Message Sent: Hamels Drills Harper, Floodgates Open

This is the Code, at its deepest and most ingrained levels. It is the confluence of ability and pride and hype and the concept that all men must earn their successes. It is the old guard welcoming the new—player and team alike—with an unmistakable challenge: Welcome to the big time. Let’s see if you can hack it.

It was Cole Hamels, burying a fastball into the small of Bryce Harper’s back in the first inning Sunday (watch it here), partly to warn the 19-year-old phenom that life at this level will be harder than expected, partly to provide a physical component to the opinion that the Nationals’ 18-9, NL East-leading start—5.5 games ahead of last-place Philadelphia—was still at least 75 wins short of actually meaning something.

Just in case there was any leeway in possible interpretations, Hamels made things clear after the game, telling the world that the pitch was laden with meaning.

“I was trying to hit him,” Hamels said in a Philly.com report. “I mean, I’m not going to deny it. It’s something that I grew up watching. I’m just trying to continue old baseball, because I think some people get away from it. I remember when I was a rookie, the strike zone was really, really small and you didn’t say anything, because that’s the way baseball is. But I think unfortunately sometimes the league is protecting certain players and making it not as that kind of old school, prestigious way of baseball.”

Whether Hamels was annoyed by Harper’s questioning the strike zone in an earlier game—even as the Phillies pitched around him—remains unclear; the left-hander declined to discuss the point at which he decided to plunk him. Little matter—this is how veterans handled rookies for generations, and it was as retro an act as could be imagined in the modern game.

Frank Robinson was hit 20 times during his rookie season—the most of his career—a result, he said in the Sporting News, of “those guys . . . trying to test me. They were trying to see what I was made of.” Don Drysdale did much the same thing when he buzzed Orlando Cepeda in the future Hall of Famer’s first major league at-bat. In 1939, Browns manager Fred Haney ordered that Ted Williams be knocked down twice in a game, after the rookie had gone 7-for-16 against St. Louis over the previous four contests. Twice Williams got up, and put a stop to the tactic with a homer, a double and six RBIs.

Which, to Harper’s credit, is not dissimilar from what Washington’s rookie ended up doing on Sunday. After Harper was drilled, he didn’t hesitate in taking third when the next batter, Jayson Werth, singled to left. The moment Hamels threw to first to keep Werth close, Harper broke for the plate, sliding in easily under the tag of Carlos Ruiz. (Watch it here.)

Harper’s skills have never been questioned. With displays like the Sunday’s, his mental toughness will probably soon reach that point as well, if it hasn’t already. “If he continues to do that, he’s going to make a really good name for himself,” Hamels said afterward, admiringly.

The circle was closed in the top of the third, when Washington starter Jordan Zimmerman responded by hitting Hamels in the leg. (Unlike Hamels, Zimmerman denied intent. Also unlike Hamels, nobody believed him.) For his part, Hamels considered it an appropriate response.

“That’s the way it should work,” he said.

Though Hamels lost the battle, however, he clearly won the war. Harper may not have been prone to intimidation, but the Phillies’ left-hander shut down the rest of the Nationals over eight innings, allowing just five hits and Harper’s stolen run in a 9-3 victory. With as clear a message as Hamels delivered to Harper, there appeared to be just as much intent toward an increasingly confident Nationals team that, Hunter Pence said in the Washington Post, was playing like it had “a chip on their shoulder.”

Which brings up one more possibility when dissecting Hamels’ mindset. The act brings to mind the moment in 1974, when Dock Ellis sought to knock the swagger out of the upstart Cincinnati Reds with the revolutionary tactic of hitting every batter he faced. He opened the game by drilling Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and Dan Driessen in succession, then walked Tony Perez on four pitches after the first baseman—in clear recognition of imminent danger—bailed out as soon as each pitch was released. The right-hander was removed by befuddled Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh after going 2-0 on the next hitter, Johnny Bench, but by that point it didn’t matter—Ellis’ message had been sent. And here’s the key point: The most important recipients weren’t even members of the Reds, but Ellis’ own Pittsburgh teammates. Intimidating Cincinnati was an obvious bonus, but the pitcher’s primary goal was to jolt what he viewed more and more as a complacent Pirates clubhouse.

