Burning Cole Hamels

by on May 7, 2012 · 8 comments

Hamels, Cole

So Cole Hamels admitted to throwing at Bryce Harper (MLB Baby Jebus) and was suspended today by MLB for 5 games.  The range of complaints starts with Nationals’ GM Rizzo who called Hamels “fake tough” to everybody and their alien half-brother calling for a much longer suspension.  Naturally, some people out there will suggest that MLB should implement a much stricter policy regarding pitchers who hit batters purposely.  In doing so, the villagers have gathered their pitchforks and smartphones to take up the quest to demand greater justice for men who play a kids game in matching pajamas.

Burning Hamels at the MLB stake does nothing for this cause for 2 reasons.  He actually admitted to hitting Harper on purpose.  If there is a right way to go about such things, at least he didn’t go head hunting.  If there is a maturity issue for Hamels, this incident sure wasn’t the best proof in the world.

Relax about suspensions for pitchers for just a moment, please.  I entreat you to consider the purpose of such suspensions and the current, albeit loose standards set for suspensions.  While it is true that a 5 game suspension will not cause a starting pitcher to miss a start per se, it is worth noting that the intention is really just to prevent future incidents.  A pitcher who intentionally hits a batter one time will put himself in the position of facing a stiffer fine/suspension as a repeat offender.

Sure, the monetary penalty will not cause too many players to lose sleep, but it does have an impact nonetheless.  However, the real purpose of the fine is to make punishment for pitchers commensurate with punishments for hitters/position players.  That’s the closest to a parallel justice system you can practically have when you are comparing players that play at varying intervals.

What about a platoon player who rushes the mound after what he perceives is a brush back pitch?  If he only plays 80-85 games per season, then how do you dole out a suspension appropriate in length for what he has done?  You simply cannot do this, because the same suspension should and does apply to the player who plays 158 games per season.

The system is assuredly imperfect.  Losing a starting pitcher for 1 start (at the most) certainly does not have the same impact as losing a starting position player for 5 games.  How then do you go about recalibrating the system properly to administer the equal justice so many people want and expect?

Create an easy to understand escalating scale for pitchers who hit batters.  Use hit location, interpreted intent, retaliation, game situation, pitch velocity on a scale determined by the pitcher’s velocity range.  Move the minimum suspension period to either 7 games or 8 days to prevent the pitcher from simply being pushed back by a day or so.  If the batter is injured by the pitch, then consider that factor as well.  Actually, time missed by the hitter could be used to lengthen the pitcher’s suspension by a game or two.

It’s not that I’m a fan of seeing guys get hit.  I just don’t want MLB to completely take away the “brush back, put you in your place, welcome to the big leagues” approach that has been around as long as baseball has in its current form.  If anything, I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit more of it as long as it is done in good form.  Throw something other than a fastball, and make sure that it sends the message.  It doesn’t have to hit the guy, but if it does then the hit location should be something like the backside where the soft tissue will provide some cushion.  Nothing should come even close to shoulder level.  Provide some consistency, and that rookie fresh from AAA ball will know what to expect.  Make it a right of passage without making it a freak show.  It isn’t about starting a rivalry or anything bigger than just having a veteran indoctrinate a rookie into the game at the highest level.  Such things used to be considered an honor bestowed by some of the best in the game on some of the newest, most talented players.  Now it is practically casus belli.

TIDBIT:  Before you get high and mighty about lengthening suspensions, keep in mind that Milton Bradly set a precedent by getting suspended for 7 games while attempting to fight nearly everyone in the ballpark after being hit by a pitch.  If crazy Milton only got 7 games, then I find it difficult to advocate longer suspensions for less dangerous acts.

Follow gr33nazn on Twitter, because I’m the last person in the world you would expect to defend Cole Hamels!


