When Is Plunking Bryce Harper Justified?

So here’s what we know:
1) Bryce Harper, a phenomenally talented 19 year old who also occasionally does annoying things, got plunked by Cole Hamels on May 6.
2) Cole Hamels admitted doing it on purpose, “to continue the old baseball… that old-school prestigious way of baseball.”

In the week since Hamels hit Harper, jawing between the two teams has given way to a wider discussion on the nature of beanballs in baseball and the “old-school” baseball code that Hamels felt the need to uphold. First, according to baseball’s traditions, when is it acceptable to hit a guy? Second, ethically speaking, regardless of what tradition says, when should it be acceptable to hit a guy?

Almost everyone agrees that when Hamels did something nontraditional when he admitted doing it on purpose, rather than just offering up standard boilerplate to say that the ball got away from him. After all, Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmermann plunked Hamels later in the same game, and afterwards, he said that the ball got away from him. Zimmermann’s retaliatory beanball was totally uncontroversial, even to Hamels. But hardly anyone agrees on the traditions that govern when a pitcher ought to intentionally plunk a guy.

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo blasted Hamels for hitting Harper: to him, it was “classless, gutless, chicken[bleep]” to hit a “19-year-old rookie who’s eight games into the big leagues.” He also suggested that, considering the football bounty programs that have been exposed, the commissioner should come down hard on intentional plunking. (Rizzo later got fined for his comments.) Phillies manager Charlie Manuel stuck by his pitcher, but Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, looking visibly uncomfortable, said he was “kind of disappointed” by Hamels hitting Harper and admitting it.

The reaction of pundits and others within the game has been similarly mixed. As Paul Hagen wrote on MLB.com, “Criticism of Hamels focused not on what he did, but the fact that he was candid about his motivations afterward.” That’s pretty much the same conclusion reached by Jason Turbow, coauthor of “The Baseball Codes,” a book about baseball’s unwritten rules: the plunking wasn’t particularly out of line. “This is how veterans handled rookies for generations,” he wrote in a piece for SI.com. Turbow suggests that Hamels may either have been trying to tame the swagger of a first-place Phillies Nationals team, or rally his teammates, like a game in 1974 when Dock Ellis plunked the first three Cincinnati Reds of the game. In fact, noted headhunter Don Drysdale went so far as to do that in his autobiography, “Once a Bum, Always a Dodger”:

For all those batters I nailed, I can honestly say that I never tried to hurt any of them, never tried to hit any of them in the head—never tried to hit any of them, period.

The generalized response appears to be, approximately: sometimes that’s the right thing to do. Just don’t talk about it. No one who knows baseball tradition will come right out and say that baseball tradition absolutely blessed his actions, because that would violate the baseball tradition of clubhouse omerta. (The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club.) But Turbow clearly thinks that Hamels’s actions fit within the broader scope of baseball tradition, though he and other baseball people acknowledge that intentional beanballs are not as much a part of the game as they used to be.

But calling for silence is not a moral stance. It doesn’t answer the question of the appropriateness of what Hamels actually did. Rizzo suggested a moral equivalency between headhunting in baseball and bounties in football. Obviously, a 90-mile an hour fastball can’t do as much damage as the Saints’ offensive line. But they rest on a similar basic point, the fundamental appropriateness of using violence as a deterrent. And make no mistake: a 90-mile an hour projectile is violent.

Rizzo wants the commissioner to essentially tighten penalties on headhunting to the point of mostly eliminating it. That is essentially what happened with on-field brawls, which have more or less vanished as the penalties for all involved continued to increase. Certainly, penalties on beanballs have already increased over the past decade, as I wrote two years ago when Cliff Lee was suspended five games for throwing behind Chris Snyder, not even hitting him, in spring training. But the penalty Hamels received raised more questions than it answered: why should Hamels get the exact same penalty for successfully hitting someone as Lee got for not-quite hitting someone?

An added justification for further tightening penalties could be concussions: after all, if it’s possible for the ball to get away from a pitcher to the point that it hits a guy, then there’s always a chance that it could hit him in the head. As baseball, football, and hockey become more aware of the serious long-term effects of concussion and brain injury, all three sports have a greater need to show that they are taking steps to reduce the risk of long-term damage to their players. The commissioner could consider an intentional, unprovoked beanball the equivalent of a “dangerous play.”

Of course, it’s hard to legislate against ill intentions, and that’s why “the ball got away from me” is the age-old explanation for why HBPs happen. After all, sometimes the ball does get away from you. So a presumption of innocence is probably still important. But… sometimes… you can tell. Like on Sunday, when Cole Hamels twirled eight brilliant innings, yielding just one walk and five hits, and managed to place a pitch squarely in the middle of Harper’s back. Even if Hamels hadn’t admitted it, it would have looked pretty intentional.

It’s undeniable that beanballs are less a part of baseball strategy than they used to, largely because of increased suspensions. And plenty of baseball tradition is
either questionable or irrelevant: ballplayers used to have jobs in the offseason, “play their way into shape” in March and April, and think that on-base percentage was unimportant because it isn’t on the scoreboard. So just because something is traditional doesn’t make it right. It also doesn’t make it good strategy: Harper made the cover of SI as a 16-year old, but that doesn’t mean that giving him a free base is a great idea. If beanballs fall further into disuse, few will mourn their loss.

The problem with overpenalizing beanballs without comparably penalizing hitters is that it fails to balance the incentives: it basically gives hitters an extra reason to lean into one. So if the commissioner is to increase the penalties for intentional beanings, then he will need to instruct the umpires to do a much better job of enforcing the rule that says that batters must make an effort to get out of the way — and if the batter leans into one, the umpire should call it a ball or strike and continue the at-bat.

