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There’s no excuse for Cole Hamels intentionally throwing at Bryce Harper

May 7, 2012, 8:22 AM EDT

Philadelphia Phillies v Arizona Diamondbacks Getty Images

As we saw last night, Cole Hamels admitted that he threw at and hit Bryce Harper intentionally. Harper being young, brash and, in Hamels’ mind anyway, pampered was his motivation. “Old school baseball,” was his defense.  But no matter how he rationalizes it, it’s low rent and pathetic.

Hamels says that he wasn’t trying to injure Harper.  But it was a 92 mile per hour fastball, and I’m sorry, no matter what your intentions, a 92 mile per hour fastball has the potential to do serious damage to a person. Obviously he did not injure Harper, but he very easily could have, his intentions notwithstanding.

What if Harper turns a little late or a little early and it breaks his wrist? What if the ball gets away from Hamels ever so slightly and runs towards Harper’s head? It doesn’t matter that neither of those things happened. When a hard-throwing pitcher intentionally aims a baseball at batter, he is acting recklessly and, in my view, maliciously, and that has no place in baseball.

And spare me your “it has always been thus” arguments. Just because something is a tradition doesn’t make it right. People have had their careers ended by thrown baseballs before.  A couple have even been killed. We decry cheapshots and intentional efforts to harm opponents in every other sport. We should feel no differently about it in baseball. And I defy anyone to give me a justification for doing so that does not rest on the “it has always been this way” defense. A bad act is a bad act no matter how many people have perpetrated it in the past.

Hit batsmen are a part of the game, regrettably. But there is no excuse for intentionally hitting anyone. Even Bryce Harper.

228 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. xmatt0926x - May 7, 2012 at 9:07 AM

    As far as Philly fans just blindly defending Hamels as Craig said we all would, I don’t think that’s the case. There are plenty of Phillies fans, including myself, who don’t agree with what Hamels did. I was reading the “and that happened” post by Craig where he said that Hamels showed that he was “kind of a jerk”. As wrong as he was I don’t think Hamels was trying to be or is a jerk. If you saw the video of the whole interview you’d see Hamels mindset towards the whole thing. As dumb as I and everyone else may think it is he honestly does seem to think this was just about keeping “old school” baseball alive. He was almost giddy in his praise of Harper and seemed to think everyone would understand that it was just a part of the game. I think he really believes he was just doing first what some other pitcher would have eventually done. His tone was almost as if he and Harper would laugh about the whole thing together if they had the chance. I don’t get it but he seems to believe it sincerely if you see the video. Oh well. He’ll get his 6 day suspension and we move on.

    • nategearhart - May 7, 2012 at 9:10 AM

      And you don’t think taking it upon himself to decide who is killing old school baseball and going all vigilante on them is a jerk thing to do?
      And just what the hell did Harper do that put old school baseball at risk?

      • xmatt0926x - May 7, 2012 at 11:01 AM

        Nate, I wasn’t trying to defend Hamels at all and yes I do think it was a jerk thing to do, but I think that’s different than saying that the guy as a human being is just a jerk in general, if that makes sense. To me it was a bad decision based on some faulty thinking about old time baseball but I wouldn’t make it any deeper than that.

    • verytalldad - May 7, 2012 at 9:23 AM

      The best part is how many years the Phillies will have to hit him bc they dont want him hitting bombs for the next decade. Get used to Harper, Philly, hes just getting started….. and your guys are taking Centrum Silver.

      • heyblueyoustink - May 7, 2012 at 9:29 AM

        With the winning pedigree of the franchise in Washington, you just may be correct!

      • verytalldad - May 7, 2012 at 9:31 AM

        DC has had rough 17 years, but RG3, Harper, Wall. Things look young and bright.

      • heyblueyoustink - May 7, 2012 at 9:40 AM

        Young and bright like this one, right?

        http://www.baseball-almanac.com/teamstats/roster.php?y=1994&t=MON

        But, what happened was…..

