get here. Excited to be a part of it and get it going, yeah. But not surprised. The first person I heard from was my agent who was talking to Ruben, yeah, and Scott Proefrock , those guys had a big part of that. The first person I talked to, I believe, was Ruben after I made my decision to sign here. But I wasn’t really in that process. It was more my agent and working that stuff out. I’m glad they were able to get that done.
Q. (No Audio)?
CLIFF LEE: I like Philly cheese steaks, but that had nothing to do with me coming back to Philadelphia (laughing).
Q. You got a taste last year of the postseason, and it would be tough to perform any better than you did. I’m wondering, in the off season was it more difficult to accept that you got so close to the World Series and fell short? Was it easier in the days when you didn’t make it to the postseason like mentally and emotionally during the long winter?
ROY HALLADAY: No, it was definitely harder this year. A lot of us are to the point in our career where you feel like the biggest thing left for you to do is win a championship, whether you’ve already done it or you haven’t. That was my only goal going into last year was to try and win a World Series. So coming close and coming up short is definitely hard. It’s disappointing. You have your heart set on that all year. Obviously, like Cliff said earlier, you have to focus on the job at hand to get there, but it’s definitely hard. That being said, it’s my ultimate goal again this year is to win a World Championship, not forgetting about the steps that it’s going to take to get there. That’s why I still want to play this game. I want to be part of a World Championship team. That is the biggest thing for me, and, yeah, it would be tough if we got close again and didn’t win it.
Q. Could you reflect on kind of the roller coaster nature of last year with the trade, the injury early in the season, the struggling team. Another trade and then you’re in the World Series and the free agency, and how nice it is to have that past you and have the stability of looking forward and knowing where you’re going to be?
CLIFF LEE: Yeah, last year I got traded from Philly to Seattle to start the season out. There were a lot of expectation there for that organization. I started off the season hurt, like you said. That’s never good when you’re first with an organization and you start out on the injury list. That’s not sending a good sign to them. So I wasn’t happy about that. Fortunately, it didn’t last long. I missed a few starts, got with the team, and I pitched well, but the team didn’t perform as expected. Things like that happen. Fortunately, I was able to be traded to a team that was in a good position with the Rangers. They were in first place and in good position to make the postseason. Obviously did that and got a chance to go back to the World Series. So it was a great experience for me. After that, obviously, free agent and here I go again with the Phillies. Yeah, looking back I enjoyed it. I enjoyed every benefit it from Cleveland to here to Seattle to Texas. I’m glad I got to go through that. To get to experience different organizations and how each organization does things a little bit different. Get to play with some of the best players in the game from Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore in Cleveland, to here with Ryan Howard, Utley, Cole. Obviously, to Seattle with Ichiro, and Felix Hernandez, and then to Texas with Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Mike Young, I mean, some of the best players in the game. It was a great experience. Without being traded I never could have gotten to do any of that. I would have still been with the Indians and then free agency. I was glad to get those opportunities to bounce around and play with different organizations, get to play in back to back World Series with two different teams. It was a fun ride, and hopefully I’ll get a chance to be a little more stable about that process and get to experience some more World Series with this team hopefully multiple times. I definitely want that ring. That’s what it’s all about. Like Roy said, that is the ultimate goal, but there is a process you have to go through to get there. We’re not going to lose sight of that. That is definitely the ultimate prize, and that’s what we’re hungry for and that’s what we want. That’s what every single team in baseball should be thinking the same thing right now. At this point in time, we’re all even. That’s why you play the games. If you’re looking too far down the road, you’re getting in trouble. That definitely is the ultimate goal, but we’ve got to keep our sights close and what can we do today to prepare for tomorrow and so forth.
Q. You had said that the Phillies were the team that you really wanted to work with. You also said that Ruben was the first person to talk to your agent, I guess it was. How far along in the process was that? Was there a point where you said to your agent let’s engage the Phillies in thing and let them know I want to go there, or was that never part of the equation?
CLIFF LEE: Obviously, for me to be a Philly there was a point in time where I said talk to the Phillies I want to go there. I don’t remember the timeline. I’m not going to break down the timeline of when I was talking to this team and that team and so forth. It’s the first time I was a free agent. I enjoyed the process. It was a learning experience, and a lot of fun in my opinion. But, yeah, there was obviously a point in time where I said engage the Phillies. Let’s make that happen, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. I hope that answers your question.
Q. It just seemed like they were late in the process?
CLIFF LEE: They were definitely late in the process. They were that. They kept it hush hush. I think that helped their chances. Obviously it worked out. The way they went about it, nobody really knew what was going on until the last second, and it was beneficial because it worked. It wasn’t publicized. There wasn’t media coverage of all that. I think that’s the way it should be done. In my opinion, there’s way too much out in the media of negotiations and stuff like that. That’s stuff that should be private, and that’s how it was in this instance.