On December 14, 2010, there was much rejoicing in the Phillies' little corner of the world. That was the day the club successfully lured Cliff Lee back to town with a five-year, $120 million contract.

That was also the day that the road map for retaining Cole Hamels was drawn up.

The people that run the Phillies are way too smart not to have realized 19 months ago that they might eventually have to do for Hamels what they did for Lee.

Hamels was homegrown. He was younger. He was a talent on the rise. He was already an October legend. If his career kept ascending -- as it has -- he was going to be the jewel of the free-agent market after the 2012 season. Phillies officials had to know this. And they had to know it would take a contract comparable to Lee's -- and then some because Hamels is five years younger -- to retain the guy.

A few days ago in Denver, Ruben Amaro Jr. said he remains committed to the ideal of building his team around strong starting pitching. He said his interest in signing Hamels to a contract extension in the coming weeks was sincere and that he was hoping to get to the "finish line," preferably before the July 31 trade deadline.

Well then, it's time to get to the finish line, or chart a new course.