It worked. Having won only six of 18 before the game, Pittsburgh went 82-62 the rest of the way and won the National League East for the fourth time in five years.

The Phillies, by contrast, have won the National League East five years running. Hamels hasn’t shared his views on his team’s toughness (or lack thereof), but as one of only two pitchers remaining from the beginning of that run (Kyle Kendrick is the other), it would not be surprising were Hamels looking to send a message to a club struggling to maintain its position atop the National League’s pecking order.

Hamels’ act has drawn scorn from various circles, not least of them Washington’s front office. “I’ve never seen a more classless, gutless chickenshit act in my 30 years in baseball,” said Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo in the Washington Post. “[Hamels] is the polar opposite of old school. He’s fake tough.”

Rizzo continued: “He thinks he’s going to intimidate us after hitting our 19-year rookie who’s eight games into the big leagues? He doesn’t know who he’s dealing with.”

In one capacity, at least, Rizzo is dead wrong. Hamels knows a lot about the guys he’s dealing with—at least the ones he’s dressing with each day.

The pitcher’s message couldn’t have been more clear. Now it’s up to the rest of us to figure out its intended recipients.

Note: A version of this post just went up at Sports Illustrated.com.

Update (5/07): Hamels was just suspended for five games—a predictable result after his admission. He won’t appeal, which essentially just pushes him back a day, for a Sunday start.

Update II (5/07): Phils manager Charlie Manuel put into words what we all already knew (at least as it relates to punishment from the league): If nothing else, Hamels should have kept his mouth shut.

Update II (5/08): Jim Leyland has weighed in, and feels that Hamels’ suspension was too light. In a burst of counter-intuitive blogging, I tend to agree with him. While I have no problem with Hamels’ tactics on the field, the fact that he admitted it gave MLB little choice but to punish him. A five-game suspension for a starting pitcher, however, has negligible effect — especially when it comes, as it did for Hamels, immediately following a start. Specifics of this case aside, forcing a pitcher to miss action, rather than simply delaying it by a day or two, would hold far more weight.

Update III (5/09): Apparently Hamels isn’t the only one who talks too much. Rizzo has picked up a fine for his comments.

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51 Comments

Filed under Bryce Harper, Cole Hamels, Retaliation

51 responses to “Message Sent: Hamels Drills Harper, Floodgates Open

  1. Stu Shea

    A good pitcher knows how to get people out without risking their health. What if Hamels’ delivery had been off by just a tick? That ball goes at Harper’s head.

    • Jason Turbow

      Gotta disagree. Hamels — like most major leaguer pitchers — is too good to be off by that much. He put it exactly where he wanted to, in an area that would do no lasting damage. It’s standard retaliation procedure (with the caveat that this didn’t appear to be retaliatory). If he was off at all, it would have been because his intended target was Harper’s backside, four inches lower. If Hamels was wild enough to unintentionally put that pitch into Harper’s ear hole, his ability to put one into the strike zone would come into serious question.

      • ^^^ what he said. Hamels had a message in mind, and delivered it with no longer-lasting physical marks than a bruise on the hip. Well done.

      • Darrin Lynch

        Not a good reply that MLB pitchers have too much control to be off by that much. Do you really think Matt Cain was aiming at David Wright’s head? Or was he just not good enough because he was off by that much. Pitches slip. The intentional walk is fraught with peril because it is not where pitchers normally throw. Aiming it somewhere it is not supposed to go – at a player – always carries the potential for a slip. Either way, it is wrong. Screw the macho stuff – just play the game. That type of behavior is outdated – just calling it old school does not make it right. Think back to many things that happened all through society 50 years ago that are frowned upon today – if they are repeated today is a good defense “I am just being old school”?