There is a place for intimidation in the game of baseball. Retaliation is a bit harder to ethically condone. I understand that pitchers feel the need to put hitters in their place, and high inside fastballs often have a way of doing that. But a “welcome to the game, rookie” beanball is unnecessarily old-fashioned, and it’s a practice that is rightfully going out of style.

Of course, Hamels might be a bit out of style himself. After all, as he tweeted after the game:



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Alex is a writer for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times, and is a product manager for The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @alexremington.


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Bob in SF
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Bob in SF
4 years 2 months ago

Phils hitters have to be super excited about the next time they face Strasburg.

BrianU
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BrianU
4 years 2 months ago

Stras doesn’t even have to plunk anyone, he will just K the entire Phils team. Save the plunking for Henry Rodriguez.

Gordon Ramsay
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Gordon Ramsay
4 years 2 months ago

Bring in H-Rod to start the game, have Stras warming up – now THAT, would send a message.

winningugly
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winningugly
4 years 2 months ago

First-place Nationals team, you mean.

Andrew Faris
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Andrew Faris
4 years 2 months ago

Here’s what I wonder about: how come nobody talks about the relative baseball risk of hitting someone? Giving up a free base to a guy with that much speed on a first place team in your same division is bad baseball. If you want to hit a rookie, fine, but do it when you’re up or down by enough (whether in a game, or in the standings) to where it doesn’t matter, right?

It would be interesting to see a study of the relative baseball risk of hitting someone intentionally. How often do those guys come around to score?

Andrew

RobBob
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RobBob
4 years 2 months ago

I’m sure the fact that Harper came up with two out and nobody on made Hamel’s decision to bean him a lot easier. When Zimmermann hit Hamels later, it was far riskier, because that was on a play in which Hamels was attempting a sacrifice bunt.

Interestingly enough though, Harper ended up scoring but the Phils didn’t score when Hamels got plunked.

RobBob
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RobBob
4 years 2 months ago

I was at the game; I didn’t need Hamels to tell me that pitch was intentional. Everyone in the park knew it immediately. Why he wasn’t tossed immediately was my question.

Anon21
Member
Anon21
4 years 2 months ago

I actually don’t think the perverse incentives problem you identify (batters leaning into one) is real. Presumably, increasing penalties for intentional HBP will only apply in situations where the pitcher is ejected from the game because the ump considers it intentional in the moment. That will basically never happen when a batter leans into one–whether the ump lets the batter take his base or not, he’s not going to think that a pitch a couple inches inside was meant to hit the batter.

Basically, I think you’re confusing the in-game effects of HBP with the out-of-game penalties. The current in-game system, in which umpires rarely if ever enforce the “failure to avoid” exception against the batter is fine. It needn’t be affected by stiffening league penalties on HBP deemed intentional.

Semi Pro
Member
Semi Pro
4 years 2 months ago

The thing that bothers me is the beaning was unprovoked. Harper didn’t do anything to Hamels like act cocky after a hit, jaw at him, nothing. It would have been a different had Harper actually done something to warrant the beaning. A pitcher rarely (never?) hits another player on purpose just because he is a rookie.

Brendan
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Brendan
4 years 2 months ago

Harper is an arrogant little punk, which in the mind of a vet like Hamels is earning it. Not saying I agree, just saying that’s why he did it. I do agree that Harper is a cocky asshole, but the appropriate reaction is a strong veteran in his own clubhouse bringing him down to size, not other teams throwing at him.

Well-Beered Englishman
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Well-Beered Englishman
4 years 2 months ago

Harper has yet to act like an “arrogant punk” or a “cocky asshole” in the major leagues. Aside from the largely media-created blown-kiss frenzy in the minors and the fact that his pick-up truck is like ten feet tall, there is really no evidence of Harper’s “arrogant punk” behavior aside from the narrative of ESPN’s commentators. His teammates seem to love him, and that’s been true of his minor-league stints too.

Steve
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Steve
4 years 2 months ago

I’m watching the Clippers game right now and wondering how many of you have a problem with giving Blake Griffin a hard foul. People talk about the danger of a hit by pitch, but the vast majority are just in the back or off the leg and there is almost no lasting impact. I’d say there’s probably even more potential for injury with a hard foul in basketball.

I have no problem with this by the way. I know it’s not right to judge, but Harper definitely seems like an arrogant guy and I’m sure the players know more about him than we do.

Antonio Bananas
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Antonio Bananas
4 years 2 months ago

Harper isn’t a punk. He’s confident and proud. The only times I’ve ever seen him do anything that could be considered showboated was when he blew a kiss at a pitcher in the minors. That was all because the guy was talking trash all game and he jacked one off him. That’s not showboating, that’s giving a less talented pissant what he deserves. Of course, what did the media focus on? Blowing the kiss.

If you are as talented as Harper and someone else is running their mouth, you SHOULD be able to show them up. DIdn’t Michael Jordan shoot a free throw with his eyes closed? If you can back it up, and they are showing you up, do it.

As for Hamels, the guy is “fake tough” as Rizzo said. He’s a pretty boy from California, he’s never been a tough guy. I don’t hear too many stories about guys plunking rookies just because they’re rookies. I don’t remember Jason Heyward ever intentionally beaned. Heyward didn’t have quite the fanfare, but he was pretty highly touted too. I don’t remember Hamels hitting Heyward. So maybe Hamels just falls in the same circle of idiots who have bought into the media’s BS about Harper.

atrain
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atrain
4 years 2 months ago

Harper is a punk. His first hit was a double at Dodger stadium and he threw his helmet off between 1st and 2nd when it was not in his face or anything. That is a punk-a$$ kid who is more about himself than the team. That helmet did not fall off, he threw it off. PUNK!

