Philadelphia Phillies' lefty Cole Hamels hit Bryce Harper with a 93 mph first-pitch fastball the first time the 19-year-old Washington Nationals' outfielder stepped to the plate against the veteran starter with two down in the first inning of Sunday's series finale between the NL East divisional rivals. When the Phils' starter's first at bat against Nats' starter Jordan Zimmermann came around in the third, with Phillies' infielder Pete Orr at first after singling in the previous at bat, Hamels squared to bunt and got a 93 mph first-pitch four-seamer off his back shin/knee. Bryce Harper responded to his HBP by scoring a two-out run to put the Nationals up 1-0 early, stealing home on a pick attempt at first two at bats later after he'd gone first-to-third™ on a Jayson Werth single. Hamels was stranded at second after his HBP when Zimmermann got back-to-back groundouts to end the Phillies' third. In each team's respective locker rooms after the game, the pitchers were asked about their intentions in the at bats. Hamels, in a surprisingly frank admission, told reporters that yes, in fact, he had hit Harper on purpose.
"'I was trying to hit him,'" Hamels told the Philadelphia Inquirer's Matt Gelb, "'I'm not going to deny it.'" Asked for an explanation as to why he'd decided to hit the Nationals' 2010 no.1 overall pick, the 28-year-old left-hander offered up the following explanation (again, via the Inquirer's Mr. Gelb):
"It's something I grew up watching. That's what happened. I'm just trying to continue the old baseball. Some people get away from it. I remember when I was a rookie, the strike zone was really, really small and you didn't say anything. That's the way baseball is. Sometimes the league is protecting certain players. It's that old-school prestigious way of baseball.'"
Bryce Harper's only response when asked about the HBP and Hamels' comments, was to say that the Phillies' starter was a great pitcher, a great guy and an All-Star.
Davey Johnson told reporters after the game last night, before Hamels' comments surfaced in various reports, that he didn't think either pitcher had intentionally hit the batters they did. When reporters asked Jordan Zimmermann if he'd hit Hamels on purpose in retaliation, the 25-year-old right-hander told reporters, including the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore, that he'd simply lost control of a fastball. "'He was bunting, and I’m going to take an out when I can get an out,'" Zimmermann said. "'I was trying to go away, and I cut a fastball really, really bad and hit him in the knee.'" As noted in the WaPost writer's article on Hamels hitting Harper, Nats' GM Mike Rizzo was not amused by the Phillies' starter's actions or explanations.
"'I’ve never seen a more classless, gutless chicken [bleep] act in my 30 years in baseball,'" the general manager told the Washington Post, before addressing the comments the Phillies' seven-year veteran had made about "trying to continue the old baseball":
"'Cole Hamels says he’s old school? He’s the polar opposite of old school. He’s fake tough. He thinks he’s going to intimidate us after hitting our 19-year-old rookie who’s eight games into the big leagues? He doesn’t know who he’s dealing with.'"
Phillies' GM Ruben Amaro offered no comment on the Nats' general manager's comments, but did tell the Philadelphia Inquirer's Mr. Gelb, as reporter on Twitter (@magelb), "'I'm disappointed [Hamels] made those comments.'" Phils' skipper Charlie Manuel told ESPN.com's Tim Kurkjian (@KurkjianESPN), "I wish Cole had been more discreet," in his post game comments about intentionally hitting Harper. When former major leaguer Morgan Ensberg chastised Hamels on Twitter this afternoon, Hamels' teammate Chad Qualls (@Qualls50) responded, tweeting that, "They hit Cole right back but said not on purpose. Yeah right. At least Cole was a man and didn't lie about it."
"Being a man," as the Phillies' reliever saw it, did not necessarily impress everyone in the Phillies' organization. Philadelphia Inquirer reporters Matt Gelb and Bob Brookover collaborated on an article on Hamels' actions and their consequences this afternoon in which they wrote that though Chad Qualls spoke out on behalf of his teammate, "Several Phillies anonymously said they did not have a problem with Hamels' action on the mound, but were disappointed about what he said afterward." Hamels' less outspoken teammates, the Phillies' GM and their manager both seemed to anticipate that it was Hamels' comments on the HBP that would cost him with Mr. Amaro telling the writers that if Hamels' comments about hitting Harper on purpose were true it was dissapointing, "'One, in the fact that it happened, but, two, more importantly, that he made those comments."
"'He could have been a little less honest,'" Charlie Manuel said, after the line of his quoted on Twitter by Mr. Kurkjian above.
In the end, it was apparently Hamels' honesty about his intentions in hitting Harper which got him suspended as announced this afternoon and Jordan Zimmermann's denial which kept him from being disciplined for the retaliatory HBP. In a press release, Major League Baseball announced that the Phillies' lefty had been suspended for five days, which will likely cost him cash, ($409,835 according to @DarrenRovell's calculations) but shouldn't cost him a start:
"Pitcher Cole Hamels of the Philadelphia Phillies has received a five-game suspension and an undisclosed fine for intentionally throwing a pitch at Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals during the bottom of the first inning of last night's game at Nationals Park. Joe Garagiola, Jr., Senior Vice President of Standards & On-Field Operations for Major League Baseball, made the announcement.
"Unless appealed, Hamels is scheduled to begin serving his suspension tonight, when the Phillies are to host the New York Mets. If appealed, Hamels' suspension will be held in abeyance until the process is complete."
Hamels will be eligible to return this weekend. The Nationals and the Phillies play a three game series in Philadelphia starting on May 21st.