For Cole Hamels, honesty was definitely not the best policy.
Hamels’ candor about intentionally plunking Washington Nationals rookie phenom Bryce Harper earned him a five-game suspension. For me, the most surprising aspect of this whole situation is that it seems that people are criticizing Hamels for his honesty rather than actually hitting the kid. Nobody seems bothered by the fact that he had no good reason for plunking Harper, who got the best revenge by stealing home.
I must have missed the part when Cole Hamels was appointed keeper of the flame. It is not his job to try to return baseball to its glory days by plunking batters. Those days are over and for good reason in many ways. Hamels could have made the same point by throwing a pitch inside without hitting Harper. In that sense, I agree with Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, who called Hamels “gutless” and “fake tough.”
But I do give Hamels some credit in that he is a National League pitcher without the protection of the designated hitter so he knew hitting the kid would earn him his own hit by pitch, which Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmermann quickly delivered. Hamels wasn’t doing a Roger Clemens impersonation, where Clemens hit guys left and right, including future New York Yankees teammate Derek Jeter, with impunity because he generally didn’t have a bat in his hand. Who could forget the one time the New York Mets try to retaliate and hit Clemens, with Shawn Estes missing the target completely.
But I’m disappointed that Bud Selig and Major League Baseball did not come down harder on Hamels. A five-game ban for a starting pitcher just pushes his next start back one day. To me, the punishment didn’t fit the crime because it should have been a longer ban, one that would have actually forced Hamels to see the error of his ways and served as a deterrent. But it sure put other pitchers on alert: if you hit a guy intentionally, it’s best just to lie about it because the truth will cost you.
Thanks to Mel Rowling via Flickr for the Cole Hamels photo.