Will
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Will
4 years 2 months ago

You ignored several voices, Cal Ripken included, that said quite the opposite. Beaning Harper was neither old school nor respectable. Hamels’ admission had nothing to do with it.

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

Furman
Member
Furman
4 years 2 months ago

Why wasn’t Zimmerman suspended for five games? Didn’t he hit Hamels on purpose as well? Yes, there is a difference between Hamels and Zimmerman when you factor in the purpose of the pitch, but neither pitch was unintentional. So what’s getting punished here? Intentionally beaning someone or just admitting it?

Fraggle
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Fraggle
4 years 2 months ago

Admitting it.

chuckb
Member
chuckb
4 years 2 months ago

I agree completely.

The really disturbing thing about that hypocrisy is that Hamels, despite the fact that everyone in the world knew it was intentional and unprovoked, probably wouldn’t have gotten suspended without having admitted it. That’s absurd.

D0nc0smic
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D0nc0smic
4 years 2 months ago

No Zimmerman did not hit Hamels on purpose.

KDL
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KDL
4 years 2 months ago

Yeah, doing so from the DL would surely warrant a suspension – admitting intention or not.

henry
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henry
4 years 2 months ago

it most certainly was. he just didn’t admit it. What are the chances that this would be the night that hamels got plunked just by accident?

e
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e
4 years 2 months ago

Isn’t the point here that Hamels hit Harper without any reason. Sure it was stupid and unconventional to admit it, but usually guys get hit for a reason. Harper has a reputation as a showboat from the minors, but he hadn’t done anything disrespectful in the majors (to my knowledge). I can understand plunking Harper if he had shown up a Philly’s pitcher (or any MLB pitcher for that matter) after a HR or something , but to hit him preemptively seems like it should draw a much stiffer penalty.

Furman
Member
Furman
4 years 2 months ago

There was one play where he hit a double to the outfield and as he rounded first base, purposely threw off his helmet, which I viewed as a bit cocky and showboaty. Just not sure which game that occurred in at this point.

RobBob
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RobBob
4 years 2 months ago

If you watched the replay, you would see that his helmet was already falling off and was flopping around on his head. He obviously threw it off because it was becoming a distraction. It was in his first game against LA.

bstar
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bstar
4 years 2 months ago

Harper is obviously one of those major leaguers who feels like wearing a helmet while running is impeding his speed. Gary “Sarge” Matthews used to flip his helmet off two steps out of the box once he knew he’d hit a ball that had a chance to be a double or triple. You can’t blame Harper for that.

amgarvey
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amgarvey
4 years 2 months ago

FWIW I used to hate running the base paths with a helmet bobbling all over the damn place as well. I know a lot of ballplayers do consider that showboaty though.

henry
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henry
4 years 2 months ago

The only thing I’ve seen with harper that could provoke anything like that is acting like he should never make a mistake. Does anyone remember last year when jose bautista caused a stir because he was swearing at himself all the way to first base when he hit a popup. A lot of people got mad, and their reason was, “no one is good enough that they should expect to get a hit.” Harper constantly acts as if he thinks he should never get out. And to my point, the other night he threw a bat at a wall and it came back and ricoched (ricocheted?) into his head. This was after hamels hit harper, but still, he acts like he should always get a hit.

Sam
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Sam
4 years 2 months ago

“Turbow suggests that Hamels may either have been trying to tame the swagger of a first-place Phillies team”

Yes. That makes sense.

samuelraphael
Member
4 years 2 months ago

Teams should have a designated annoying guy whose job it is to get plunked.

reillocity
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reillocity
4 years 2 months ago

I prefer carrying a Designated Plunker on the roster to a Designated Plunkee. And how old is Eric Plunk now?

philcastle
Member
philcastle
4 years 2 months ago

The Nyger Morgan rule.

Gabriel
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Gabriel
4 years 2 months ago

I could see a few occasions where I might be okay with a beaning — like maybe after a guy spikes a second baseman turning a double play or barrels into a catcher. I don’t really believe in this, but I can see that if the other team puts your guy in physical danger, you might want to retaliate.

But really, things related to “honor” or “personality” just are stupid. I think that’s what bothers people about Hamels — there was no real reason. When Yoenis Cespedes hit a monster homer early in the season and watched it for a few seconds, a bunch of people thought he should be plunked for that. Really? Why? Maybe the pitcher shouldn’t give up a monster homer? And maybe Hamels shouldn’t let Harper steal home and beat him.

reillocity
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reillocity
4 years 2 months ago

We’re sort of conditioned to think that HBPs are less common today since pitchers don’t throw intentionally at batters anymore but today’s HBP rates are as high as ever per historical standards.

Year: HBP%(HBP/PA)
2011: 0.84%
2001: 1.01%
1991: 0.56%
1981: 0.44%
1971: 0.56%
1961: 0.52%
1951: 0.47%
1941: 0.32%
1931: 0.40%
1921: 0.57%

Undoubtedly, there are other factors in play besides a pitcher’s intent to bean that have changed over the course of time: batters’ willingness to take one for the team (and umpires’ tolerance of such), development of helmets and body armor, batters’ crowding of the plate, etc.

Oliver
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Oliver
4 years 2 months ago

2011 is so old school.

Phils_Goodman
Member
Phils_Goodman
4 years 2 months ago

Batters used to stand farther away from the plate, especially before ankle and elbow pads.

Phils_Goodman
Member
Phils_Goodman
4 years 2 months ago

Oops, that comment was redundant. Anyway I think that’s a big factor that makes the data totally skewed.