    • cmutimmah - May 7, 2012 at 10:00 AM

      Hamels had to get in the batters box, he’s a jerk, but he’s not like an AL guy throwing at a hitter. Retaliation happens, it’s the code. But stop being a wimp about it. I bet Bryce isn’t being a wimp.

  2. drmonkeyarmy - May 7, 2012 at 9:10 AM

    What is up with the comments….can’t read page one after page two has been added. Anybody else with the same problem?

    • nategearhart - May 7, 2012 at 9:11 AM

      Yup.

    • heyblueyoustink - May 7, 2012 at 9:21 AM

      It’s a wonky website thing. It’s old school, deal with it.

  3. phillyphreak - May 7, 2012 at 9:11 AM

    Is there something wrong with the comment section? It won’t let me see the first page of comments.

  4. danandcasey - May 7, 2012 at 9:11 AM

    Didn’t Harper get the ultimate payback – he scored following the HBP – by stealing home! He let other know – “hitting me = 1 run.”

  5. drmonkeyarmy - May 7, 2012 at 9:19 AM

    I think that kids in little league should have to stand behind one of those batting practice cages…you know the ones that make it nearly impossible to be hit. It is inherently dangerous for them to be facing 50 some MPH fastballs from such a close distance…from kids none the less. What if a pitch got away?

    • nategearhart - May 7, 2012 at 9:22 AM

      As long as we’re going all hyperbolic here, I’ll retort with “We should make Cole Hamels’s admission gospel for all little leaguers. Teach them as soon as possible, if you think someone is disrespecting the game or you just plain don’t like the cut of their jib, you just go ahead, haul off and hit them with a baseball as hard as you can. As long as it’s not in the head, no worries.”

      • drmonkeyarmy - May 7, 2012 at 9:25 AM

        I wasn’t being hyperbolic. Do you not think that it is way more dangerous to stand at home plate in a little league game compared to against a big league pitcher?

    • Jonny 5 - May 7, 2012 at 9:35 AM

      Every single LL game I’ve been to this season a kid is hit by a 45-50 mph heater. It’s usually the batters fault for not getting out of the way properly. Instead of jumping back, some of them try to run towards the backstop and the ball always beats them to it. Or they give up their back like Harper did and they get it in the ribs. You’re probably not jumping out of the way from a Cole Hamels fastball.

      Hamels shouldn’t have done it. But let’s be honest. Every single pitcher throws “purpose pitches”. Even Braves Icons like Hudson and Maddux did it. Evil men, let’s skewer them all if we’re to skewer one.

      • heyblueyoustink - May 7, 2012 at 9:42 AM

        Kind of my thoughts, so when Hudson comes out and plunks someone, I expect a similarly scathing post.

        Not too unreasonable, right?

      • phillyphreak - May 7, 2012 at 9:49 AM

        Nolan. Ryan.

      • evanhartford - May 7, 2012 at 10:40 AM

        My sentiments exactly.

        This is an interesting case-study on why being “honest” in our society has little to no upside. Hamels did what 209358093284093284093284 other pitchers do all the time, he just decided to be honest about it. Now he’s looking at a multi-game suspension coupled with ever-lasting criticism.

        The lesson for all the little leaguers out there: If you’re going to throw at a batter, make sure you lie to everyone and tell them the ball “got away from you”…

  6. mungman69 - May 7, 2012 at 9:21 AM

    Why didn’t Harper get out of the way? He didn’t even try. He shouldn’t have been awarded first base.

    • nategearhart - May 7, 2012 at 9:23 AM

      Yeah, screw them rules ‘n such.

      • mgv38 - May 7, 2012 at 10:31 AM

        Nate–
        You need to review rule 6.08(b)(2). A rule Harry Wendelstedt knew quite well, thank you.

