Baseball is a game of unwritten rules. Don’t steal bases when you have a big lead. Don’t bunt to break up a no-hitter. Retaliate when one of your teammates is hit by a pitch. It is understood that once you get to The Show, you abide by these rules. There is no need to speak of them to the media, to your teammates, or to anyone else, for that matter. This is what made Cole Hamels’ recent admission to intentionally plunking rookie phenom Bryce Harper all the more alarming.
In the first inning of Philadelphia’s 9-3 win against the Washington Nationals on May 6, Hamels fired a fastball at Harper, hitting him in the small of the back. Nothing was said, and no one reacted. When Hamels came up to bat in the third inning, he was hit by Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmerman. Once again, nothing was said, and Hamels took his base. This common baseball occurrence became controversial after the game when Hamels candidly admitted “I was trying to hit him. I wanted to welcome him to the major leagues.”
Bryce Harper is one of the most highly touted, but sometimes overly cocky, prospects in recent memory. He has been in the national spotlight since he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated at the age of 17, but baseball is just as much about earning and giving respect as it is about personal skill. Whether or not you feel that a seasoned veteran like Hamels should have hit a rookie in his eighth major league game, the incident would have gone unnoticed had he not said anything. This is where Hamels made his biggest mistake. He has become the target of much criticism around the league and earned himself a five-game suspension handed down from Major League Baseball. He has been called “fake tough” and “braggadocious.” Cole Hamels is hurting his team by missing a potentially crucial start in this young season, and he is hurting his previously sparkling reputation. In today’s game, which is stained by performance enhancing drugs and dishonesty, some may appreciate Hamels’ candid remarks, but sometimes unwritten rules are left unwritten for a reason.