The story from this weekend’s Sunday Night Baseball that seems like it will never end took another turn today with Major League Baseball fining Washington Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo an undisclosed amount of money for comments he made Monday morning about Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels. As you’ve probably heard by now, Hamels drilled rookie phenom Bryce Harper with a 93 MPH fastball to the back in the first inning on Sunday’s game and in a postgame press conference admitted that he was hit Harper on purpose.
Cole Hamels has since been suspended by Major League Baseball for five games. As a starting pitcher, that suspension is truly frivolous as his next start will just be pushed back a day and he won’t miss any time. Hamels believes that in intentionally throwing at Harper he was playing “old school” baseball and “welcoming” a rookie into the league. In reality, Hamels just looks childish. The pitchers quote goes on to say “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 trying to protect certain players. It’s that old-school prestigious way of baseball”. Hamels does have a bit of a point, star players usually do get more calls than rookies in any sport, but the way that he went about sending that message was all wrong. By hitting Harper he really showed that Harper is one of these star players, even though this is the 19 year olds former #1 overall picks first season. Honestly, if you asked a casual baseball fan to name the first players that came to their mind (even before this incident) I bet you more would say Bryce Harper’s name before they got to Cole Hamels. In a way I feel Hamels feels threatened by Harper.
Harper is the only person involved in this entire incident that acted like a man. He went about his business and even after the game commented that Hamels is “A great guy, a great pitcher, knows how to pitch. He’s an All-Star. It’s all good”. The most telling thing Harper did immediately after was go first-to-third on a Jayson Werth single, and then steal home when Hamels tried to pick off Werth. It’s rare for anyone to steal home, and for Harper to do it in that situation is just one example of what makes the kid so talented.
Nationals pitcher Ryan Zimmerman did what he felt he had to do based upon the “unwritten rules” of baseball, and later in the game beaned Hamels back. In my opinion that was unnecessary, as Harper stealing home may have been enough of a lesson learned, but I do understand why he did it. Hopefully that will be the end of the on-field brouhaha between the two teams and especially the two pitchers, but at the same token I hope that this incident will fuel a potential rivalry between the Phillies and the Nationals as long as both teams play good, hard, clean baseball the rest of the way.
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo calling this incident the “most classless, gutless, chickenshit act in (his) 30 years of baseball” just added fuel to the fire, and contradicted his statement that “players take care of themselves”. Mr. Rizzo, the players did take care of themselves, the game went on and the Phillies won 9-3 after Hamels pitched one of the best games of his career (8 IP, 5 hits, 8 Ks and the only run scored being Harper’s). Taking the incident to the media and speaking out about it just makes Rizzo look as ignorant and dumb as Hamels, and I am glad that MLB decided to fine him for his comments. Bryce Harper doesn’t need protection from the general manager, he is satisfied with the 5-year $9.9 million dollar rookie contract he signed in 2010, and apparently he gets enough protection from umpires according to some.