Way, way back in the day, before Major League Baseball's suits began altering the game in the name of player safety, among other things, brushback pitches were fairly common. If Cole Hamels of the Philadelphia Phillies was legitimately thinking of initiating Washington Nationals rookie Bryce Harper, old school style on Sunday night, on national television no less, he went about it the wrong way, and, oh, has he paid for it in spades.
By now, you know that Hamels plunked Harper in the first inning, only to see Harper steal home. Now, that should've been the end of it. It's what happened after the game, a 9-3 Philadelphia win, that created more controversy.
You see, Hamels admitted after the game that he hit Harper on purpose. It was his way, he said, of welcoming the rookie into "The Show". Ok, so Hamels was a bit late to the party on that one. On ESPN's Around the Horn earlier today, panelist Woody Paige defended Hamels, while the rest of the panel basically buried him. A proper initiation, in fact, would've been the ol' brushback, the way Hall of Famers like Bob Gibson would've done it. Panelist Kevin Blackistone labeled the HBP, "dumb", and Hamels' post-game admission, "dumber". Exactly.
Major League Baseball responded to Hamels' admission by slapping him with a 5-game suspension, which some critics are deeming a mere slap on the wrist. Hamels will make his next start on Mother's Day, a day later than normal, so he really isn't being punished at all. If MLB really wanted to do it right, they'd make it 5 starts, and sideline Hamels until next month. There will be those who will see this as a case of the Phillies getting a break from the commissioner's office. Lord knows there've been allegations of worse offenses, not to mention the infamous laser pen incident vs. St. Louis 3 years ago.
The real motivation behind Hamels' act, in this writer's opinion, is a case of petty envy, if not so much jealousy. Philadelphia opens play tonight in last place in the NL East, while the Nationals are in first. Usually, it's the other way around, and things could reverse itself before the season's over, but maybe it's a harbinger of a change in the divisional pecking order. The arrogant Phillies don't like it, but, hey, let's remember they're missing a couple of key players, and it's frustrating to them that they're not in the upper tier of the division where they're accustomed.
Hamels picks up a Dunce Cap to go along with a 5-game vacation, and we'll send some caps to the commissioner's office, too, for not coming down harder.