  7. eshine76 - May 7, 2012 at 9:24 AM

    This is the same guy who broke his pitching hand in a bar fight and quit on his team in the World Series. He’s not going to be beating Ken Jennings in Jeopardy anytime soon. His combination of intelligence and class makes him a great fit in Philly. I week, however, give him credit for backing up his Broad Street ways and taking the Zimmerman pitch.

    • drmonkeyarmy - May 7, 2012 at 9:27 AM

      Care to define the phrase “Broad Street ways”?

      • eshine76 - May 7, 2012 at 11:24 AM

        That’s a reference to your beloved Flyers of the 70’s. Sorry I didn’t spell it out for you… should have known better.

      • drmonkeyarmy - May 7, 2012 at 2:22 PM

        Should have said “Broad St. Bullies” then. That comment can be taken in numerous ways. Also, no need to be condescending.

    • phillyphreak - May 7, 2012 at 9:34 AM

      He also was a World Series MVP.

      • eshine76 - May 7, 2012 at 11:26 AM

        So did David Eckstein.

  8. phillyphreak - May 7, 2012 at 9:31 AM

    Craig,
    I agree with you that Hamels shouldn’t have intentionally hit Harper. It was cheap and intentionally throwing at batters has no place in baseball. But I disagree with you that this makes him “kind of a jerk.” If the criteria for being “kind of a jerk” is doing something on the field that has the potential for injury, then every player ho slides into the second-baseman hard to break up a double play and every player who runs full speed into the catcher at home would be “kind of a jerk” no? Maybe that’s not the best comparison but you could argue that all three scenarios could be intentional and thought out before hand.

    And per your tweet re: “hypacrite for not yelling about Zimmerman too”- it’s equally possible that Zimmerman’s pitch could have gotten away and hurt Hamels. I think that while some fans on these boards can be slightly unreasonable, some others (like DrMonkey today) are just asking for the same standard to be applied to both pitchers. Both pitchers intentionally threw at a batter, and both pitchers could have hurt the batter. Does it make Hamels more of a jerk because he admitted it was intentional? Obviously, one doesn’t justify the other and the “old school baseball” mentality justifies neither.

    • Craig Calcaterra - May 7, 2012 at 9:36 AM

      No, the criteria for being a jerk is not “doing something on the field that has the potential for injury.” There’s lots of that.

      To use your own phrasing, the criteria for being a jerk is doing something that is “cheap” and “has no place in baseball.”

      As for Zimmerman, I don’t think I could be clearer in saying that every time a pitcher throws at a hitter intentionally, it’s wrong. That goes for retaliation too. I am not excusing Zimmerman at all.

      • phillyphreak - May 7, 2012 at 9:46 AM

        As a regular reader of this blog, I’m well aware of your views on intentionally hitting batters. I’m not excusing what Hamels did, rather just pointing out that calling Hamels a jerk (but not Zimmerman) is what is leading to people using the “hypacrite” counterargument.

        One could also make an argument that collisions with the catcher have no place in baseball.

      • Jonny 5 - May 7, 2012 at 9:56 AM

        I actually shared Harpers pleasure in stealing home. I was on chat during the game and said Hamels deserved that and he deserved his plunking too. I’m just happy he took both like a man. Just the latest installment of “Karma can be a bitch” theater.

      • vikesfansteve - May 7, 2012 at 10:43 AM

        Hmm jerk huh. Kind of like dedicating a whole post to someone with a comment you don’t like.

    • Jonny 5 - May 7, 2012 at 9:51 AM

      Phreak. It MUST make Hamels more of a jerk for admitting it. By reading HBT you have no choice but to see, obviously Zimmerman the saint had no choice. I’m not for plunking batters but It is part of the game, like it or not. The fact is any pitch can get away from the pitcher or we wouldn’t have wild pitches. The “it could have gotten away and hit his head” thing is ridiculous because any pitch could do that. Anyway, Hamels will probably face some sort of punishment and he’ll deserve it.

