Meet the Unimpressed

Updated: February 15, 2011, 9:39 AM ET
By Buster Olney

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Roy Halladay was the first of the Phillies' starting pitchers to step into the open room where some 75 or so reporters waited Monday, and he looked taken aback by what he saw. So did those who followed him -- Joe Blanton and Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. And their body language conveyed the simple truth that they find all the hoopla over their collective greatness, or the potential of it, more than a little absurd. After all, Halladay mentioned at one point, they had been together for all of about 2½ hours.

Maybe by season's end they will achieve everything expected of them, or most of it. But even if that happened -- even if the Phillies won the World Series with a series of shutouts -- don't look for any of them to stand on a podium and declare greatness. The Philadelphia rotation is loaded with maximum-effort minimalists.

It's not a coincidence, really. Part of the reason Lee took less money to sign with the Phillies is because he liked playing with a team of folks who are serious about their work, but not focused on chasing after the spotlight. "Nobody points fingers in here," said longtime reliever Danys Baez, who calls the Phillies' clubhouse the best he's ever been a part of. "Nobody judges anybody else. Everybody treats each other with respect."

If anybody hoped for a juicy pronouncement from any of the five starters, well, there was almost no chance of that happening. And even if there was a hint of a boast hidden deep inside one of the Philadelphia starters, not one of them would have let it escape, out of respect for the others.

The five Phillies looked a lot like the astronauts in the press conference scene from the movie "The Right Stuff": As the astronauts sit down and are face to face with a roomful of reporters, it appears most of them reach the conclusion that the whole thing is a little nuts and a little trite -- that is, until John Glenn plays along with the reporters and gives attaboy answers. (Here's Part 3 of the actual press conference clips -- check out Glenn's answer at 4:10).

The Phillies' Five really don't have a John Glenn, somebody who will fully embrace the power of a microphone.

Halladay is polite but always headed off to his next workout. According to folks at the complex, the guy arrives at 4:50 a.m., and his predawn runs are like Bigfoot sightings: Few actually get to see them, but the legend grows each time somebody sees a hulking figure dashing along a warning track. Oswalt is smart and direct and caustic and is more interested in lumbering or hanging out in a deer blind than in answering questions that require introspection. Lee is a minimalist, having found success in adhering to a workout and pitching routine, and he really isn't that interested in talking legacy; you'd have a better chance of getting Terrell Owens to never talk about himself than of getting Lee to talk about his place in baseball history.

Blanton is competitive and, like the others, doesn't especially care to hear himself talk. Hamels probably generates the most expansive responses of the five, but it seems to be more a matter of him politely helping reporters find an answer than it is about peeling back the layers of his mind.