Should Cole Hamels Have Hit Bryce Harper?

May 8, 2012

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Bryce Harper
Photo: Bryce Harper
Cole Hamels of the Philadelphia Phillies pitch...

Photo: Cole Hamels

On Sunday night, Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels hit Nationals rookie outfielder Bryce Harper in the back with a pitch.  This was not mere accident – Hamels freely admitted to hitting Harper on purpose.

Why did he do it?

Hamels’s explanation was that he felt that Harper approached the game in a disrespectful manner and that Hamels took it upon himself to give him an old school welcome to the Major Leagues.

It’s true that Harper is a very confident player.  Most observers would even say cocky or arrogant.  It’s also true that he has ruffled a lot of feathers in high school, community college, and the minor leagues.  However, he hadn’t done anything to disrespect the Phillies at this point.  Had he done something to show up Hamels – such as a painfully slow trot around the bases after a home run – Hamels might have a leg to stand one.  However, lacking such motivation, it seems that Hamels simply took it upon himself to launch a preemptive strike against Harper.  If anything, this event could soften the image fans have of Harper, with some people seeing him as a victim in this incident.

It’s absolutely true that Harper needs to grow up a lot.  But it’s also true that he’s still just 19.  If you take a random sample of 19 year olds in the minor leagues, I’d guess that there are a decent number of them with big egos, particularly guys who were picked in the first round.  My thought is that Harper’s teammates and manager are the ones who should work with Harper on his maturity.  Maybe some Crash Davis Bull Durham style tough love.

The Aftermath

Harper took his base and later stole home when Hamels tried to pick off a a runner on first base.  Jordan Zimmerman later hit Hamels with a pitch, at which point the umpire warned both benches (meaning that the next pitcher to hit a batter would be ejected).  I think the umpire handled this the correct way, allowing the Nationals to retaliate before issuing the warning.

Major League baseball suspended Hamels for five games after he admitted to hitting Harper on purpose.  I’m starting to get annoyed at MLB “punishing” starting pitchers with a five game suspension.  In reality, the pitcher doesn’t miss a start – the team just juggles the rotation a bit.  In the Phillies’ case, Cliff Lee will be inserted into the rotation when he comes off the disabled list, so there’s really minimal impact to the rotation.  Personally, I’d like to see a minimum of a 8-9 game suspension for pitchers, to make sure that they actually miss a start.  What’s the point in suspending a player when they don’t actually miss any time?

Around baseball

Albert Pujols finally hit his first homer of the season,   but is still struggling to hit .200.  Don’t worry, Angels fans, he’ll come around.

The Rockies lost yet another pitcher to the disabled list.  Drew Pomeranz was hit in the leg by a line drive last night.  He stayed in the game long enough to hit a 395 foot homer at Petco (notoriously difficult to homer in) before leaving a bit later in the game with a quad injury.  He joins starters Jhoulys Chacin, Jeremy Guthrie, and Jorge De La Rosa on the DL. 

Mariano Rivera suffered a season-ending knee injury while shagging fly balls in batting practice.  The 42 year old says that he’ll return to the Yankees next year.  Only time will tell.  This spring has been tough on closers, with Joakim Soria, Brian Wilson, and Ryan Madson being lost for the yearand a bunch of other closers getting nicked up with less serious injuries.

The Orioles are tied for the best record in baseball, while the Twins are on pace to surpass the 1962 Mets as the worst team in history.  They are 7-21 and have been outscored by 64 runs.  No other team has a run differential worse than -35.

Three base ball stars here for the World Serie...

Photo: Sisler (left) and Cobb (right) flank Babe Ruth.

Orioles DH Chris Davis went 0-8 against the Red Sox on Sunday, but was still a key contributor to the Baltimore win.  Davis pitched the final two innings of a 17 inning game, becoming the winning pitcher when Adam “Pac Man” Jones jacked a three run homers off Red Sox outfielder Darnell “Old” McDonald.  In was the first time since 1925 that each team used a position player to pitch in a game.  The two players in that 1925 game?  Hall of Famers Ty  Cobb and George Sisler.  Cobb had two hits and a walk in five plate appearances and pitched a scoreless inning in relief.  Sisler was 0-4 at the plate and allowed no runs, one hit, and a walk and struck out a batter.  Who were the managers who were dumb enough to risk injuries to their star players in such a stunt?  Ty Cobb and George Sisler, of course.

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