      • Jason Turbow

        I’ve said this many times — part of what makes the unwritten rules so great is that reasonable people can make sensible arguments both for and against them. “Just play the game” holds water; there are plenty of big leaguers who agree with you. In my opinion, however, the Code serve a purpose, with valid rationale behind almost everything that happens under its auspices.

        But we have to draw a distinction between David Wright inadvertently getting hit in the helmet and Bryce Harper getting hit in the backside. Cain was trying to pitch up and in to Wright — a standard tactic — so his pitch didn’t have to miss by all that much to do some serious damage. That’s a real danger faced by all fastball pitchers who live inside, and they all spend serious time considering it. Drilling a guy below the waist, however, carries no such danger. Even if Hamels was off target, the pitch wouldn’t have risen that much, and would likely have missed Harper altogether.

    • This was baseball culture at it’s best. Hamels drills him first pitch to send a message; did it the right way (threw low at his hip, not head hunting). Harper took the hit, dropped the bat, took his base. No showboating, no “you disrespected me!” posturing BS, just took it like a man. Something he’ll have to do plenty more in his career. Then to cap it off by stealing home and making Hamels look foolish was the perfect cap. Good baseball story all around.

      • Jason Turbow

        Absolutely correct. The only real flaw was that Hamels admitted it, which, depending on his strategy, might not have been a flaw at all. The biggest winner in this whole affair is Harper, who not only handled it beautifully, but illustrated to all of baseball exactly what can happen to pitchers who take similar liberties with him.

  2. Jason K

    Doesn’t Harper deserve a second drilling for stealing home? Time and place up to the Phillies?

    • Jason Turbow

      Huh? Stealing home was about the greatest thing Harper could have done. Solid proof to Hamels that drilling him was the wrong thing to do, AND giving his team a 1-0 lead. I don’t see anything wrong with that …

  3. I have to say that your book / blog have really increased my interest in the game twenti-fold. Being from the DC area and watching this one in particular, I had to smile, as I knew exactly what was occurring as it happened. Your perspective and reporting makes the game (and Harper’s steal) so much more entertaining. The short glance towards the mound as Harper walked toward the dugout after he tagged the plate was also fun to see. Harper knew he had passed Hammels test. I’m just glad Harper didn’t blow Hammels a kiss…

  4. Jimmy L

    Since when did Cole Hamels become the conscience of “old baseball”? The kid has appeared in eight or nine games without any pitcher taking offense at anything, nor did Harper do anything that would warrant such a move. Hamels’ act was cowardly as it was not in retaliation to anything. Which of his players was Hamels trying to defend? This nonsense will never stop if people like you continue to defend it as “part of the game”. There is a line between playing hard and playing dirty and Hamels crossed it. Defend it if you like but Neanderthal behavior like that does a disservice to this beautiful game.

    • Jason Turbow

      Sorry to disagree, but it is part of the game. Maybe not actions as overt as Hamel’s, but testing rookies is tried and true. Until they prove that they can handle the heat, they’re fair game. To Harper’s credit, he handled it.

  5. Craig

    Still don’t understand why throwing intentionally is a great or inspiring part of baseball. The defenders of the pitchers who do it act as if they have some kind of claim to toughness, but it seems to me it is more often done out of insecurity (seeing a younger hyped-up player as some kind of threat to their fading glory) or just being a crybaby (you showboated after you hit a home run and my feelings are hurt). Yes, it is part of tradition, but so were segregated games. Traditions change for a reason. If throwing intentionally were gone from the game tomorrow, I wouldn’t miss it, but that’s just me.

    • Jason Turbow

      Essentially, at least in this case, it’s a totem — a physical indicator that there is a hierarchy in place within the game, and that Harper and the Nats need to earn their place atop it. Blasting Hamels for his actions is defensible, but so too is his strategy. He executed as he had to — below the belt (or close to it), no lasting damage. Nothing more than a message sent. And the beautiful part about baseball, more so than any other major American sport, is that competitors have all kinds of ways to send each other messages, and then respond in kind. Harper responded perfectly, by hurting Hamels where it hurts most — in the ERA.

