"I was trying to hit him. I'm not going to deny it. It's something I grew up watching. That's what happened. So I'm just trying to continue the old baseball because I think 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 because that's the way baseball is. But I think unfortunately the league is protecting certain players and making it not that old-school, prestigious way of baseball. It's just, 'Welcome to the big leagues.'"Certainly, beaning guys is a part of the game. You can argue about its merits or "classiness" or whatever, but it's been woven into baseball's fabric since time immemorial and it ain't going anywhere anytime soon. So it's not the act I find indecipherable, but the context. What was the motivation behind Hamels drilling a rookie he's never faced before, and had no prior grudge with? Let's slog through that paragraph of marvelous incoherence above and try and suss it out, shall we?
"I was trying to hit him. I'm not going to deny it."
There is a vast amount of poor judgement that goes into stating this explicitly to a cluster of people armed with cameras, microphones, and notepads but, uh ... bonus points for honesty, I guess? I presume that at some point you've met Bud Selig, right Cole? You know how obsessively invested he is in preserving the Saintly, Blessed, Old-Fashioned, Poetic, not-at-all-like-those-violence-mongers-in-the-NFL-or-hip-hoppers-in-the-NBA, All-American image of Major League Baseball? Well, this here is the sort of thing that's essentially guaranteed to draw his ire. Everybody knows people get plunked from time to time in retaliation for whatever minor offense or slight. No one ever comes out and states it baldly like that, though. So while that 5-game suspension will have no tangible ramifications for you or the Phillies, you're not the sharpest of the five tools.
"It's something I grew up watching. That's what happened. So I'm just trying to continue the old baseball because I think some people get away from it."
What I'm truly and honestly confused about is what iteration of baseball Cole Hamels apparently thinks he "grew up watching" that gave him that impression. You plunk people if the opposing pitcher plunked one of your guys, or if a batter showed you up by being a tad too demonstrative the last time he homered off you. Neither of which applies in this instance, so far as I'm aware. Then again, Cole Hamels is a veteran major league ballplayer and a World Series MVP, so the odds are substantial that he's somewhat better versed in the unwritten rules of the game than I am. Cole, why don't you tell us exactly which of baseball's "old-school" tenets Bryce Harper violated.
"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."
That's an almost total non sequitur unless Hamels was giving a poorly-elucidated example, completely unrelated to Bryce Harper, of "the old baseball" that has been "gotten away from." If that's the case, his complaint was apparently regarding one of two things:
A. That the strike zone, in general, has expanded since he entered the league. I don't see why he'd be lamenting that fact. Expanded strike zones are beneficial to pitchers, after all.
B. That back then, pitchers weren't allowed to carp at umps about the strike zone as much as they do today. Again, I'm not sure how this is detrimental to Hamels or the game.
"But I think unfortunately the league is protecting certain players and making it not that old-school, prestigious way of baseball. It's just, 'Welcome to the big leagues.'"
Ahhhh, now we're getting somewhere. I think. Hamels appears to have a very tenuous grasp upon either reality or verbal self-expression, but let's give him the benefit of the doubt and say it's the latter. The implication seems to be that Bryce Harper is being "protected" by the league. Harper is a young phenom who through his brief career in The Show has essentially lived up to his hype, and is therefore being accorded the ink and Sports Center highlights that are generally granted such athletes. He is also more than a little effusive and cocky in his demeanor; a little "uppity" for a rookie, if you will.
Is that the transgression? Does Cole think Bryce Harper's media love-in is unjustified given his blink-of-an-eye temporal footprint in the game? In that case, I think he meant the league is "promoting," not "protecting" certain players. But the vocabulary miscue isn't really the issue.
If he's saying that Harper is getting preferential treatment because the league needs young stars to market and the Nats need a savior, well, maybe he's correct in that assessment. However, I don't recall Ken Griffey, Jr. or A-Rod getting drilled in the back just for being ballyhooed, hyper-talented rookies. If he's ticked off because he finds Harper's particular brand of swagger offensive, he needs to look in the mirror and remind himself that Bro-on-Bro violence is never cool.
And that "Welcome to the big leagues" tag at the end, isn't that much more an NFL/NHL mentality? Rookies go through hazing in all sports; all professions, really. But the inflicting of unnecessarily harsh pain and crowing about it afterwards is what defensive backs do to rookie NFL receivers and NHL enforcers do to flashy wing players. I've seen plenty of hurlers brush a rookie back with a little chin music just to make a point, but I seriously can't recall straight beaning as an accepted facet of baseball unless the pitcher has been specifically provoked, cocky rookie at the plate or no.
Whatever Hamels' "reasoning," he's certainly stirred the pot now. These division mates will see each other plenty over the course of the season, and we're likely in for a low-grade arms race of avenging perceived damages now. Cole Hamels needs to chill. Whatever his conception of baseball's "tradition" might entail, beaning rookies simply because they're getting more headlines than you probably shouldn't be a part of it.
Especially when those rookies will retaliate by swiping home from under his nose.