  9. chromedog - May 7, 2012 at 9:35 AM

    Reminds me of the new John Grisham book,….Calico Joe.

    • chromedog - May 7, 2012 at 9:36 AM

      Old School Pitcher ends the career of the young new talented hitter,…

      • nolanwiffle - May 7, 2012 at 9:57 AM

        ….guess I can now just wait for the movie. The book’s been ruined.

  10. lucasatkin - May 7, 2012 at 9:35 AM

    The biggest disappointment for me, as a Phillies fan, is that Hamels has thrived over the past 2 seasons after ditching the attitude problems that contributed to his comparatively dismal 2009 season. It’s a really bizarre thing to do for somebody who has developed into a mature and dependable ace.

    It’s not a justification, but an explanation: Harper is really good – so given his youth and the potential for the occasion being daunting (not likely given Harper’s brazen nature), try and intimidate him to put him off his stride, or at least make him angry so he loses patience at the plate.

    Still, indefensible and disappointing in equal measures from someone who I think a lot of. Bad Cole.

  11. steviep23 - May 7, 2012 at 9:42 AM

    There’s no crying in baseball. Maybe if the nats didn’t call this series nattitude it wouldn’t have happened.

  12. stuckonwords - May 7, 2012 at 9:43 AM

    When you have a game where each and every play involves one guy throwing a hard ball 90+ mph past another guy, you’ve got absolutely no way to stop “purpose” pitches. 100 years from now that possibility will still exist with each and every pitch. If you don’t want it, the only way to stop it is to put the ball on a tee.

    As a man and a ball player, you dig into the box and accept that this is the risk you take. I can still see Miguel Cabrera getting buzzed by Roger Clemens…then stepping back in and jacking a long-ball.

    Personally, I don’t see why Hamels felt the need to do it. I would plunk a guy for various reasons, but I’d keep it in my back pocket until the need was really justified (they plunked my star player…they “posed” on a long one…etc.). To me, it’s not Harper’s fault if the umps seem to be giving him a tight strike zone. Plunk the ump if that’s what you think.

    • stuckonwords - May 7, 2012 at 10:49 AM

      Look, I get it. Nobody should ever throw at a batter. And baseball players get it, too. There is an unwritten understanding among players: If you don’t throw at us, we won’t throw at you. No written rule can ever enforce it.

      Guys get plunked all the time without retaliation. The gentlemen’s agreement is that, by default, we understand that you didn’t do it on purpose. But sometimes we know you did, and if you did…if you violate our understanding…we are going to remind you of the original agreement: <If you don't throw at us, we won't throw at you. But if you do, we certainly will too.

      I probably wouldn’t throw at a guy who admired a long-ball. But there is also an unwritten agreement that we don’t show each other up. Some guys would plunk him next time, and I get that.

      You can’t legislate this stuff. It has to be “policed” by the players. It’s not old school…it’s how this game’s school will always be. If MLB makes a rule that any time a guy gets hit, that pitcher is out for the season, you’ll be ejecting guys for accidentally hitting someone, and the game will forever be lame as heck because no pitcher will ever pitch inside again. There is no rule that can stop this. It can only be an unwritten rule, and this is the only way to enforce it.

  13. lembeck4 - May 7, 2012 at 9:45 AM

    To clarify in advance, it was dumb to thrown at Harper in that situation, let’s all chastise Hamels and decry he is a bad person, blah, blah, blah.

    What I found funny about the situation is that dozens of times per year in MLB there is a controversy over a batter being hit and whether the pitcher threw at him on purpose. The pitcher denies it, and throngs of fans and writers piss and moan about how the pitcher should “Just admit it, be a man and admit you threw at him”, or some other similar comment. But in 99% of cases the pitcher doesn’t admit it, and fans and writers waste their breath complaining about that.

    Now and again,as with Hamels, someone does admit it, and the response is 5 paragraphs of hand wringing and finger wagging from the high horse. Essentially whenever a pitcher hits a batter in the future the he should just keep his mouth shut, plead the 5th and move on. Piling on like this is part of the reason some athletes limit their interview answers to processed minutia that’s exciting as sawdust.