NYMIKE
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NYMIKE
4 years 2 months ago

the .17% reduction from 2001 is due to Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson no longer pitching lol. Randy Johnson hit 190 batters in his career, knuckballer Wakefield 186, Clemens 159, Pedro 141. Of active pitchers Jamie Moyer 145 in 4,000+ career innings, and here is the odd one Jamie Wright is second with 144 in 1800+ innings, much less innings than all of the others mentioned, but then again Wright’s control is awful too looking at his walk rate.

amgarvey
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amgarvey
4 years 2 months ago

Craig Biggio would get plunked at least three times before he was done with his cereal.

amgarvey
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amgarvey
4 years 2 months ago

285 times in his career.

adohaj
Guest
adohaj
4 years 2 months ago

Jason Kendall 254 in about 4000 less PA

Samuel
Member
Samuel
4 years 2 months ago

Maybe Hamels thought that a two-out, nobody on plunking would have no damage and since it’s a rookie Zimmerman would be likely to retaliate (which he did) which would be better for Phillies. Pitchers intentionally plunking people so they can get on base, +EV. It’s literally genius.

reillocity
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reillocity
4 years 2 months ago

I would suspect that a batter standing in the batter’s box wearing a helmet is probably one of the safest places on the baseball diamond as far as the risk of sustaining a concussion goes. I suppose someone could look up the location and event which led to the last however many diagnosed and reported concussions in MLB to confirm or refute that claim.

chuckb
Member
chuckb
4 years 2 months ago

Ask Dickie Thon how safe standing in the batter’s box, facing a 90 mph fastball, is.

reillocity
Guest
reillocity
4 years 2 months ago

Dangerous? Yes. A location with a significantly elevated risk for sustaining a concussion? Perhaps not.

Bob
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Bob
4 years 2 months ago

Is there any other place on the diamond where someone is intentionally throwing a baseball within inches of you? I suppose catcher is probably at higher risk, due to foul tips, but that’s about it.

KDL
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KDL
4 years 2 months ago

I don’t need to do any of that research for you. But I can tell that there are many, many more ways to be injured when being hit by a pitch than just concussions. So, where we’re talking about injuries sustained by the ball striking a person…at the plate is by far the most dangerous place to be.

Sidenote: If you need proof of the media’s (subtle?) impact on people…let’s talk about concussions. Two years ago 63% of Americans couldn’t spell the word. Now they are (as here) viewed as the ONLY serious injury an athlete can sustain, or (re: Seau and others) a direct cause of suicide. Carzy, right?

D.t.
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D.t.
4 years 2 months ago

We don’t know Seau’s cause of death yet. Some have speculated that his depression was as much of not knowing who he was and what to do without football in his life and the adrenaline rush of playing in front of 100,000 people every Sunday.

YanksFanInBeantown
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YanksFanInBeantown
4 years 2 months ago

When a pitcher is intentionally beaning someone they go for the back. It’s safer to face a malicious pitcher than one who doesn’t know where the ball is going.

jj tri
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jj tri
4 years 2 months ago

It should be noted that when judging most crimes (things that are punished) intent is important. Even in a bar fight it is relevant who threw the first punch. So I am not surprised that Zimmerman was deemed innocent and Hamels deemed very guilty. The problem lies in the delay between the event and the interpretation of intent. If the umpire knew that Hamels intentionally threw at Harper he would have probably and justifably tossed Hamels. Baseball only knew later on that Hamels’ pitch was intentional. At the time the only person the umpire was reasonably sure was intentionally throwing at someone was Zimmerman. It is a fascinating conundrum!

Simon
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Simon
4 years 2 months ago

There’s a significant difference between me punching you, and one second later you punch me back, and someone making a deliberate decision to take revenge at a later stage, as Zimmermann did.

James Gentile
Member
4 years 2 months ago

The difference is I’m super strong and you’re a wimp.

Also, mt dad could beat up your dad.

Fraggle
Guest
Fraggle
4 years 2 months ago

There is a distinct difference between headhunting and intentionally beaning a guy. This was the later. Headhunting is what Jared Weaver did last year and got immediately ejected. If Hamel’s had malicious intent he would have put one in his earpiece. Hamel’s was not intending to hurt or injure Harper but to send a message.

Aaron (UK)
Member
Aaron (UK)
4 years 2 months ago

Erm, he was intending to hit him, and I’m pretty sure it hurt.

Fraggle
Guest
Fraggle
4 years 2 months ago

There is a difference between injury and pain. I was using the term hurt in the sense of causing injury to, which is why I encompassed the word “injure.” I did not mean hurt as in to cause pain. There is a big difference between the two.

Sam Samson
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Sam Samson
4 years 2 months ago

Thanks for the clarification about what you meant, but of course what you said was “Hamel’s [sic] was not intending to hurt or injure Harper but to send a message.”

In fact he was trying to send a message by hurting him, though probably not directly intending to cause a serious injury, given where he aimed on Harper’s body. Next time he wants to send a message, he should probably stick to USPS.

David K
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David K
4 years 2 months ago

“Next time he wants to send a message, he should probably stick to USPS.”

Now THAT’s really “old school”. E-mail or text would be much more hip!

Will
Guest
Will
4 years 2 months ago

Chase Utley missed a big chunk of a season after “harmlessly” getting hit in the hand. John Lannan had no intention of hurting Utley either.

It’s silly to say that a guy won’t get hurt as long as you don’t throw it at his head. That’s ridiculous and stupid.

