I was as suprirsed as anybody when Cole Hamels came right out and admitted that he hit Nationals phenom Bryce Harper on purpose last night. Most times, a pitcher will deny intent, even if it is in winking manner. As you can read on the Inquirer's blog, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo labeled the action "gutless," which clearly it wasn't, since Hamels plunked Harper knowing full well that he might end up getting hit with a pitch in retaliation. He did end up getting hit with a pitch, although Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmermann said it wasn't his intent to do so (which makes sense, since hitting Hamels moved a runner into scoring position with one out when Hamels was content to give up an out to bunt said runner over).
I know some people think that hitting batters with pitches is an archaic tradition that has no place in the sport, but I'm not sure I agree with that. The way I see it, the practice is the equivalent of fighting in hockey, a way for players to police the game themselves when they feel an opponent is not playing it the way it should be played. It might not be a coincidence, then, that you see more showboating in sports that do not have such means of self-policing (soccer, basketball, arguably football).
That's Charlie Manuel's viewpoint too. The manager just wishes his pitcher would be a little more discreet when discussing his motives.
"I wish he'd been a little bit more, what do you call it, not so honest, or dishonest, or discreet, that might be the right word," Manuel said in a radio appearance with Michael Barkann and Rob Ellis on 94.1/610 WIP today. "What I saw was the next time up Hamels came up to bat they definitely retaliated, he got hit on the calf, and he could have got hurt. If the guy would have hit him hard on the bone part of his leg, that could have hurt. . .I like to think it was dropped right there and the rest of it will be done baseball wise."
Manuel was asked if he thinks that Hamels will be suspended.
"I hope not," Manuel said.
Manuel reiterated what he said last night, that he initially did not think Hamels intentionally hit Harper, who ended up going first to third on a single and then stealing home on a pickoff play to first.
"When he hit him, I actually thought he was trying to throw the ball inside on him," Manuel said. "He was trying to throw it up and in and it him. He got on and he ended up scoring, he did a good piece of baserunning. He showed a lot of guts. He kind of challenged him. I kind of took that as him sending a message to us."