These days, you rarely see a pitcher admit that he hit a player on purpose.
Fans and media members get all over pitchers when they deny intentionally plunking a hitter, but in reality, there’s no reason to come clean about it. All it will get you is a fine and possible suspension.
That’s why the postgame comments made by Phillies starter Cole Hamels are so surprising.
Hamels drilled Bryce Harper in the back with a first-pitch 93 mph fastball in the first inning of today’s game. It surely looked intentional, especially later on when it was clear that Hamels was completely on his game and could put a pitch practically anywhere he wanted.
After the game, Hamels confirmed that putting a fastball in the square of Harper’s lower back was, indeed, his plan.
“I was trying to hit him. I’m not going to deny it,” Hamels told Philadelphia reporters.
Well, there you go.
“You know what, it’s something that I grew up watching,” Hamels continued. “That’s what happened, so I’m just trying to continue the old baseball ... I think some people kind of get away from it. Sometimes the league is protecting certain players and making it not that old-school, prestigious way of baseball.
“I’m not going to injure a guy. They’re probably not going to like me for it but I’m not going to lie and say I wasn’t trying to do it. I think they understood the message and they threw it right back. That’s the way, and I respect it. They can say whatever they want.”
Why exactly did Hamels decide to hit Harper, though? What prompted the move?
“It’s just welcome to the big leagues,” Hamels said.
Strangely enough, while Hamels was more than willing to come out and declare that he’d purposely hit Harper and give his rationale for the plunking, he didn’t want to answer a question on when he decided he was going to hit Harper. That’s where his openness ended.
Harper, for what it’s worth, took the politically correct route when asked about the incident after the game.
“Props to him,” Harper said of Hamels, ignoring the hit-by-pitch. “He came out there and really threw the ball well and there was nothing we could do about it.”
Harper did smile when told later in the interview that Hamels had come clean about intentionally drilling him, but didn’t have an explanation for why the Phillies lefty would do so.
“No clue,” he said. “He’s a great guy, great pitcher and knows how to pitch. He’s an All-Star. It’s all good.”
Jordan Zimmermann exacted some revenge when he hit Hamels on the left leg in the third inning, although Zimmermann denied that his drilling was intentional, saying that with Hamels squaring to bunt, he intended to let the pitcher give the Nats an easy out.
“I was trying to go away and just cut a fastball really, really bad and unfortunately hit him in the knee,” Zimmermann said.
Hamels said he expected Zimmermann to be throwing at him, however.
“Oh, yeah. That’s baseball,” Hamels said. “I’m kind of happy that’s the way it works because that’s the way it should. I don’t think the umpires should interfere with it. Let baseball be baseball.”