Fraggle
Guest
Fraggle
4 years 2 months ago

Well it’s a good thing I never said that then I guess, but glad you thought the statement I didn’t make was stupid. Also, big difference between the hand and the middle of the back. Bryce Harper did not get hit in the hand, he got hit square in the middle of his back. Getting hit in the hand usually leads to an injury because of the the number of bones and lack of padding to absorb the blow.

The point I was originally making is that there is a distinction between purposefully trying to injure someone and simply planting a pitch in the middle of someones back. Giving someone a stinger and a bruise in the back is different then aiming for the hand, head, or ankle. Mike Rizzo in his statement said that what Hamel’s did was akin to bountygate with the Saints and needed to be cracked down upon. The Saints tried to purposefully injure players and take them out of the game. Hamel’s did not try to injure Harper and it is not a fair comparison.

Alex originally asked is it ever appropriate to hit someone? I do not think it is ever appropriate to head hunt and try to injure someone. However, I think that throwing at players to make a point is perfectly acceptable. In order to discuss the issue this distinction needs to be made and it goes towards intent.

JoeC
Guest
JoeC
4 years 2 months ago

Fraggle, I hereby nominate you to receive a 90mph fastball to the middle of the back. Let’s see whether or not there’s enough “padding” back there and you’re not hurt for a month (or even permanently).

Throwing at people is cowardly. You want to “get back at me” for something I did? Then strike me out.

alexeth
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alexeth
4 years 2 months ago

Is it really beaning if in the back?

Long conversation by local broadcast crew how “kids” today don’t know baseball terminology with long list of examples. One principle one was that “bean” (beaned, bean-ball, etc) meant to the head. Other things for the body (plunk, etc.).

a nit.

David K
Guest
David K
4 years 2 months ago

I was hit in the back in LITTLE LEAGUE, where the pitchers were probably thowing at HALF the speed as major leaguers (granted a bit closer though), and it hit one of the bones in my spine and I felt the effects for several months afterwards. A 90+ mph pitch hitting the right (or wrong) bone in the spine can probably be pretty serious. What kind of “message” would that be?

jake
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jake
4 years 2 months ago

Am I the only one wondering when Hamels adopted this ” old school ” mentality? Does it apply to all rookies or just hyped rookies? Did he bean Jason Heyward in his rookie year? Does he intend to bean Brandon Belt and other rookies this year? And does Hamels think that Harper should be beaned all season by anyone that shares his “old school” mentality? Hamels is a joke.

Samuel
Member
Samuel
4 years 2 months ago

lol Hamels is left-handed

Samuel
Member
Samuel
4 years 2 months ago

So he couldn’t hit Belt.

yung money holla wat it dew
Guest
yung money holla wat it dew
4 years 2 months ago

wat

Sam Samson
Guest
Sam Samson
4 years 2 months ago

Presuming he means Belt won’t get to hit against a lefty like Hamels.

NBarnes
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NBarnes
4 years 2 months ago

Among the things I dislike here is thing; Hamels is freaking 28. Who appointed a 28-year-old the guardian of baseball traditions? If someone needs to haze a rookie, get Jamie Moyer to do it or something. Who the hell thinks Cole Hamels has been around long enough to speak for players who have a decade on him?

Vito
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Vito
4 years 2 months ago

Hamels is a pimp. He never could have beaned Harper. But I didn’t know until this day that it was Halladay all along.

David K
Guest
David K
4 years 2 months ago

Jamie Moyer’s 70mph fastball wouldn’t have been enough of a message for Hamels. He felt he had to deliver the message himself. But you’re right that it does seem a bit funny that a 28 year old is the one that’s making himself out to be the guardian of “old school” baseball.

roadawg
Member
roadawg
4 years 2 months ago

What cracks me up is that the media and fans seem to care more than the players involved. Harper took it like a man and ran to first.

Hamels had the “payback” pitch thrown at his knees and also took it like a man and ran to first, without even a glance at Zimmerman.

The only argument to support the fans/media that side with Harper on this one is that you just can’t admit you hit someone. Hit me all you want, just don’t admit it.

Because if that wasn’t true then everyone would be all over Zimmerman too.

So now the argument is simply admitting it. Got it. I’ll be sure to pay no more attention to this media/fan over reaction.

I would rather side with the instigating pinpoint pitcher who clearly aimed at his butt and missed by 3″, then the guy who retaliates with a pitch to the knees. One is worse than the other, most people just seem to have it backwards. They both meant to do it, only one was malicious and retaliatory, while the other was no doubt childish and uncalled for, but for the most part harmless with the area he got it.

Please don’t say he got hit in the spine because he didn’t.

RobBob
Guest
RobBob
4 years 2 months ago

Oh, I’m sure Harper cared. I’m also sure that Harper has been told in no uncertain terms that his stay in the Majors is dependent on him riding a very straight and narrow path. So he said nothing, but he let his displeasure be known by his subsequent aggressive (and impressive) baserunning. In addition, Zimmermann also demonstrated he cared, and he did so on behalf of the entire team. Finally, don’t kid yourself into thinking this event is all over in the minds of the the players…

Hurtlockertwo
Guest
Hurtlockertwo
4 years 2 months ago

First, I never thought that getting hit by a pitch and getting beaned were the exact same thing. Getting beaned used to mean getting hit in the head only.
Second, isn’t the fear of getting hit part of baseball?? Why would we pay so much attention to velocity if that ball getting away wasn’t part of the equation?
The pitcher has the ability at any time to pitch inside to get a guy off the plate, he can also plunk him if that is part of the game. If he admits it he is just dumb because it has been done a 1,000 times before, so Hamels is maybe not the smartest guy to play. (or the most honest) Only one guy in the history of MLB baseball has been killed by a pitch (a number bad injuries of course have happened too) but I seriously doubt those pitchers were throwing at the hitter intentionally. Too much over reaction in my view.

