I don’t really know the answer to that question, this is just an attempt to figure it out.
I was thinking of writing this post (as well as many others that didn’t make it) but hesitated, until I saw that Hamels has been given a five game suspension, forcing the Phillies to re-work their rotation to give Hamels an extra day of rest. Not a terrible punishment, for something not very terrible: admitting that he threw at Nationals teen phenom Bryce Harper. Some people believe that this is a bad thing. Let me explain the other side of it….
1. Bryce Harper was not hurt, and it wasn’t likely that he would be. Many other players who have been hit were not hurt as well; I’ve never heard of any player suffering an injury because they were hit by a pitch. It may have happened, and I understand that it realistically can happen, but….i’ve never heard it happen before, so I don’t need people crying about Bryce getting hurt.
2. It is an in-game strategy. Just like putting on a hit-and-run, or stacking three infielders on one side of the diamond, you sometimes hit a player, and its purpose is mainly emotional. You can hit a guy instead of walking him if you want him away from the plate. There are many reasons to hit a guy that Cole Hamels didn’t care for, he only had one reason:
3. It sends a message. Sometimes a pitch will get away and hit someone. That happens. But when a pitcher hits a guy (it’s not hard to differentiate the two), it always hits with a message. Sometimes it’s “stop crowding the plate” or “I don’t like that your pitcher hit my player”. This time, it was obvious, and Werth even said it: “Welcome to the big leagues, rookie.”
He could have said “This isn’t your league, rookie” or “Remember, this is still my mound, rookie”. But he hit the kid with a little bit of respectful bullying. This kind of thing is what baseball seems to be losing, and what Cole Hamels seems to want to keep in the game.
It appears that the class system affects Major League Baseball. Some guys rise above it, but it’s not hard to believe that the higher-paid guys don’t hang out with the AAAA bench players, and that the highly-publicized players stand above those random fellas filling out rosters. A young guy like Harper represents a new generation of swag-happy ballplayers that could soon be dominating the Major Leagues. To hit the guy, and get the attention that this silliness has garnered, sends a message: “This is the major leagues, no matter who you are.” It’s a simple initiation, and a quick reminder that you are in a whole new ballgame.
Of course, Bryce then made it third and stole home. So maybe the swag is here to stay.