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.

Noah Syndergaard on Mets extending Jacob deGrom: ‘Pay the man already.’

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March has marked contract extension season across Major League Baseball. Just in the last week, we have seen Justin Verlander, Chris Sale, Brandon Lowe, Alex Bregman, Ryan Pressly, Mike Trout, Eloy Jiménez, Blake Snell, and Paul Goldschmidt sign extensions. Nolan Arenado, Luis Severino, and Aaron Nola also notably signed extensions during the offseason.

One name strikingly absent from that list: Mets ace Jacob deGrom. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner is coming off of a season in which he posted a 1.70 ERA with 269 strikeouts and 46 walks across 217 innings. It’s the lowest ERA by a qualified starter since Zack Greinke‘s 1.66 in 2015. Prior to Greinke, no pitcher had posted an ERA of 1.70 or lower since Greg Maddux in 1994-95 (1.56, 1.63).

deGrom is earning $17 million this season and will enter his fourth and final year of arbitration eligibility going into the 2020 season. He will turn 31 years old in June, but is an obvious extension candidate for the Mets, who have built arguably their most competitive team since 2015, when the club lost the World Series in five games to the Royals. Thus far, though, the Mets and deGrom haven’t been able to get anywhere in extension talks.

deGrom’s rotation mate Noah Syndergaard is watching. Per MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, Syndergaard said, “I think Jake’s the best pitcher in baseball right now. I think he deserves whatever amount he’s worth. I want them to keep him happy so when it does come time for him to reach free agency, he stays on our side pitching for the Mets. I just think they should quit all the fuss and pay the man already.”

Syndergaard added that the recent extension trend around baseball — and deGrom’s lack of an extension to date — sends a message. He said, “I think so, yes, because of what you see in what’s going on in baseball right now. If there wasn’t a trend of other guys getting contract extensions, then I don’t know what the circumstance would be. But you see Chris Sale, Verlander getting extensions. I think it’s time Jacob gets one too.”

Part of the equation behind the recent rash of extensions is the stagnation of free agency. Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel — two of baseball’s better pitchers — have gone through almost an entire spring training without being signed. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado didn’t find new homes until late February. Free agents in their 30’s are largely being underpaid or otherwise forgotten about. Extensions represent financial security for young and old players alike. Syndergaard himself can become a free agent after the 2021 season, so if deGrom’s prospects improve, then so too will his, at least without knowing the details of the next collective bargaining agreement which will be put into place ahead of the 2022 season.