Cole Hamels of the Philadelphia Phillies has been suspended five games by Major League Baseball for intentionally hitting Washington National Bryce Harper square in the back with a 92 mph fastball. The suspension is essentially meaningless, but he was also fined for an undisclosed amount.
A pitcher throwing at a hitter is nothing new, but Hamels was stupid enough to admit that he intentionally hit Harper. I’ll admit this is a much, much less egregious offense, but this reminds me a bit of the New Orleans Saints injury bounty scandal.
Sure, Hamels wasn’t trying to severely injure Harper, but he damn sure hurt him. I know a pitcher of Hamels’ class has enough command to accurately aim at a guy’s back, but pitchers aren’t used to adjusting their throwing motion. He could have easily missed his mark and hit Harper in the head.
The pitch could have resulted in a serious injury, career-ending, life-altering or worse.
A five-game suspension is basically meaningless for a pitcher, as his next start will be delayed just one day. The Phillies won’t even need to use a spot starter, as they have an off day that will allow them to simply bump Roy Halladay up in the rotation.
Pitchers will continue to throw at hitters, but at least there’s usually a debate on whether or not they’re doing it on purpose. Hamels admitted his intention and isn’t even going to appeal the suspension. Players always appeal suspensions.
You know the punishment isn’t severe enough when even the player agrees with the punishment. At minimum, Hamels should have been suspended for 11 games. We often think of rich pro athletes as all about the money, but when you take them off the field of play it hurts them a lot more than when you hit them in the pocketbook.
The next time the Phillies and Nationals meet will be May 21-23 in Philadelphia. These teams were just division foes before, now this is a full-blown rivalry.