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There’s no excuse for Cole Hamels intentionally throwing at Bryce Harper

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As we saw last night, Cole Hamels admitted that he threw at and hit Bryce Harper intentionally. Harper being young, brash and, in Hamels’ mind anyway, pampered was his motivation. “Old school baseball,” was his defense.  But no matter how he rationalizes it, it’s low rent and pathetic.

Hamels says that he wasn’t trying to injure Harper.  But it was a 92 mile per hour fastball, and I’m sorry, no matter what your intentions, a 92 mile per hour fastball has the potential to do serious damage to a person. Obviously he did not injure Harper, but he very easily could have, his intentions notwithstanding.

What if Harper turns a little late or a little early and it breaks his wrist? What if the ball gets away from Hamels ever so slightly and runs towards Harper’s head? It doesn’t matter that neither of those things happened. When a hard-throwing pitcher intentionally aims a baseball at batter, he is acting recklessly and, in my view, maliciously, and that has no place in baseball.

And spare me your “it has always been thus” arguments. Just because something is a tradition doesn’t make it right. People have had their careers ended by thrown baseballs before.  A couple have even been killed. We decry cheapshots and intentional efforts to harm opponents in every other sport. We should feel no differently about it in baseball. And I defy anyone to give me a justification for doing so that does not rest on the “it has always been this way” defense. A bad act is a bad act no matter how many people have perpetrated it in the past.

Hit batsmen are a part of the game, regrettably. But there is no excuse for intentionally hitting anyone. Even Bryce Harper.

Athletics trade Billy Burns to the Royals for Brett Eibner

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 13: Billy Burns #1 of the Oakland Athletics waits on deck to bat during the fourth inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 13, 2016 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.

Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.

Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.

Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.

Nationals acquire closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 20:  Mark Melancon #35 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches during the ninth inning against the Colorado Rockies on May 20, 2016 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
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The Nationals announced on Saturday afternoon that the club acquired closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates in exchange for reliever Felipe Rivero and minor league pitcher Taylor Hearn.

Melancon, 31, put together another solid season for the Pirates, leaving the club with 30 saves, a 1.51 ERA, and a 38/9 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings. He led the majors last season with 51 saves and has a 1.80 ERA since joining the Pirates in 2013. Melancon is earning $9.65 million this season and can become eligible for free agency after the season.

With Melancon out of the picture, the Pirates intend to have Tony Watson take over the closer’s role.

Rivero, 25, has handled the seventh and eighth innings for the Nationals this season, compiling a 4.53 ERA and a 53/15 K/BB ratio in 49 2/3 innings. He’s just shy of one year of service time, so the Pirates will have control of him for a long time.

Hearn, 21, was rated the Nationals’ 27th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. He was originally drafted by the Pirates in the 22nd round of the 2012 draft but he didn’t sign and ended up going back to college. The Nationals took him in the fifth round of last year’s draft. This season, between rookie ball and Single-A Hagerstown, Hearn put up a 2.79 ERA and a 39/13 K/BB ratio in 29 innings. He’s a long way away from the majors, so he’s essentially a lottery ticket for the Pirates.

The Nationals needed an upgrade at closer as Jonathan Papelbon has struggled this season. The right-hander has allowed runs in each of his last three appearances, ballooning his ERA up to 4.41 with a 30/13 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings. It will be interesting to see how Papelbon, who has never made a habit of letting his feelings go unspoken, handles a demotion to the eighth inning.