      • “…a physical indicator that there is a hierarchy in place within the game…” You make it sound like a hazing. Do you equate this as a baseball hazing incident? And, as Tony Kornheiser said this evening, “Who died and made Hamels commissioner?” Logic dictates that any defense of Hamels must also be an indictment of weakness toward those pitchers who faced Harper in his first eight games and yet declined to throw at him.

        Your logic in this case is weak.

      • Jason Turbow

        Not hazing — testing. From Christy Mathewson’s “Pitching in a Pinch,” published in 1912:

        The catcher warns the rookie batsman, “Look out for this fellow. He’s got a mean bean ball, and he hasn’t any influence over it.” . . . Then the catcher signs for the pitcher to throw one at the young batter’s head. If he pulls away, an unpardonable sin in baseball, the dose is repeated.

        This was Cole Hamel’s equivalent. Harper did not pull away.

  6. Craig

    It’s an unnecessary totem. Harper is a rookie and there are reminders of that for him every day. He’s going to have to earn his way atop the hierarchy of the game anyway (not getting the benefit of the doubt from umpires, hazing from teammates, playing under a microscope in the media and from fans until he is proven, etc). Your point is taken that Hamels has excellent control, but the risk for injury with a intentional throw at the body just seems unnecessary. Pitchers are constantly losing control of a pitch here and there, even the great ones.

    • Jason Turbow

      There’s one more factor that you didn’t touch upon: The way in which a young hitter reacts to adverse situations — say, being thrown at intentionally — informs how the rest of the league approaches said hitter from that point forward. Had Harper been rattled in any way, you can be assured that he’d be seeing a steady diet of inside fastballs in the near future, until he proved that he could handle it. Instead, Hamels tested him, Harper passed, and now he’s earned that measure of respect.

      • Craig

        I didn’t touch upon it because I don’t think it’s important. Arguing in favor of a dangerous practice because the victim has an opportunity to prove himself and gain respect doesn’t convince me. Jackie Robinson proved himself and gained a lot of respect by enduring racist taunts threats and worse when he broke into the big leagues. It doesn’t mean that racism was a valuable part of baseball or that anyone should want to return to those times.

      • Jason Turbow

        I’m not quite sure how a white pitcher drilling a white hitter is equatable to the 1940s-era racism endured by Jackie Robinson, but you kind of just made my point for me. Exclude every crackpot pitcher who tried to drill Robinson because of the color of his skin, and the guy still would have been thrown at a lot in the early going — because he was unproven, and enduring that kind of treatment was the way that players established themselves. Sal Maglie threw at Robinson an awful lot; he threw at all the Dodgers an awful lot. (It should be noted that Maglie only actually hit him one time, but knocked him down frequently.) When Robinson started responding, either by making things happen with his bat, or bunting down the first-base line and bowling over the pitcher as he tried to field the ball, the frequency of the knockdowns dropped off. Cause and effect. No more, no less.

      • Craig

        “I’m not quite sure how a white pitcher drilling a white hitter is equatable to the 1940s-era racism endured by Jackie Robinson, but you kind of just made my point for me. Exclude every crackpot pitcher who tried to drill Robinson because of the color of his skin, and the guy still would have been thrown at a lot in the early going — because he was unproven, and enduring that kind of treatment was the way that players established themselves. Sal Maglie threw at Robinson an awful lot; he threw at all the Dodgers an awful lot. (It should be noted that Maglie only actually hit him one time, but knocked him down frequently.) When Robinson started responding, either by making things happen with his bat, or bunting down the first-base line and bowling over the pitcher as he tried to field the ball, the frequency of the knockdowns dropped off. Cause and effect. No more, no less.”

        I’m not equating white on white drilling with 1940’s racism. You brought up that one reason that drilling might be valuable is because it affords young hitter an opportunity to prove himself with the way he “reacts to adverse situations.” I am saying that that alone isn’t a reason something is vauable and citing the adverse situation that Jackie Robinson went through as an example.