Cardinals fan since I could hold a fishing pole steady. Accidental blogger. Opinionated. I could care less about what you think of me. Constantly confounded, bemused, and confuzzled (ie I'm a pc and a mac). I'm an IT infrastructure analyst with a penchant for breaking tech toys. I ate a sabermetric primer for breakfast. I love playing "All-powerful GM of MLB". The 2010 Cardinals represented a good, practical definition "cognitive dissonance". The 2011 version got by on duct tape and a prayer, and I'm fine with that. They just need new tape for #12 in 12.
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OtterMatt May 7, 2012

“It’s not that I’m a fan of seeing guys get hit.”
I am! I do kinda miss the old days, when men were men and even Dennis Eckersly would have been holding Bryce Harper down and shaving his head for the good of the team’s image.
Whiny pricks like Milton Bradley, drama queens like whatever-his-name-is-in-Milwaukee (I don’t care enough to look), and phenoms who haven’t learned their place yet would get set down and set down hard by the veterans.

That said, I thought it was all handled perfectly well. Bryce gets plunked, he walks it off LIEK A BAWSS, and then steals home just as a perfect middle finger to Hamels. Hamels walks up, gets plunked, everything is fair, no one’s feelings are hurt, just a small welt on the back and calf, respectively. That’s how it should be handled, and the MLB should just stay the hell out of it.

Dennis May 8, 2012

Haha! I miss a bit of the old days, but I do have a greater appreciation for things like concussions and such. I definitely think Harper would be getting a lot different treatment, if he played for another team as well. I don’t think the hair would go over well in some places, but the Nationals don’t have a couple old school guys there to pull an Eck on him.

I give him credit for stealing home, but that was a potentially stupid-as-a-rock play, too. I disagree about not punishing Hamels, although I think it was a bit of an overreaction by MLB, and the justice sure was swift.

Jeff White May 8, 2012

Great Read! Cole was an idiot to say something and the suspension seemed more like a warning. Pitchers should get longer suspensions and hitting batters is part of the game.

Dennis May 8, 2012

Thanks, Jeff. I tend to agree that Cole was an idiot, but I also respect the fact that he came out and admitted it, too. A lot times everybody “knows” it is on purpose, but the pitcher dodges the question or gives some generic response. At least Hamels stood up in front of people and owned it.

kim May 8, 2012

Well guys, lets take a look at this from a womans perspective……I love baseball, I always have, yes a batter being hit by a pitch is part of the game. Since pitchers are not perfect things happen. However, a player such as Cole Hamels should have respect for other players. Maybe batters should throw their bats at pitchers for whatever reason they want to…….I think Cole should be suspended from pitching thru 5 rotations…….Does Hamels not realize he is a role model for young people playing sports? No way should he be able to pitch in his next rotation.

Dennis May 9, 2012

Well, I don’t know how what you are saying is specific to a woman’s perspective, because I know a lot of people have similar feelings on the subject. I disagree with the rationale, though, because I believe the rules should apply as evenly as possible to everybody.

At what point does a player become “such as Cole Hamels”? Are rookie pitchers then allowed to have less respect for other players? Should Jamie Moyers then have way more respect than any other pitcher for other players. I’d venture to say that the answers are “no” and “no”. Suspending Hamels through 5 full rotations goes so far beyond the norm that it makes no sense to me. Consider that the first penalized violation for a banned substance offense is 50 games. Suspending a pitcher for hitting a player for 25 games does not seem appropriate relative to the 50 game suspension.

Also, consider that under the system you suggest, nobody would ever admit to hitting someone on purpose. Intent can be difficult to discern, especially where experienced pitchers are concerned. Based on the actual sequence of events, I think a re-examination of the system is worthwhile, but I also see a lot of overreaction as well.

E.E. RIPPER May 10, 2012

Hi Dennis. Great article as usual. Isn’t funny that this thing up comes shortly after your fine beanball wars post? I’m old school as far the HBP is concerned. As long as we’re not talking about throwing at a batter’s head then…And in response to an earlier comment, I would say that the hitters are, by and large, the ones who should be taken to task for immature behavior. Going a step further I would say the pitchers have a hard time with all the body armor batters wear they can and do crowd the plate and take away the outside pitch. Hell most hitters get themselves hit so.. Winding up my long-winded comment, the thing was dealt with by Cole getting hit. And that is the way it should be.
P.S. This kind of self policing is only possible in the National League. Get rid of the DH!

Dennis May 10, 2012

Thanks. I like the self-policing idea, but I’m not sure there are enough pitchers with that mentality to do it properly anymore.

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