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.

5 Responses to “MLB’s Discipline Policy Isn’t Working (2012 Edition)”

  1. Pitchers hit batters on purpose all the time. The only thing that Hamels did that was newsworthy was talk honestly about it after the game. If you want to penalize him extra for his honesty, that’s fine. But you won’t have made anyone any safer. And discipline that doesn’t make the game safer is just as ineffective as no discipline at all.

    • Joe Tarring says:

      I’d happily see any pitcher who intentionally throws at a batter suspended, the difficulty is proving the intent. If a pitcher does what Hamels did then comes out bragging about it he eliminates the need for anyone to prove intent.

      • But that’s the point…. if he hadn’t admitted it, he wouldn’t have been suspended. He didn’t get suspended for the act, he got suspended for admitting to it. Pitchers shouldn’t get suspended for intentionally hitting a batter, unless they are head hunting/trying to injure the person. Hamels took something off of the pitch, and hit Harper in a spot that wouldn’t hurt. And during his at-bat, Hamels got hit in retaliation. It would have been the end of the story if Hamels hadn’t admitted to it. It was quite apparent that Zimmermann hit Hamels on purpose – where is his suspension? Or the outcry about him throwing at someone on purpose?

        It’s part of the game, and the only people that have a problem with it are the ones who didn’t play, or didn’t play it the correct way.

  2. Joe Tarring says:

    I’d dispute that Hamels took something off the pitch but that’s by the by.

    I don’t have any problem with Zimmermann being disciplined as well, it just has to be acknowledged that in order to do that MLB has to put a case together that the Players Union won’t just shoot down on appeal. Hamels removed that burden of proof by bragging about it which makes a disciplinary procedure much easier to bring against him.

    It’s a far from ideal situation but the real difficulty is proving intent and, prior to him opening his mouth, there was no real reason to think Hamels had a reason to dislike Harper any more than the next player. He’s come out and said ‘Yes, I intentionally hit him’. You have to ban him for that and the ban has to mean something. The fact that proving Zimmermann’s intent is a degree more difficult to do doesn’t alter that fact.

  3. Danny O says:

    If you want to make a starter miss a start suspend him for 9 games.

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