Todd Zolecki is the Phillies beat writer for MLB.com, so he had a first hand look, last year, at one of the most talented pitching rotations in history. He’s sharing that first hand look with the rest of us in the new book, The Rotation, co-written with Jim Salisbury.
We talk about the 2011 Phillies place in history, whether Roy Oswalt is Chris Bosh and whether a football mad city can catch baseball fever. (Spoiler alert: YES. Yes it can.)
SCP: The 2011 Phils didn’t win the World Series or even the National League pennant. Did that give you pause when putting out the book?
TZ: Not at all because it’s still a great story. We knew going into the season the Phillies might not win the World Series, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime collection of talent and we wanted to capture it. We’ve received tremendous feedback on the book so far. People really seem to enjoy the stories in there. We think there are a lot of good ones.
SCP: Where does the 2011 rotation rank among the best of the past couple of decades? (the early 90’s Braves, the 2000 A’s, any of the great Yankee teams.)
TZ: It’s one of the best. I think the Braves’ rotations of the ‘90s are the best, but we wrote an entire chapter on where this Phillies rotation ranks in baseball history. It’s right up there with the ‘90s Braves, ‘60s Dodgers, ‘70s Orioles, etc.
SCP: I’ve always felt that Chris Bosh was elevated to a level of renown beyond his actual ability, simply because a Big 3 made for a better story than a Big 2 in Miami. Can you argue the same about a guy like Roy Oswalt, who was a solid pro and a borderline all star in Houston, but certainly not a Roy Halladay or a Cliff Lee? And what about Cole Hamels?
TZ: I disagree with that. Oswalt was a two-time 20-game winner and postseason MVP. He ranked third in baseball in wins (150) from 2001-10. He ranked fifth in strikeouts (1,666) and tied with Rogers Clemens for eighth in WHIP (1.18). He was one of the most dominant pitchers in the game for years, and he outpitched Halladay and Hamels after he joined the Phillies in 2010. I think if injuries hadn’t affected Oswalt in 2011 that thought wouldn’t be crossing anybody’s mind. And the same holds true for Hamels. He hasn’t won 20 games in a season, but he is one of the game’s most dominant pitchers. That’s why he could command CC Sabathia-type money, if he hits free agents following the season.
SCP: Will Oswalt be missed this year or will Vance Worley fill that void?
TZ: Worley filled that void pretty nicely last season. If he can make adjustments this season he could be pretty good again.
SCP: The Phils had been a team dominated by offense in the years before Halladay and Lee. Did the shift in focus cause any problems with guys like Ryan Howard or Jimmy Rollins?
TZ: Not at all. There aren’t a lot of egos in that clubhouse. These guys want to win. They won with offense in the past. They’re winning with pitching and defense now. A win is a win. They don’t care how they get it.
SCP: Lee turned down money to return to Philly. At the time, it was rumored his wife pushed him away from a larger offer in New York because she had been treated badly by fans during the 2010 playoffs. True or false?
TZ: False. That was totally overblown. He came to Philly because that’s where he wanted to be.
SCP: Would Lee have succeeded in New York?
TZ: Sure, why not? He doesn’t let much of anything bother him, so I think he could have handled the New York pressure cooker just fine.
SCP: Will Philly ever be a baseball town or will the sport always play second or third fiddle to football and hockey?
TZ: I don’t think the Phillies are third fiddle in Philly. Far from it. They have 204 consecutive sellouts at Citizens Bank Park and record TV ratings – ratings the Sixers and Flyers would love to have. Phillies fans pack Bright House Field in Clearwater during spring training, and fill visiting ballparks during the regular season. I think the Eagles and Phillies are 1 and 1A in this city.