David K
Guest
David K
4 years 2 months ago

“Why would we pay so much attention to velocity if that ball getting away wasn’t part of the equation?”

I can think of LOTS of reasons to pay attention to velocity, most of which is a predictor of a pitcher’s ability to get a batter OUT, not put him on base with a HBP.

henry
Guest
henry
4 years 2 months ago

I get his point though. Part of the reason why 99 mph pitchers make it to the major leagues is because it’s flat out scary to face them for fear of getting hit.

Tom B
Guest
Tom B
4 years 2 months ago

Let’s see, this could have been summed up thusly:

1: Cole Hamels was a pitcher in a baseball game.
2: Bryce Harper was a batter in a baseball game.

My conclusion: Yes, this hit batter was justified.

Anon
Guest
Anon
4 years 2 months ago

if the batter leans into one, the umpire should call it a ball or strike and continue the at-bat

This.

Tom B
Guest
Tom B
4 years 2 months ago

The rule is that the batter has to make an attempt to avoid the pitch… but if the umps knew the rules, baseball would be awesome!

Wendy Thurm
Member
Member
4 years 2 months ago

I think you undersold the comments by many condemning what Hamels did and what he said, including Tigers manager Jim Leyland, as “old school” as they come. Perhaps it’s a self-selection bias, but most of the baseball writers, analysts and bloggers I follow think what Hamels did was wrong and that MLB rules should be changed to get much more substantially penalize intentionally hitting a batter. I favor that approach, as I wrote here a few weeks ago.

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/its-time-to-end-beanball-once-and-for-all/

With everything we know about concussions and other potentially career-ending injuries, baseball simply can’t stick to the “it’s always been done this way” principle.

Rich Mahogany
Guest
Rich Mahogany
4 years 2 months ago

The only unwritten rule that clearly exists in this situation is that you don’t talk yourself up. Hamels broke that rule by saying that he hit Harper to do things the “old school,” “prestigious” way. That’s why Rizzo flew off the handle and the issue sits so badly with observers like Ripken. Saying “I’m old school” is the best way to prove you aren’t.

Bob
Guest
Bob
4 years 2 months ago

Since Cole Hamels is so old school, I wonder where he works in the off season? Could be the local supermarket, maybe the milk delivery man…

Gadwin
Member
Gadwin
4 years 2 months ago

What I don’t get is why you mentioned the Saints’ offensive line. OL don’t dole out that much punishment relative to the rest of the players, and nobody on the offense was involved in the scandal.

divx
Guest
divx
4 years 2 months ago

I dunno, but I bet Raylan would

Transmission
Guest
Transmission
4 years 2 months ago

“Obviously, a 90-mile an hour fastball can’t do as much damage as the Saints’ offensive line”

Ray Chapman, Dickie Thon, Tony Conigliaro, Kirby Puckett and Anthony Molina all say hi.

bstar
Guest
bstar
4 years 2 months ago

Don Zimmer was also done as a hitter after two really bad beanings in his career.

L.UZR
Guest
L.UZR
4 years 2 months ago

And as a manager after the Pedro beaning.

YanksFanInBeantown
Guest
YanksFanInBeantown
4 years 2 months ago

They also all say: “I wish that the pitcher had been actually trying to hit me during that at bat, because a ball between the numbers doesn’t cause a career ending injury”

Hurtlockertwo
Guest
Hurtlockertwo
4 years 2 months ago

If you have played the game you know there is fear associated with a hard baseball winging by you (often less than two feet away as a strike) at 90MPH.
Pitchers have always “moved batters feet”, “moved batters off the plate” and other ways of getting that batter out. When players have been hit in the head it is always (I hope) an accident. Sending a message is part of baseball, this isn’t a slow pitch softball game where you swill beer between innings. Heck you could tear up your knee shagging flies before the game (deja vu), making a huge deal out of this is silly.

Uncle Remus
Guest
Uncle Remus
4 years 2 months ago

What if it wasnt Hammels, but Mariano Rivera and Trout?

Bob
Guest
Bob
4 years 2 months ago

Rivera has been a class act throughout his career. I doubt that is going to change at this point.

gabriel
Guest
gabriel
4 years 2 months ago

In answer to the title question, there really are two justifications for hitting an opposing batter: protection and honour. The first retaliates for unprovoked plunkings from the opposing team (and spikings and unnecessary collisions at home plate). The second more debateable, but would encompass hitting players who have egregiously violated the tenets of good sportsmanship. The standard for the second should be pretty high (if Alex Rodriguez had gotten away with slapping the ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s glove would qualify for me).

These principles only encompass throwing at an opposing batters’ body – throwing at an opposing batter’s head really cannot be justified.

NBarnes
Guest
NBarnes
4 years 2 months ago

I always thought that blatantly throwing behind someone is a lot classier than actually hitting them. It’s a polite reminder that ‘Hi, I could hit you with a 92 mile an hour four seam fastball. Be polite,’ as opposed to actually feeling the need to hurt someone.

timtebow
Guest
timtebow
4 years 2 months ago

Hamels intentionally hit Harper, told the truth, and was suspended for five games. Zimmermann intentionally hit Hamels, lied about it, and received no penalty. The only thing we learn from this is that saying you hit someone is illegal, and nothing else.

