Last summer, in my first piece for this site, I explained why I thought Major League Baseball’s disciplinary system could at best be described as ‘inept’. I think the last few day’s events have vindicated my point.
Cole Hamels intentionally pinning Bryce Harper, albeit ‘only’ in the back, and then bragging about it to the media has drawn a paltry five game ban from the Commissioner’s Office. With an off day on the docket this week, you could argue that the suspension actually benefits the Phillies given that it means they can just push Hamels back a day while starting Roy Halladay on regular rest. Clearly any punishment that is so easily navigated is really no punishment at all.
There is an argument that Hamels’ crime was essentially his honesty; after all plenty of pitchers plunk hitters intentionally but claim the pitch ‘got away’ from them when confronted about it afterwards. Regardless of that issue, anyone throwing a pitch with the sole intention of hitting the man in the batter’s box should be punished, as should the arrogance and stupidity shown to brag about it afterwards. What Hamels did was incredibly dangerous and could easily have caused serious injury to Harper, who it must be added has handled this whole situation remarkably well. Enough batters get hit and get hurt during the season by pitches that genuinely do ‘get away, without people like Cole Hamels deciding he doesn’t like someone’s reputation and throwing at him. And that is the only complaint Hamels had, by the way. Harper hadn’t done anything to Hamels or the Phillies specifically, Hamels had just heard he had an attitude problem and thought he needed taking down a peg.
Hamels’ trite and pathetic argument that he was standing up for ‘old school baseball’ holds no water. Jim Leyland is as old school baseball as it gets and he’s openly said he wants the book thrown at Hamels, suggesting a 15 game ban. That’s exactly the sort of thing MLB needs to consider for pitchers in this situation. It might be an excessive punishment for an everyday player, but the way a team’s rotation works means that anything less than say 7-8 days at a minimum is an utterly meaningless suspension. It’s about time MLB got a grip on it’s disciplinary procedures because the current system is practically worthless.