Depending on your view of Cole Hamels (and I think highly of him), the Phillies now have FOUR No. 1 starters with the news that Cliff Lee is returning to Philadelphia. Surprise news, everyone is saying. Really? A true surprise or just something no one knew anything about until it actually happened? Kind of like Jayson Werth?
Pretty strong rotation there, though, eh? I think the pecking order is clear: Halladay (the best pitcher in baseball), Lee (not the second best as long as The Freak is around), Oswalt and Hamels. You could throw Ramon Ortiz in the fifth spot and still have the best rotation in the game (or second best if you are a Giants fan).
While it is an impressive collection, here's why I think Phils fans shouldn't get but so excited and why fans of the Nats and other NL East teams don't need to get too freaked out: It is an aging rotation.
My prediction? Enjoy 2011, Philadelphia. I predict 100 victories and a pennant and probably a World Series crown.
But Hamels is the only youngster of the group and he's running out of young (he'll be 27 two days after Christmas). Oswalt and Lee turn 33 next season. Halladay turns 34.
Which one breaks down first? I'd never wish ill or injury on anyone, seriously, not even my worst enemy or a Phillie. But is there any way that trio makes it through 2012 unscathed?
Let's also note the Big Four combined to lose 43 games in 2010. So the idea when playing the Phils is to catch them in a "back-end" series. Take your chances with Hamels, Joe Blanton (until he's traded to the Red Sox) and Halladay. Beat No. 5 and catch one of the other two on one of their infrequent but not unheard of off days. Win the series.
Chin up people, it can be done.
So where does this leave the Nats? No change. Did anyone really expect Cliff Lee to come to Washington? Did anyone really expect to win the division in 2011? No. So there's no reason for us to fret.
I'm still not in favor of Carl Pavano and I still would like to see the team take a chance on Brandon Webb. I still wouldn't cry if Norris/Ramos, Desmond and a pitcher not named Zimmermann went to the Royals for Zack Greinke. I also wouldn't cry if the Nats didn't add a pitcher. Take your chances with Zimmermann, post-injury Marquis, post-demotion Lannan, Livo and any one of countless other options.
My main concern is first base and that the Nats will somehow end up with their own Senior Tour ready first baseman, the other available Lee (Derrek). I'd rather see Adam LaRoche, who will never hit 50 doubles and 46 home runs like Derrek Lee did in 2005 but looks (to me anyway) to be a better fit for this team right now.
Of course, they had a pretty good fit already (you think a Zimmerman/Dunn/Werth/Willingham 3-6 would have been OK) and he's with the White Sox now.