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.