The Texas Rangers are considering implementing a six-man rotation this season, ostensibly to curb the workload placed upon Mike Minor and Matt Bush -- two pitchers trying to convert to the rotation. Not everyone is on board with the idea, however.
Over the weekend, staff ace Cole Hamels outed himself as an opponent to the six-man rotation. He did so with aplomb:
Cole Hamels makes it clear that he is not in favor of planned six-man rotation. Not the way he learned that be an MLB starter. More like college or Japan.— Gerry Fraley (@gfraley) March 3, 2018
Hamels on the 6-man: “It’s not part of baseball. I know that’s the new, analytical side, trying to re-invent the wheel. ... that’s just not what MLB is to me. That’s not how I learned from my mentors. That’s not the way I’m geared to pitch.”— Gerry Fraley (@gfraley) March 3, 2018
Hamels's perspective is understandable. He's been a big-league pitcher for 12 seasons and a professional since 2002. His conditioning and preparatory methods, as well as his contract (which includes a vesting option based on an innings total he won't reach), have been constructed around the premise he would start every fifth game. Having to change at this point would be frustrating for anyone. Add in how Hamels will be losing starts, and how he probably feels his opinion doesn't count, and yeah, his anger makes sense.
At the same time, self interests are supposed to take a back seat to team interests. That belief is perhaps even more ingrained in baseball culture than the five-man rotation. The Rangers clearly think adopting a six-man rotation betters their club, and if they came to that conclusion using data then that's a point in their favor, since it suggests they put effort into their decision.
So, how can the two sides walk away happy? Perhaps it comes down to communication or compromise. Maybe the Rangers can find a way to show Hamels that his personal inconvenience is the rent on having a healthier and better staff as a whole -- therefore improving the likelihood of them reaching the postseason. Or maybe Texas agrees to skip their sixth starter in favor of Hamels every second or third time through the rotation. Who knows -- Hamels's strong take might even convince the Rangers to scrap their plans completely.
Ultimately, though, that last one seems unlikely. The Rangers had to know someone was going to object to their plans, and while it stinks that it's Hamels, they also know they don't have to bend to his desires. They should try to find a way to make both parties happy, because that's the idyllic outcome. But once the regular season hits, Hamels will have to pitch when he's asked to pitch -- regardless of how he feels about it.