      • Jason Turbow

        I’ll suggest that there’s a difference between testing a player in baseball terms, for baseball reasons, and taking out misguided aggression on a guy under the guise of playing a baseball game. Then again, we could probably spend the next week dissecting differences of opinion on the term “misguided aggression” …

  7. macleoddan

    “I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

    Care to introduce morally why it was good that Frank Robinson was hit twenty-times? I’d counter with Tony Conigliaro…

    Code schmode…

  8. macleoddan

    All I think on this issue is:

    “I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the same coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

    Oh, that and Tony Conigliaro. I’d like to see your comments if Harper got it in the eye and we never saw his potential. Is respecting hierarchy worth potential injury? I don’t think so.

    • Jason Turbow

      First point: This isn’t about hierarchy — it’s about probing Harper for weakness. If he had flinched, that weakness would have continued to be exploited not just by Hamels, but by the succession of pitchers Harper is due to face.

      Second point: Had Hamels come anywhere near Harper’s head, your Conigliaro reference would hold more water. There is an acceptable way for pitchers to hit a batter, and — no matter what you think of Hamels’ rationale — there is no questioning that he hit Harper properly. Pitchers who are hung with the head-hunter tag draw no small amount of scorn from around the league, including from within their own clubhouses. Again, no matter how you feel about his rationale, Hamels is not that.

      • macleoddan

        First point: Can you provide an example of when a player has flinched, exposed and then exploited? No one comes to mind, and certainly not a player like Bryce Harper; everyone who knows anything about the kid knows he wouldn’t be susceptible to that (which is probably a commentary on Hamels more than yourself).

        Second point: Has negligence never lead to consequence? Hitting a player comes with an inherent risk of injury, and where you and I disagree is the value of tradition versus player safety. I love the idea of old school baseball as much as the next guy, but I think old school would have been making Harper whiff and then letting him know he’s never getting an easy at bat when he plays the Phillies. Only I don’t think Hamels has the real wherewithal to do that; in may ways I think Hamels attempt to expose Harper has only done the opposite.

      • Jason Turbow

        Man, but I love a good argument. Well, of course I can’t name anybody who’s flinched. They haven’t stuck around long enough to become known. From The Baseball Codes: “The idea is to see how you react to being knocked down,” said longtime Dodger Ron Fairly. “And if it doesn’t bother you, they’ll turn around and say, ‘Well, if it doesn’t bother him, we’re not going to do that. We’ve got to figure out a different way to get him out.’ ”

        Harper is still an unknown quantity at this level (although that is changing daily). Succeeding at Double-A, where he was easily he biggest fish in a comparatively small pond, is far different than succeeding in the big leagues. Professionally, Harper is best remembered for the kiss he blew a pitcher after hitting a homer last season. Ultimately, I had little beef with him for that incident, choosing instead to focus on the fact that he was still learning the professional game. At this point, however, it seems that everybody else is now learning about him — each in their own way.

        While we disagree on the value of an intentional HBP (depending on the situation, of course), I’m with you when you say that Hamels may have exposed himself more than he did Harper. At the very least, butting up against a will of iron (which, based on our tiny sample size, Harper may well possess) rarely turns out well. Hamels pitched like an ace after the incident (no sure thing when it comes to intentionally hit batters), so it appears that not much was exposed on either end. Still, it’ll be really interesting to see how Hamels approaches him the next time they meet.

  9. miles coleman

    i guess this writer thinks its ok to throw a ball at a defenseless person because of some outdated code. if violence from a pitcher is ok, i guess its ok for a batter to charge the mound with his bat.if the pitcher intentially hits a batter then the batter has the right to hit him with his bat.

  10. macleoddan

    Jason, when I hear your defence on the idea of “flinching”, I remember a quote that goes, “Almost every venerable tradition at a men’s club starts out as a joke”.