    Was it dumb to throw at Harper? Obviously yes, for some reasons pointed out in this article, and also because he came around to score a run. But what is the point of running Hamels up and down the flagpole over it? He allowed the run, and will probably face discipline from MLB. Seems like enough of a public whipping to me.

    • stuckonwords - May 7, 2012 at 8:27 PM

      Just out of curiosity…isn’t “clarifying in advance” the same thing as writing it clearly the first time, thus leaving nothing to clarify? :-)

  14. vallewho - May 7, 2012 at 9:46 AM

    Hamels deserves a 92 mph fastball in the teeth. Just to keep it old school.

  15. delawarephilliesfan - May 7, 2012 at 9:47 AM

    When Shane Victorino got plunked, your HBT co-hort thought it was amusing. I don’t recall any preaching coming from you at that time, Craig. I guess your “moral stands” are relative

    http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2011/08/06/the-phillies-and-giants-had-themselves-a-benches-clearing-brawl/

    “All in all, I give this this skirmish an eight out of 10 for pure entertainment. Whiteside’s tackling skills? Maybe good enough to make the 49ers.”

    • Craig Calcaterra - May 7, 2012 at 9:53 AM

      We don’t subscribe to groupthink here. Also: that was basically a post of reportage, not an opinion piece about anyone’s acts.

      Either way: I speak for myself here. I always do. And I have never had a differing view of inentionally hitting batters. I have always deplored it and always will.

      • delawarephilliesfan - May 7, 2012 at 11:27 AM

        An opinion was offered, and the opinion was loud and clear – the brawl was funny.

        As for your “Group Think defense” – weak. You can call out those of think beaning is a joke if you so inclined. You never have been afraid to call out writers in the past (see Cliff Lee “Mystery Team” affair).

        Cole Hamels was wrong last night.

    • Jonny 5 - May 7, 2012 at 10:01 AM

      I’ve never seen Craig condone beaning and I’ve been coming here from day one. I think it’s wrong too, I’m just not as passionate about it. Like I said earlier these guys get beaned constantly from LL on up and like it or not it IS part of the game.

  16. anxovies - May 7, 2012 at 9:50 AM

    Sure there was. It’s called “Welcome to the big leagues, kid!” It wasn’t a beanball, it was just a good old-fashioned plunking, a la Drysdale or Gibson. Harper did a good job returning the favor in taking third then stealing home. Both messages sent, both received. Neither one of them are whining, leave that to the columnists and bloggers.

    • danandcasey - May 7, 2012 at 9:55 AM

      One thing – neither Drysdale nor Gibson would have mentioned it to the press after the game. If Cole wants to be Old School, he needs to keep his mouth shut.

      • anxovies - May 7, 2012 at 10:08 AM

        True. Although I doubt that the press would have even bothered to ask.

      • delawarephilliesfan - May 7, 2012 at 12:08 PM

        Don Drysdale has been quoted as saying he would hit 2 batters each time one of his guys got hit

  17. bdnnbd - May 7, 2012 at 9:54 AM

    I knew this whiny-tinged post was a CC production…

  18. digitaldonnie - May 7, 2012 at 10:00 AM

    Craig, I’m a 31 year old that plays in a high level baseball league in Charlotte N.C. Yesterday we had a pitcher hit a guy in the back. Ball just got away. You know what happened after that? Nothing, not a damn thing. We played on and there was no retaliation. And guess what….we finished the game without incident. No hard feelings and shook hands afterwards. Our team didn’t expect our pitcher to “protect” us. We don’t get paid to play the greatest he in the world. We do it cause we love to play. Not to start fights and throw at each other. Check it out…… http://hometeamsonline.com/teams/default.asp?s=baseball&t=c&u=CHARLOTTENABA

    • pdowdy83 - May 7, 2012 at 10:29 AM

      What does that have to do with Hamels admitting that he did it on purpose? Your scenario is an accident. Hamels did it intentionally…

    • jdillydawg - May 7, 2012 at 11:07 AM

      Sounds like your team is a bunch of All-American milk drinking Beaver Cleavers. That story made me all warm and fuzzy. If the world were more like your team, we’d all be singin’ Kumbaya and holding hands.

