Cole Hamels And That Old-School Prestigious Way Of Baseball

May 8, 2012 by

When Cole Hamels beaned Bryce Harper in the first inning of Sunday night’s game, he probably didn’t realize the media firestorm that was going to follow.

But after reading the postgame quotes– where Hamels oddly pours his heart out in describing the incident– it kind of sounds like he was looking for some attention:

“I was trying to hit him. I’m not going to deny it. It’s something I grew up watching. That’s what happened. I’m just trying to continue the old baseball. Some people get away from it. I remember when I was a rookie, the strike zone was really, really small and you didn’t say anything. That’s the way baseball is. Sometimes the league is protecting certain players. It’s that old-school prestigious way of baseball.”

That old-school prestigious way of baseball? I guess I’m missing something. What gives Hamels the right to think nailing Bryce Harper with a 92-mph fastball is somehow justified? The 19-year-old Nationals phenom didn’t even commit a sacred ettiquite infraction. The moral code that runs the baseball world wouldn’t have even called for a brushback pitch.

Just because Hamels didn’t end up injuring Harper doesn’t mean he couldn’t have– throwing a ball that hard with the intention to make bodily contact is dangerous, plain and simple. And just because something is a tradition doesn’t make it right either– it’s pretty pathetic no matter how many people have perpetrated it in the past.

MLB ended up suspending the Phillies star pitcher five games for “intentionally throwing” at Harper, though everyone knows the punishment had almost everything to do with the admission and hardly anything to do with the act.  And because Cliff Lee returns this week, coupled with Philadelphia’s offday on Thursday, Hamels isn’t even going to miss a turn in the rotation.

So what does he actually end up losing? Probably about a 0.02 dent on his year-end ERA (Harper ended up scoring on a steal of home) and $462,962. Which might sound like a lot of money … but when you’re pulling in $15M per year, it doesn’t really sound like much at all.

Honestly, I don’t think Hamels should even be suspended. A five game penalty sets no kind of real precedent and certainly won’t serve as a deterrent for future displays of machismo. And to quote Baltimore’s own Omar Little, these shenanigans and ensuing retaliatory rituals are “all in the game, yo.”

Who knows, maybe Hamels’ postgame monologue actually serves as a long-term benefit. For himself, that is. The California native already might be the best pitcher on the Phillies, and barring injury he’s going to cash in this offseason to the tune of $125M or so on the free agent market. And now, he can add that sought after dignified-veteran-leader don’t-tread-on-me appeal to his resume.

I actually like Cole Hamels. I’d like him even more if he pitched for my team. But in the grand scheme of things, I think Ben Lindbergh of Baseball Prospectus said it best: “If abandoning Hamels’ ‘old baseball’ means leaving senseless acts of aggression behind, just as it once meant moving past segregation, the reserve clause, and underhand pitching, maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing.”

Does baseball really need this aspect of its old school vibe?

Hamels, Harper

 

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  1. There’s no old school vibe about this. I’m fine with pitchers throwing at batters who have done something to deserve it, such as stealing a base when your team’s up 10-0. But this is just a guy thinking he’s above the game, no more no less. Throwing at a batter for no reason doesn’t make you “old school”; it just makes you a prick.

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