    While Fairly and Robinson are examples of guys who seemingly tolerated flinching, I’m more certain they had an unwaivering respect for the game. With a lack of evidence showing it ever had a positive impact, I would say it’s time to rethink its benefits.

    Where we entirely agree is that this is now a credit to the game because of a new rivalry between Hamels and Harper, I too can’t wait for the next at bat.

    Cheers

  11. Sure sounds like the definition of hazing to me. From Wikipedia: Hazing consists of “rituals and other activities involving harassment, abuse or humiliation used as a way of initiating a person into a group.” Further, hazing only goes one way (i.e. the hazer does not suffer any ill effects of the hazing) and it is viewed by its instigators as being a harmless rite of passage.

    In light of this definition, would you care to explain how an veteran player who throws a baseball 93 mph at a 19 year old rookie and uses tradition as his defense does not qualify as hazing?

    • Jason Turbow

      I’m not sure that I can explain this any differently than I have in previous replies, but I’ll give it a try. Some players are susceptible to being intimidated. With mediocre players, it hardly matters — they’ll get themselves out most of the time, anyway. But with a young, talented guy like Harper, pitchers need all the edge they can get. Had Harper flinched — if he allowed the drilling to get into his head, and if it negatively affected his ensuing at-bats — then it would have exposed a weakness for Hamels and other pitchers to exploit. A valid argument can be had over the fact that Hamels could have achieved his goal (or something close to it) with a brushback instead of hitting the guy, but even at this extreme it makes sense.

      Now if he does it again, after Harper has so clearly showed him the error of his ways, then he’ll be both dumb (it’s a tactic with a proven net loss), and in possession of an agenda that I can’t claim to even imagine understanding.

  12. Darrin Lynch

    Imagine this – Zimmerman retaliates as he did, but Hamels does not turn quite enough and takes a 92MPH fastball to the kneecap and cracks it. Now he sits for 6 weeks while it heals. All because he sees himself as some kind of steward for the game and felt then beaning Harper was the way the game out to be played. Can we see how many other rookies he has went after? I assume all because the is old school baseball and that is how the game is played. He is a punk that did this because Harper is getting all of the publicity. Bringing up something that happened to Frank Robinson – very timely by the way – is not appropriate. Can we sharpen spikes and go feet high into bases? Honus Wagner did it. Using your logic that makes it OK.

    • Jason Turbow

      Here’s a challenge for you: Name the last player who missed significant time after being hit by a pitch below the waist. I’m not saying that it hasn’t happened, just that I can’t think of an example. And I think the Frank Robinson reference was very appropriate (maybe not so timely, sure, but in my mind, stories with baseball heroes hold more weight), in the sense that Robinson was a prodigiously talented 20-year-old rookie who was putting up ridiculous numbers. Not finding any holes in his swing, pitchers started looking for holes in his psyche, constantly probing him with inside pitches. Obviously, the tactic didn’t work, just like it didn’t work with Harper. I don’t fault Hamels for trying, though.

      • Craig

        But things don’t always go as planned. A pitch in the backside is no big deal, but what happens when the pitch gets away from the pitcher and one intended for below the waist hits above the waist or above the neck? And is the fact that nobody has missed playing time yet the point? Do we wait for an accident to happen before putting in a stop sign?

      • Jason Turbow

        I’ll posit that nobody missing playing time is precisely the point. It’s a manufactured problem — not one that actually exists on a baseball field.

  13. Chris

    I can’t believe Jason Turbow is for real. No place in the game for this kind of action. You sound like a hockey hooligan who claims fighting is “part of the game.”

    • Jason Turbow

      I don’t want to get too deep into hockey here, because I frankly don’t know enough about it to speak too coherently. From what I understand, though, you just drew a pretty good parallel. In baseball, the unwritten rules — showing teams respect, and responding in kind when respect might be lacking — hold a purpose similar to hockey fights. In baseball, instead of feelings festering to the point that players actually end up brawling, pitchers can take care of things from the mound, players can respond on the basepaths, etc. It’s a release valve for steam that builds up over the course of a game or a season, helping keep equilibrium between high-strung, type-A athletes. (In hockey, I imagine it works in the sense that goons beating each other up obviates the need for wild melees involving all the players from both teams.)

