Back in 2012, then-Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper was just a rookie while then-Phillies starter Cole Hamels was in his seventh season. Harper, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft, had a reputation for being arrogant. That, perhaps, had something to do with a 2009 Sports Illustrated feature comparing him to LeBron James. Accurate or not, Harper and all the hype surrounding him rubbed some players the wrong way. Hamels was one of them.
Harper debuted in the majors on April 28, 2012 against the Dodgers. He played the Phillies not long after, facing Hamels on May 6. In Harper’s first at-bat against Hamels, in the bottom of the first inning, Hamels hit him with a first-pitch fastball. Harper advanced to third base on a Jayson Werth single. Then, in true Harper fashion, he stole home to give the Nationals a 1-0 lead. He would add a single and a double in his next three at-bats as well.
After the game, Hamels admitted to throwing at Harper intentionally, something players almost never do. “I was trying to hit him. I’m not going to deny it,” he said. Hamels was suspended five games for his actions. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo called Hamels “fake tough.” While the Hamels-Harper incident had all the makings of stirring a rivalry, 2012 was the last season in which the Phillies finished .500 or better. The Nationals reached the playoffs four times since 2012, finishing above .500 in all seven seasons.
All these years later, Harper is a Phillie after signing a 13-year, $330 million contract. Charlie Manuel, who managed the team until near the end of the 2013 season, now works as a senior advisor to general manager Matt Klentak. That 2012 incident was still on Manuel mind, apparently. Prior to Saturday afternoon’s press conference in which Harper was introduced as a Phillie, Manuel said, via The Athletic’s Matt Gelb, “I told [Harper] I didn’t tell Hamels to hit him.”
We finally have closure, almost seven years after the fact.