The MLB Punishment System is Not Doing Enough


Just last week, I stated how impressed I was with how MLB handled the Delmon Young situation.  The punishment handed out seemed to fit the crime, considering precedent.  Apparently my praise went to their heads, based on how they handled Cole Hamels punishment.

Stephanie Metzger did a great job of breaking down the Cole Hamels-Bryce Harper situation yesterday, but I do have one point of contention with her.  She stated that “A five-game suspension may sound excessive” with regard to the penalty that Hamels received.  I cannot disagree strongly enough with that thought.

At the very worst, a five-game suspension is one missed start for Hamels, and in this instance, it won’t result in that, even.  What it will do is give Hamels an extra day of rest for his next start, and there is no affect on  the Phillies rotation, either, because they get Cliff Lee back tonight.  Which means that Hamels received no punishment for intentionally hitting a player, and then admitting that he hit that player in a post-game interview.

Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland has come out and said that he thinks that Hamels should have been suspended for 15 games, and I think that is more in line with the crime.  At that point, Hamels actually misses game action, and maybe that affects the Phillies rotation, or it has an affect on them in the standings.  I think that it still would be a little light, but there is no chance of a five-start (25 game) penalty being doled out, so 15 games could have been a happy medium.

There are those who have argued that this story is only a big deal because it’s Bryce Harper that was hit by the pitch.  That’s a little bit like saying water is only wet because it’s a liquid.  Of course it’s a big deal that Hamels hit Harper.  If that had been Che-Hsuan Lin or Dee Gordon in the box, Hamels wouldn’t throw at him.  In fact, I don’t recall Hamels ever throwing at another rookie simply because that player was a rookie (or at least, he never copped to it before.)  He threw at Bryce Harper because he is Bryce Harper.

The penalty should be increased not because it was Bryce Harper that was hit by the pitch, but because Hamels targeted a specific player without cause.  This wasn’t old-school baseball as Hamels has stated.  It was simply petty jealousy.  Hamels clearly doesn’t like the fact that Harper has received a lot (and so far, it’s well-deserved) of publicity, so he took it in to his own hands to mete out a penalty on Harper.  Or perhaps he doen’t like the fact that the Phillies are holding down last place in the N.L. East, while the Nationals are in first.

It really doesn’t matter the reason, and it almost doesn’t matter that he threw at Harper intentionally.  Except.  He wasn’t content to simply plunk Harper and play it off like it was an accident.  The message still would have been sent, everyone would have understood what happened, and we could have all forgot about this story right away.  Unfortunately, he didn’t have the baseball sense to stay quiet and chose to admit that he did it on purpose.  In so doing, Hamels chose to create a story where there didn’t need to be one.  If he dares be so bold, then MLB should have responded in kind with its punishment.

The bigger problem this causes is the far-ranging effects that will be felt going forward, as the precedent has now been set that a starting pitcher can intentionally throw at a batter, admit to it, and not worry about missing a game.  MLB had a chance to send a statement that this type of action would not be tolerated, and in typical fashion, they turtled.



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