Simon
Guest
Simon
4 years 2 months ago

We also learned that MLB don’t really care, given that Hamels was suspended for five games, which just means that Halladay starts on normal rest and Hamels is back one day later than he would otherwise have pitched. That, plus the usual token fine, is hardly a deterrent.

philosofool
Member
Member
philosofool
4 years 2 months ago

The other difference is that Zimmerman retaliated for a transgression. Hamels didn’t plunk Harper for any ordinary baseball reason. Hitting people for things they did on the field that day has been a part of baseball, perhaps regrettably, forever. Plunking guys for things they did before they were even in major league baseball never has been.

Jason H
Guest
Jason H
4 years 2 months ago

One of my favorite hit by pitches ever was done by Jamie Moyer. I can’t remember the year, but since it was Jamie Moyer it was sometime over the last 50 years. …anyway, Crazy Carl Everett was batting. Crazy Carl used to actually stand on the plate. He would scratch out the batters box if it was still there then put the toe of his front foot pretty well on the plate. Moyer complained to the umpire that Crazy was not in the batter’s box. Carl threw a fit and refused to move. Moyer said “fine” and immediately plunked him with a 47 mph heater right in the shoulder. I loved it!

…unfortunately Crazy Carl got his revenge later in the game by hitting a homer of Moyer. As Carl was settling in on top of the plate for his next at bat I was yelling “hit him again! hit him again!” ….but alas, a homerun.

monkey business
Member
monkey business
4 years 2 months ago

Even I could dodge at 47 MPH baseball. If a pitcher throws it at you that slow and you still get hit, you have it coming.

Jason H
Guest
Jason H
4 years 2 months ago

Well, to be fair, in those days, Moyer threw a little harder than he does now. So it was probably in the sixties.

David K
Guest
David K
4 years 2 months ago

I’m not sure that a ball thrown at 47mph would even be able to reach home plate!

The Real Neal
Guest
The Real Neal
4 years 2 months ago

Unless they changed the rules, if you’re foot is on the plate when the pitch is thrown it’s an automatic out.

monkey business
Member
monkey business
4 years 2 months ago

Except that umpires pick and choose rules.

Jason H
Guest
Jason H
4 years 2 months ago

You might be taking things a little too literal.

Here is some footage I found of Carl Everett at the plate. This is actually another of my poor Carl Everett memories. Here Everett breaks up Mike Mussina’s perfect game with two outs in the ninth.

http://wn.com/Carl_Everett

You can see that Everett places his front foot about 3 inches off the corner of the plate. I’ve never seen another player stand closer than Crazy Carl.

Everett was, in many ways, the quintessential Redsox player. Quite talented, but just a dreadful human being that always played the villain.

The Real Neal
Guest
The Real Neal
4 years 2 months ago

I’m taking “Crazy Carl used to actually stand on the plate.” too literally, eh? When you throw in a word like “actually” or “literally” or “really” in the English language, the intent is to preclude your statement from being taken as hyperbole or exageration.

monkey business
Member
monkey business
4 years 2 months ago

Yeah, but you don’t need the chalk to know he is not in the box there. Notably, he does have that Harper like raise of the foot during the pitch that moves the more offending front foot way off the plate before the ball actually arrives.

Antonio Bananas
Guest
Antonio Bananas
4 years 2 months ago

ah the good ol days when the Red Sox actually were more of a blue collar team and frat boys didn’t wear their hats. Shame that a once great fanbase has turned into a bunch of diet yankee fans.

TheGrandslamwich
Member
TheGrandslamwich
4 years 2 months ago

This is just hazing the rookie. While I agree it was uncalled for and foolish (even more so admitting it was intentional), there was no apparent malice behind it. Hamels hit Harper in basically the best place to possibly be hit. Harper got his revenge by scoring and then Hamels being deservedly hit in return. It’s annoying how blown out of proportion this has become.

Bob
Guest
Bob
4 years 2 months ago

That wasn’t “old school”, it was elementary school.

If Harper had showed up Hamels or any other member of the Phillies or mouthed off about them publicly ahead of that AB then I would have said plunk him, but he did none of those things.

The big difference between what Hamels did and what Zimmerman did is that Zimmerman was actually acting like a baseball player. He was defending a teammate. Hamels had zero cause for what he did.

Keith
Guest
Keith
4 years 2 months ago

So, a 28-year-old multi-millionaire that won’t even pitch 200 innings this year deliberately hits a 19-year-old multi-millionaire because he’s a rookie, and this is somehow “old school” baseball?! Really?! Seriously?!

Johnny Come Lately
Guest
Johnny Come Lately
4 years 2 months ago

Why would he not pitch 200 innings this year?

moose
Guest
moose
4 years 2 months ago

Why does HBP matter, they don’t even put it on the scoreboard?!?!

jarrodc
Member
jarrodc
4 years 2 months ago

Can everyone say “storm in a teacup”.

Personally I think it is refreshing that Hamels came out and said “yep, I hit him on purpose”. Let’s be honest, a large majority of plunkings are intentional but now Hamels is public enemy #1 because he admitted it.

He hit Harper as a welcome to the bigs, Zimmerman defended his team mate by hitting Hamels, end of story.

Also, there is probably no need for the word provoked in this sentence. *”The commissioner could consider an intentional, unprovoked beanball the equivalent of a “dangerous play.””*

Jeff Mathis does steroids
Guest
Jeff Mathis does steroids
4 years 2 months ago

“…then he will need to instruct the umpires to do a much better job of enforcing the rule that says that batters must make an effort to get out of the way…”

While this is true, I think the priority #1 should be, as it has been the past 150 years, figuring out exactly what a balk is.