      But seriously, you did miss the point here. Hamels intentionally hit the guy. The pitcher in your story seemed to have just lost control for a bit.

  19. jaywilliam29 - May 7, 2012 at 10:04 AM

    what a bunch of cry babies……that is why wimps dont play the game…..all u tree huggers go out and hug it out…..maybe we should take tackling out of football and checking out of hockey. u all make me sick. lets give everyone a trophy so we dont hurt anyones feelings either.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 7, 2012 at 10:37 AM

      Uh oh, somebody called the waaaaaaahmbulance!

  20. greej1938l - May 7, 2012 at 10:27 AM

    Well said sir!!! He should be more concerned getting the win

  21. drobstad - May 7, 2012 at 10:34 AM

    GQ rated Phillies fans the 2nd worst in America right behind Eagles fans. Worst city in America with the worst fans and fat ugly women.

    • greymares - May 7, 2012 at 10:38 AM

      thats because there are ONLY 2 groups that actually qualify as fans Eagles and Phillies.

    • 18thstreet - May 7, 2012 at 11:16 AM

      That’s not fair. The men are fat and ugly, too.

  22. greymares - May 7, 2012 at 10:35 AM

    Ok once again you get to use your forum to try to force your opinion on intentionally hitting a batter. we certainly know where you stand. as far as i’m concerned it’s as much a part of the game as the intentional walk and the bunt. but the bottom line is if the kid doesn’t change his ways he’s in for a lot more plunkings.

    • jdillydawg - May 7, 2012 at 11:03 AM

      You need to explain that a bit more. What does Harper have to change to avoid getting beaned? Should he play half as hard? Maybe not show up on time to practice? Strike out intentionally to make the pitchers feel good? Not play competitively? Maybe beat his girlfriend or start fights in bars? Drive drunk, maybe cause serious bodily injury to someone and do jail time? Host dog fights?

      What am I missing?

    • cur68 - May 7, 2012 at 11:08 AM

      Grey, in case you didn’t notice, you just forced your opinion right back on this here free website and comment forum. You can’t complain about Craig doing it then go do it yourself…ok you can, but you should probably realize that this is a blatant piece of hypocrisy. Also, apply for your refund of free will that saw you check, in here read the article, and then comment.

    • voteforno6 - May 7, 2012 at 11:13 AM

      What ways does Harper need to change? Considering the hype surrounding him, I think that he’s handled the pressure remarkably well, particularly for someone so young. You can tell that his team enjoys playing with him – if Harper was having any problems, they would take care of them.

  23. badmamainphilliesjamas - May 7, 2012 at 10:48 AM

    Oh, Cole. If you want to be all old school, you don’t talk about it.

    It was dumb and unnecessary to throw at Harper in the first place. It’s unnecessary at any time. But after Harper and Zimmerman took care of it on the field (stealing home and plunking Hamels), it would have been nothing but a footnote to the game. Cole, you shouldn’t have opened your mouth…

  24. jdillydawg - May 7, 2012 at 10:57 AM

    Maybe Philly had a bounty out on Harper and Hamels was low on cash this week.

  25. mojosmagic - May 7, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    Craig you comments are gay. You should be covering girls T Ball for some local rag.

    • cur68 - May 7, 2012 at 11:15 AM

      So we have so homophobia, some misogyny and condoning dangerous behaviour (if I interpret all this correctly).

      “mojosmagic” your Douche of the Week, folks! Will he double down and try for Douche of the Month? Stay tuned sports fans.

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