By: Jamie Samuelsen
It was a banner 24-hour period for Major League Baseball.
Their newest phenom – the Nationals Bryce Harper made a splash by stealing home in a nationally televised game. The episode was spawned by Phillies starter Cole Hamels who decided to intentionally hit Harper when he batted in the first inning. There was little doubt that it was a purpose pitch. So little doubt in fact that Nats starter Jordan Zimmerman nailed Hamels in the legs with a pitch when he batted for the first time in the third inning. The home plate umpire warned both teams. Nothing else happened during the game. And the deed was done.
Or was it?
It would have been done if Hamels, Harper, Zimmerman and everyone else involved had followed the great baseball tradition of lying through your teeth. But instead, Hamels matter-of-factly told reporters that he had tried to hit Harper on purpose and succeeded in doing so. The fact that Hamels tried to hit him is not a major surprise. The fact that he ADMITTED trying to hit him is a HUGE surprise. The Baseball Tonight guys on ESPN (Mark Mulder, John Kruk, Terry Francona) were incredulous that Hamels would cop to doing such a thing.
So what did baseball do to clean up this mess? They kindly suspended Hamels for 5 games meaning he’ll have one start pushed back a day and will be fined nearly a half a million dollars. All that did was push the topic to the very front of the front burner and what do you know? The NFL storylines (good and bad) had been dominating the sports news. The NBA and NHL playoffs are well into their third week. And all anybody could talk about was baseball. It was a PR dream.
But what’s the message here? Not everything HAS to be a teaching moment I supposed, but what is Hamels supposed to learn from this mess? The obvious answer is “Don’t thrown at opposing batters,” but that’s too silly in it’s simplicity. Pitchers have thrown at hitters for a century and they’ll continue to do so for another century. No, the lesson here is obvious.
Never, ever tell the truth.
Seriously? What good does it do? Hamels was 100 percent honest and he gets docked five days pay. What about Zimmerman? Is there any doubt that he was throwing at Hamels? None. But as always in baseball – “a pitch got away” from him a little bit and he won’t miss an inning. How is that fair?
Look, I don’t mean to defend Hamels because he’s dumb on a couple of levels. First, I don’t see what plunking Harper accomplishes. Second, he should know better than to publicly admit such a transgression. But the outcry against Hamels is absurd. Tigers manager Jim Leyland attacked Hamels saying that he should have been suspended as many as 15 games for intentionally throwing at Harper.
Really Jim? 15 games?
Are you really going to suggest that in your five decades in baseball, you’ve never been party to a bean ball war. Are you really going to suggest that you’ve never made sure that one of your pitchers got retribution if one of your hitters what targeted? Pitchers throw at hitters and I’m willing to bet that Leyland has been very aware of such an occurrence happening under his watch. Can I prove it? Of course not. Why? Because Leyland and every other manager would simply lie about it.
Hamels did it. He owned it. And we were ready to move on. I’m sure he’s learned the lesson that it NEVER pays to tell the truth. But the fake hand-wringing over the ‘audacity’ of a big league pitcher to throw at another hitter is laughable. Hamels isn’t the last pitcher to do it. He may just be the last pitcher to end up admitting it. What good does it do to tell the truth?