Sam Samson
Guest
Sam Samson
4 years 2 months ago

Perhaps Harper provoked it by walking on his mound, or something.

bkgeneral
Member
Member
bkgeneral
4 years 2 months ago

I would have plunked Harper for the flipping off his helmet move on his first double. D-baggery level 1,000,000

kid
Member
kid
4 years 2 months ago

Intentional violence for the sake of violence shouldn’t be tolerated. In other examples of contact in baseball – runner trying to slide into a 2B/SS or a runner colliding with the catcher at the plate – the runner is actually trying to accomplish a baseball-related task, disrupting a throw to 1B and trying to knock a ball out of the catcher’s hand, respectively. Are these always the “cleanest” plays? Certainly not, as there are instances of runners going in spikes-up or the runner trying to annihilate a catcher. But the intentions of both can be justified as they serve a purpose for advancing their teams’ chances of getting on-base, advancing runners, scoring, etc. In the case of throwing at a batter, it is purely an intimidation/punishment/retaliation move. There is no “baseball” reason for it, other than the (apparently) time-honored tradition of a pitcher letting a hitter know where they stand. Should be simple – hitting a batter with a ball results in immediate ejection, followed by a probable suspension. As somebody said earlier, if a pitcher really wants to make a point, throw high and inside, or behind – The hitter will get the point.

In Harper’s case it sounds like he didn’t do anything at all to deserve the beaning. And Hamels comes out of this sounding like a playground bully who walks up and punches the new kid for no good reason. Kudos to Harper for handling it coolly.

The Real Neal
Guest
The Real Neal
4 years 2 months ago

Sorry, but throwing at a batter to make him less comfortable in the box, can have a beneficial affect for your team. It may not be beneficial right then, but if it lower his OPB by .040 for his career, that would probably help the Phillies a lot.

Tim
Guest
Tim
4 years 2 months ago

There’s a typo in the last sentence, and I generally think the Saints’ linebackers would be the ones doing the most damage, but otherwise, this was a tremendous read.

kick me in the GO NATS
Guest
kick me in the GO NATS
4 years 2 months ago

I think that it should be a standard rule that when a pitcher hits his second batter in a game he is immediately pulled from the game. No questions asked. That way if a pitcher intentionally hits anyone then he is running the risk of making a mistake that gets him pulled.

Johnny Come Lately
Guest
Johnny Come Lately
4 years 2 months ago

I have no idea why Hamels thought hitting Harper unprovoked was a good thing to do. As many throughout the game have said, there’s nothing “old school” about plunking someone just because.

However, I’m extremely pleased with Harper’s reaction to the whole incident. Not once did he complain or even acknowledge that he was unhappy. He took his base, scored that inning (by stealing home no less), and later said that he thought Hamels pitched a great game. That takes some serious class to do that, and I doubt there are more than a handful of players in baseball that could have pulled that off with such class, let alone a rookie that’s still a teenager and had been in the bigs for only a week.

Good job Bryce. You have made me an instant fan of yours.

The Real Neal
Guest
The Real Neal
4 years 2 months ago

My take on Hamel’s statement was that it was more of a protest to MLB in general and the umpires in specific that this kid was given “The Jordan Rules” from Day 1, while 99% of other players have to deal with the real strike zone or even a less favorable one when they come up to the bigs.

I’d love to see some pitch/FX data on whether the umps are already squeezing the pitchers on Harper’s at bats. I’d wager they are.

The Real Neal
Guest
The Real Neal
4 years 2 months ago

Well, according to this guy’s data, Harper gets 9 strikes called for balls for every ball out of the zone called a strike. La Hair, by comparsion is 2.5 to 1.

http://joelefkowitz.com/pitch.php

Not to say that Hamels went about it the right way, but if that is his beef, he’s got a pretty damned good one.

Randy Bobandy
Guest
Randy Bobandy
4 years 2 months ago

It’s justified when Cole Hamels says so! That’s when.

Kyle
Guest
Kyle
4 years 2 months ago

If he shows up one of your teammates, starts a fight, provokes something or even hits a few bombs off you while admiring their distance.

And many old school pitchers who were known as “nails” or “scary” would peg many hitters.

Randy Johnson led the league more than once and had 11 seasons where he beaned at least 10 guys.
Don Drysdale – 10 times while leading the league 5 times.
Nolan Ryan – 3 times, led the league once
Pedro Martinez – 6 times, led the league once
Walter Johnson- 9 times, led the league twice
Bob Gibson- 4 times
Greg Maddux – 2 times, led the league once
Cy Young – 4 times
Jim Bunning – 9 times, led the league four times
Roger Clemens – 4 times, led the league once

So really… what does Cal Ripken mean when he says it’s not old school? Pegging a guy for no reason other than being a douche rookie is sorta bush league but it’s like the NBA where you get fouled hard if you’re the next big thing the first time you drive. Hamels isn’t old school obviously but the Phillies have sucked and the Nationals haven’t. Maybe he thought it might motivate his club(or maybe he’s just an idiot.)

vivalajeter
Guest
vivalajeter
4 years 2 months ago

See what Harper pulled last night? He went 0-5 with 3 K’s, and took his frustration out by slamming a bat into a wall. The bat broke, came back at him, and gave him a gash near his eye.

The Nats won 7-3.

Talk about an “it’s all about me!” player.

Vaughn
Guest
4 years 2 months ago

I’m a big Bryce supporter, but how has he performed since being hit on no longer hanging out over the plate to cover any outside pitches. Not too productive with something to think about.

MOST RECENT GAMES
DATE OPP H/AB R HR RBI SB
5/12 @Cin 0/4 0 0 0 0
5/11 @Cin 0/5 0 0 0 0
5/10 @Pit 1/4 0 0 0 0
5/9 @Pit 0/4 1 0 0 0
5/8 @Pit 1/4 1 0 0 0
5/6 Phi 2/3 1 0 0 1

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