For a guy who says he’s “old school,”Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels certainly has a new way of looking at things. Hamels was suspended by Major League Baseball this week for five games after admitting that he intentionally threw at Nationals phenom Bryce Harper on Sunday.
Hamels plunked Harper on the back. The reason given: Harper is a highly touted and talented 19-year-old rookie and the veteran pitcher felt it was his “duty” to take Harper down a peg.
The mission was not exactly accomplished. Harper got the best possible revenge. He didn’t rush the mound and start a big brawl or even get into a shouting match with Hamels. Harper merely brushed himself off, walked to first base and ended up stealing home during that sequence. For Harper, it was mission accomplished and message sent. You won’t get me off of my game that easily.
Hamels did something strange after the game, though. Unlike almost every other pitcher in baseball today does: he admitted freely that he hit an opposing player on purpose.
”I was trying to hit him,” Hamels said to reporters in his post game comments. ”I’m not going to deny it. I’m not trying to injure the guy. They’re probably not going to like me for it, but I’m not going to say I wasn’t trying to do it. I think they understood the message, and they threw it right back. That’s the way, and I respect it.”
Monday, MLB announced that Hamels was suspended for five games as a result of his actions. At first, this sounds like a lot, but for a starting pitcher, five games is one turn in the rotation. In fact, all this suspension does is push back Hamels’ next start by one game, hardly much of a penalty.
Hamels was fined an undisclosed amount, but the five game suspension was not “without pay,” so there is little doubt the Phillies pitcher would have lost a lot more money if the commissioner’s office simply didn’t pay him for 5/162 of his salary. The NHL may be inconsistent with its suspensions, but at least fines in the NHL cost players real money since they lost part of their season salary for each game they have to sit out.
According to baseball tradition, beaning a player for spiking a teammate or showing up a pitcher or for throwing at a teammate is accepted as part of the game (unofficially or as an unwritten rule), but what Hamels did is anything but standard practice. He had no legitimate reason for throwing at Harper except perhaps that Hamels was jealous of the attention the rookie outfielder was receiving from scouts and the media.
The bottom line is that this suspension was light. Essentially, Hamels just moves back one game in the rotation, barely loses any money by baseball standards and certainly does not learn a lesson that would
deter him from doing this again.
In fact, the Phillies pitcher was almost proud of what he did and there is little doubt he feels free to repeat this action. MLB lost a chance to send a message to Hamels and other pitchers that this behavior will not be tolerated in the future. Don’t be surprised if something like this happens again.