      And yes, I think Hamels was actually showing Harper considerable respect. Had Harper been a mere hacker, the pitcher certainly wouldn’t have felt the need to test him like that.

      • Craig

        I’ve spent time working in prisons, and I can tell you that all this “I’m doing it out of respect” stuff is the way that inmates conduct themselves (Did Harper have to get “jumped in” his first day in the clubhouse?) It sounds good an noble on the surface, but everybody just ends up hardened and desensitized (not tougher) and physically bruised, bleeding or worse for the journey. It’s a terrible message to young players that they only way they can earn respect is through the culture of violence.

    • Russell

      Exactly right Chris. This guy thinks he knows more about old school baseball code than Jim Leyland? Give me a break.

  14. Russell

    You couldn’t be more off base. There was nothing old school about this. His admission after is clear evidence of this. Hamels is a punk. End of story.

  15. penberthyp

    Couldn’t some of this mixed reaction be a referendum on what the league generally feels about Cole Hamels? Weren’t his teammates calling him “Hollywood” a couple years ago? Didn’t he take heat for admitting he didnt want to be a number one starter? He seems to be representative of the opposite of what anyone would call “old school.” And so as a self-appointed welcoming party the old school is calling “b.s.” Then he goes out at admits it to the media. I think there is an older group of guys who just don’t like him, Cole Hamels, regardless.

    • Jason Turbow

      You could be right. Why Hamels did this instead of any number of pitchers perceived as “tougher” or “more old school” is unclear. Could be that he’s gone through his own struggles to reach his level of success, and it’s informing his actions. Either way, the admitting-it-to-the-media part is inexplicable.

  16. James

    Examples are a quote from 1912, and players from 30+ years ago.
    Hamels did not throw at posey, hayward, freeman. (rookie of year, last 2 runners up, other winner a pitcher). This is a pitcher that wanted the spotlight and he got it. If he was so “old school” he would have thrown at these guys also.

    • Jason Turbow

      Collectively, Posey, Heyward and Freeman didn’t have the hype or the history that Harper has, nor were their teams unexpectedly in first place while Philadelphia struggled in the basement. Perhaps Hamels did want the spotlight; it would certainly explain his post-game admission of intent. Until he elaborates further, however, it’s all conjecture.

      • Craig

        You bring up a good question: How are Posey, Heyward, and Freeman supposed to prove that they belong in the big leagues if they don’t get thrown at? Is just “being good” not enough?

  17. Jason, you need to just admit defeat and move forward, or are you suggesting that you understand “old school” baseball more than Cal Ripken Jr.?

    ““Usually there’s a spark for why you do it. Somebody bunts when you’re up eight runs, or you’re stealing third base when you’re up 10 or 11 runs in the seventh inning. There are real reasons on how you play the game, and embarrass the game. That’s old school. But just to come up and drill somebody for no reason, I don’t remember that being old school.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dc-sports-bog/post/cal-ripken-hitting-bryce-harper-wasnt-old-school/2012/05/08/gIQAlT8sAU_blog.html

    • Jason Turbow

      I said it earlier in this comment chain and I’ll say it again: Reasonable people can disagree on the propriety of this kind of thing. Ripken certainly knows his business. So does Dusty Baker, who talked at length in this MLB.com report that posted today. You can probably find 10 ex-big leaguers who support your position without much problem, but it’ll be just as easy for me to find 10 who support mine. That’s life on the fringes of the Code.

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  19. May be señor Hamel forgot that there is more than one way to skin a cat. I hope young Harper do some research about the same thing Mr. Hamel is reffering to. A well placed bunt toward first base close to the foul line making the pitcher field it, is as effective as a bean ball when the batter-runner bowl him over like a locomotive. This is also an oldtimers unwritten code. Si ?

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