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To plunk or not to plunk? What Hamels' suspension means to baseball

Posted Wednesday, May 9, 2012, at 1:26 PM

Unlike most, I have no beef with Cole Hamels decision to plunk Bryce Harper Sunday night. I do think it would have been preferable to wait until he shows the attitude he's shown in the minor leagues, but in general, plunkings are just part of baseball.

Frankly, the whole issue worked itself out. Harper, post-plunk, made his way around the bases and eventually stole home. Score settled.

In the next inning, Zimmerman decided to plunk Hamels. Again, that's just baseball. If you do the plunking, you can expect that you or one of your teammates will be plunked in return.

After Hamels was hit, the umpire warned both benches, rather calmly even.

At that point the situation was handled in the "baseball way."

What I do have a problem with was Hamels blatantly admitting to hitting Harper and "going old school" on him.

So far, in his short major league stint, Harper has actually been quite mature as compared to the horror stories of the arrogant young man in the minors we have all heard of.

Eventually he will earn a ball in the ribs, I have no doubt, but so far he hasn't. He will be a polarizing player and he's the kind of guy who will eat that up.

I don't buy into the argument that "he's just a kid" and shouldn't have been hit. He's a major league baseball player. At the moment he stepped onto the grass at Dodger Stadium last Saturday, he ceased to be a 19-year-old kid. I kind of consider it his "welcome to bigs, kiddo."

Hamels' honesty in the matter, which is a bit refreshing, means that a suspension was imminent. MLB had no choice.

Monday, the league decided to suspend Hamels for five games.

For some players, five games is a suspension; but not for a starter. All five games means is that Hamels' turn in the rotation will be delayed by one day. He'll still have the same number of starts at the end of the season that he would have anyway.

I've heard several suggestions of how to handle this, but the most common is simply illogical. Many people seem to think the answer is to suspend the player for five starts, but it's not that simple.

When you suspend a position player for five games, the dynamics are very different. Take for instance Matt Holliday. Those five games, if you assume he will play 150 games, are only three percent of his season.

With a starting pitcher, on the other hand, losing five starts of a possible 35 is like losing 14 percent of his entire season.

It's simply not right to handle it that way.

The other issue with the five game suspension is that you have now set a precedent of virtually not punishing starting pitchers for hitting batters.

As of Monday evening, any starter could hit a batter and then scream at the top of his lungs from the pitchers mound that he did it on purpose knowing that his only punishment will be that his next start will be one day late. That is, aside from the small fine, of course.

Not only is this scenario possible (without the mound screaming, of course), but it's highly likely. I can totally see Chris Carpenter, when he returns, doing exactly that. On the other hand, Carp might actually scream it from the mound (gotta love a bulldog).

The way this should have been handled is to suspend him for 10 games. That guarantees that he misses at least one start. That one start is enough to prevent pitchers from taking advantage of the precedent, but not be a ridiculous penalty at the same time. After all, getting plunked is just part of baseball.

The funniest part of the whole Harper-Hamels situation is that after Hamels talked to reporters and the Nationals GM Mike Rizzo trashed Hamels in return. It appears that the immature 19-year-old phenom kid has actually handled it in the most mature way. He took his medicine, and then made Hamels pay.

That's good baseball.


To submit a question for the Balls & Strikes Mailbag, either e-mail cnoles@dailystatesman.com , call (573)624-4545 or fill out the form at dailystatesman.com/blogs/coreynoles/

Follow him on Twitter @coreynoles

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

I dont see how Hamels thinks he is "old school" enough to welcome Harper to the bigs. Atleast wait until the kid does something, trash talk, act arrogant. However, it did all work out. Zimmerman would have lost respect from me had he not retaliated. This all, in my opinion, makes Hamels look like the immature one here, who got what was coming to him

-- Posted by Hershisers and Old Fashioned's on Wed, May 9, 2012, at 8:27 AM

Hitting people on purpose, is a part of baseball??? What kind of crap is that! All that encourages is getting people hurt! I cannot believe that an educated person, like yourself, would actually say that throwing a baseball at somebody, deliberately, 80+ miles a hour, is ok and is part of baseball! Any youngster that reads this take it for what it is, crap. Nobody "deserves" to get a baseball thrown at them on purpose! Getting hit with a pitch is part of baseball, but not throwing at someone on purpose trying to hurt them! Would you want someone throwing at your kid during a game??? I would think not.

-- Posted by tooldogging on Wed, May 9, 2012, at 10:44 AM
Of course it shouldn't be a part of little league baseball and that is not at all what I said. Noone SHOULD be hitting anyone, but they do. In the big leagues, whether it should be or not, it is a fact of the game. It happens. Most guys don't do it, but sometimes they do. How many games have you watched where a player was hit and then another was hit in retaliation? If it wasn't intentional why would an umpire EVER warn a pitcher or manager? Hamels, on the other hand, was different because it was unprovoked. Is it right? No. But, Harper turned around and stole home on Hamels getting his revenge. When Zimmerman hit Hamels, do you think that was an accident? It was retaliation. It may not be right, but in the big leagues those things happen.

Hamels is just the first in a long line to brag about it and by setting a precedent and not giving him an "actual suspension," I'm afraid they opened the floodgates.


Ever heard of Hall of Famer Bob Gibson?

'Plunking' is a part of the game and every fan knows it. A good plunk is always justified by crowding the plate, a teamate getting plunked, a smart mouth making comments about your team, or showing a pitcher up by standing at home plate admiring a homerun or blowing a pitcher a kiss while rounding the bases after hitting a homerun.

Consider Harper's plunk a welcome to the big leagues and a warning that his childish antics from the past will not be tolerated in the majors.

-- Posted by greer958 on Wed, May 9, 2012, at 11:36 AM

Yeah, that makes it "ok", so I guess if you go by those kinds of guidelines, charging the mound and such childish antics are ok also? This is just grown men embellishing their egos, acting like children. You will never convince me that this kind of egomaniac behavior is ok. Welcome to the majors my butt!

-- Posted by tooldogging on Wed, May 9, 2012, at 1:04 PM

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Corey Noles, staff writer for The Daily Statesman and Editor of The North Stoddard Countian, is the author of a regular baseball/St. Louis Cardinals column and also uses his blog to sound off on various happenings in sports. He also operates a weekly baseball mailbag column.

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