posted on May.07, 2012
Phillies’ starting pitcher Cole Hamels was suspended on Monday for beaning Nationals’ Outfielder Bryce Harper Sunday night in Washington. Hamels admitted to intentionally hitting Harper, Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo kicked up a stink about it, and Hamels was suspended 5 games. Here are my thoughts on this big story suspension in the first installment of the summer edition of the Andy $AM$ WTSR Sports Blog.
For those who did not watch the ESPN Sunday Night game, featuring the Phillies and Nationals in Washington (a big coming out party for that ball club, being on national TV for a team that never gets that coverage aside from Strasburg’s starts), in the bottom of the first, Cole Hamels faced Bryce Harper with 2 outs and no one on. Hamels hit Harper on the first pitch with a fastball on his lower back. Harper took first like a man, didn’t stare down Hamels or try to charge the mound. He took first, then moved to third on a single, then stole home on a Hamels pickoff to first. With that, Harper got some revenge on Hamels. Then in the third, with one out and one on, Hamels squared to bunt and Jordan Zimmerman (the Nationals starter) hit Hamels in the lower leg-calf area. Both benches were warned, but it was not a forceful warning like one commonly sees in a Yankees-Red Sox game where the ump looks like he is yelling at the dugout, it was a calm “Look fellas, I don’t want anymore of this” kind of warning.
That should have been the end of the story, but Hamels said in his postgame interview that he intentionally threw at Harper to send a message. Harper was 2 for 10 with 4 walks in the series, so it’s not like he was knocking the stuffing off the ball, but Hamels felt he wanted to get back to old time baseball. Hamels even said that he respected Zimmerman’s retaliation, saying he thought they got the message and he understood when he was plunked. So after that comment was out, Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo made his thoughts on the subject known by saying he felt Hamels was fake tough, and that the action was “classless” and “gutless”. In other words, he threw a hissy fit about the hit-by-pitch. As a result, the suspension was handed down.
Here are my issues here, and there are several. First, Hamels hit Harper in the textbook way, fastball on the lower back where there is little risk of injuring the player. Zimmerman is the one that actually broke the unwritten rule by hitting Hamels on the leg. Second, why are we penalizing Hamels for being honest? I am not the biggest supporter of Cole Hamels, but still, he was bluntly honest about his actions, and there is a joke of a trial going on in Washington over a pitcher lying about using steroids, and here we are suspending someone for being honest? What message does this send to the young Phillies phans? Or the young Nats fans? Young MLB fans? As someone else pointed out to me, and I later confirmed, Rizzo brought up the bounty scandal in the NFL. Let me address that third. These are two completely different topics. Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens were head hunters, guys who legitimately threw at hitters’ heads and, as Clemens put it, moved their feet. Hamels was not throwing at Harper’s head, or moving his feet. Also, as the analysts for the game, Orel Hershisher and Terry Francona pointed out, the hole for Harper to get him out is inside, so Hamels hitting him also opens up the outside corner because Harper, in theory, won’t be so quick to lean out over the plate to get the outside pitch.
In case you haven’t guessed, I think the suspension is a load of garbage. I think Harper is good, don’t get me wrong, but I think he is also cocky and full of himself, so I think Hamels has every right to throw at him if he felt it was necessary. Also, let’s be honest here, Hamels does not have the fastball that Pedro Martinez had that sent 2 Yankees to the hospital one summer afternoon in 2003 in the Bronx. Hamels hits 90-91 with regularity and occassionally touches 92, which is an average fastball in the majors. He is a guy that lives on his changeup, not his fastball.
My final problem with this suspension is that I truly do not think that if the situation was reversed, a suspension would have been handed down. If Ruben Amaro, Jr. (Phillies GM) threw a hissy fit because Ryan Howard was plunked, the comissioner would probably laugh. But Bryce Harper is hit and the world is coming to an end. Bryce Harper is a superstar, yes, but he has just come into the league. I am a Yankee fan so I will throw this example out there, A-rod and Derek Jeter are hit all the time, and neither Joe Girardi or Brian Cashman are throwing hissy fits about it. I think Bud Selig is a pushover when it comes to the smaller franchises, and if this was the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Cubs, or Dodgers complaining, he would ignore them or tell them it’s part of the game. Because getting hit is part of the game, as is sending a message.