Chicago Cubs: Cole Hamels has more to offer than just his pitching

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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The Chicago Cubs may not get $20 million worth of contributions from Cole Hamels on the field this year, but he has a lot more to offer than just his left arm.

Last winter, the Chicago Cubs decided it was time. After falling short in the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Theo Epstein opted to trust his young core with the 2018 season. They didn’t bring in a big-name clubhouse veteran or even keep one of their key clubhouse guys in Jon Jay. They, instead, trusted in guys like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.

It’s hard to call their performance a failure, really. Chicago won 95 games and advanced to a fourth consecutive postseason. That’s never before happened in Chicago Cubs franchise history. But the offense sputtered down the stretch and the team fell to the Colorado Rockies at home in the NL Wild Card game, ending their season weeks before they’d hoped.

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One of the only reasons their campaign reached that winner-take-all contest? The left arm of Cole Hamels, whom the Cubs acquired ahead of the trade deadline to bolster a rotation hit hard by injury.

The veteran left-hander and former World Series champion won NL Pitcher of the Month honors in August, putting together a tremendous string of starts to keep the Cubs atop the division. Although he looked more human in the season’s final month, he got the taste of winning once again and he’s hungry for more.

"“I’ve been in this game a long time, so I think that’s where I need to be,” Hamels told MLB.com. “That’s kind of the role that’s directed toward you if you play this game long enough. That’s kind of where you fit, so I understand that. I’ve had a couple years to really kind of do what I need to do in order to try to be that sort of leader."

As he pointed out, he was the new guy in the clubhouse – joining a team known for its chemistry with just two months left in the season. Coming in and rocking the boat likely wasn’t on his to-do list. Instead, he focused on his pitching and regained a level of dominance he had not achieved in years.

But after the team saw a shot at a third-straight National League Central crown evaporate in front of their eyes, guys like Hamels, fellow lefty Jon Lester and other veterans will undoubtedly take a bigger leadership role in 2019.

That’s not to say the Cubs’ core of young players is incapable of stepping up and leading. But Hamels has been there and done that for years in the big leagues. Then, hopefully, guys like Willson Contreras, Ian Happ, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber can focus on performing at the level they’re all capable of.

Next. Muncy is better than Rizzo? Not a chance. dark

If there’s one thing we’ve already learned about Cole Hamels, it’s that he’s here to win. So don’t sleep on this guy heading into Spring Training. He’s ready to get back to October and becoming a leader in the Chicago Cubs clubhouse.

"“And now it’s just, I guess, being a little bit more vocal instead of just letting that kind of play out on the field.”"

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