Fredi Gonzalez earned his first ejection of the season during the Monday night series opener against the Cubs. After Eric O’Flaherty pegged DeJesus, the home plate umpire warned both clubs. Fredi came onto the field to ask for an explanation and got tossed. (Anytime a manager is ejected, it brings a smile to my face, no doubt the result of so many Bobby Cox memories.)
Fredi insists that O’Flaherty wasn’t trying to hit the batter, and I want to agree with him, but the pitch that hit DeJesus was the third pitch in a row to go way inside the strike zone. Because I don’t want to pony up the extra dough for MLB TV Premium, I was stuck listening to the home team broadcast. The Cubs commentators (Len Kasper and Bob Brenly) saw it as an obvious intentional HBP, payback for payback for an 0-2 breaking ball that slipped out of Tommy Hanson’s grip in the early innings. If it was intentional, it was foolish, because it resulted in a big run for the Cubbies.
As all this transpired, the commentators discussed Cole Hamels’s recent foray into the exciting business of intentional bean balls. His deliberate throwing at young phenom Bryce Harper earned Hamels a five-game suspension. Hamels openly admitted to throwing at Harper as a way of welcoming the cocky rookie into the big leagues.
I have so many problems with this that I don’t know where to begin. The Cubs broadcasters called Hamels stupid, but only for opening his mouth and admitting to his actions, not for throwing at Harper. Have intentional HBPs really become an accepted, expected part of the game? I find that a disgrace.
If you don’t think any harm is done by purposefully hitting a batter, take a trip to your local batting cages. Go to the cage with the fast-pitch machine, then stand on the plate, and turn into the pitch. And later, when you’re icing your back, remember that there is no way the pitching machine throws as hard as major leaguer.
Intentionally throwing at batters is dangerous, comes with a high potential for injury, and often results in retaliation from the opposing team. And if that’s not bad enough, it doesn’t make the sport of baseball look tough, or cool, but childish. It makes juvenile punks out of professional athletes (and I know a thing or two about juvenile punks, because I used to be one). There’s no place in the game for this kind of strong-arm tactic. I think it’s time America’s pastime grew up.
Of course, Hamels received his comeuppance. Better than the five-game suspension, he has to deal with the embarrassment of being the first MLB pitcher to allow a teenager to steal home in more than fifty years. Almost as bad as accusing Chipper of relaying signs from second base, but I’ll save that can of worms for another day.
I’d be glad to hear some other perspectives on the intentional HBP. Leave your thoughts in the comments or send a tweet my way: @ThomasMDuncan.