Man, there was a lot of anger throughout baseball this week.
Cole Hamels kicked it off by hitting Bryce Harper and then admitting it, but that news has been overshadowed by Brett Lawrie of the Blue Jays exploding after being rung up on a questionable call by umpire Bill Miller. Lawrie threw his helmet, and it bounced and hit Miller.
Words were exchanged, certain anatomical parts were measured, and then they went their separate ways. David Wright made news for being angry about not getting hit (his manager pulled him to avoid him being the victim of retaliation for a Mets reliever plunking a guy, and Wright wasn’t too happy about it).
Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers keep chugging along with their winning streak. Josh Hamilton made headlines for doing hitting that is actually condoned in baseball: he went on a torrential home run binge including four home runs in a game. The AL West leaders now stand at 23-14 and have a 7.5-game lead on presumptive challenger Los Angeles.
The Atlanta Braves are also 23-14 and have rebounded nicely from last year’s staggering September collapse. The Dodgers have the most wins in the majors while Baltimore has yet to fade, tying Tampa Bay atop the AL East leaderboard with a record of 23-14.
Hit the jump to continue reading and let us know where you stand…
Should Cole Hamels have been suspended for intentionally hitting Bryce Harper?
Adam: Yes. If you intentionally hit a guy in Major League Baseball, you get suspended. That’s just how it works. Plenty of precedent has been set. Every year, pitchers get suspended five games after hitting a batter even if they claim it was an accident.
Back in Spring Training, Ubaldo Jimenez hit Troy Tulowitzki and claimed he was just trying to pitch Tulo inside, but MLB still suspended him five games. The only difference with Hamels and other incidents like this is that he admitted it was intentional.
While I don’t agree with what Hamels did, I don’t really have a problem with it. However, it doesn’t matter what Hamels’ reasons were. If you hit a guy, and its deemed to be intentional, you get suspended. That’s the consequence.
Rob: My answer here is yes and no. Yes, Hamels should have been suspended, but no, not for hitting Harper, and he wasn’t suspended for hitting Bryce Harper.
He was suspended for SAYING he threw at Harper on purpose. Just last night, the Mets and Brewers got into a beanball contest so significant that the Mets benched David Wright rather than have him get drilled in his next at-bat.
Mets’ pitcher DJ Carrasco denied hitting the Brewers’ Ryan Braun on purpose, although Braun leads the league in getting hit and it seems clear that MOST of them are on purpose.
Mets’ manager Terry Collins obviously believed the Brewers would view the pitch as on purpose, because he didn’t want to give them a chance to drill Wright in retaliation. What does all this mean?
Hitting batters in baseball is like fighting in hockey. It’s part of the game, and it’s part of the game’s internal means of enforcement. Hit my guy, I’ll hit your guy back.
Hamels’ broke only one rule when he drilled Harper, which is that he admitted he did it on purpose. That gained him a fair amount of support among Philadelphia fans, who viewed the admission as ballsy, but it also earned Hamels a suspension he DEFINITELY could have avoided if he had simply claimed the ball got away from him.
Which “surprise” team is most likely to sustain its hot start? Which preseason favorite that’s stumbled out of the gate won’t rebound?
Adam: I’m tempted to go with Washington, but I don’t really consider them a surprise team because they were the popular dark horse pick for a lot of people.
I’m going to have to go with the Dodgers instead. They were a sleeping giant, but I think most people felt like it would be at least a year before the franchise really recovered from the disastrous ownership of Frank McCourt. The Dodgers have talent, but nobody picked them to win the NL West over San Francisco or Arizona.
However, the Dodgers have clearly been rejuvenated by Magic Johnson and his ownership buying the team.
Like I said earlier, the Dodgers have talent. Matt Kemp is the best player in the National League; perhaps only Josh Hamilton is better in all of baseball. Clayton Kershaw is the reigning Cy Young winner, Andre Ethier is healthy and hitting, A.J. Ellis is off to a hot start, and Ted Lilly is off to the best start of his career.
They are clearly playing with confidence and have opened up a six-game lead on second-place San Francisco. The Giants can’t hit, and their vaunted pitching staff is dealing with the loss of Brian Wilson for the year and the struggles of ace Tim Lincecum, whose ERA is nearly 6.00.
Arizona’s scuffling, and the Rockies can’t pitch. Even if LA falls back to Earth a bit, there doesn’t appear to be a team in the division capable of running away from them.
As for the preseason favorite most likely not to rebound, I’m going to go with the Philadelphia Phillies. They’re currently last in the NL East, and their once-potent offense has been decimated by age and injuries.
Ryan Howard is coming back from an Achilles injury, and who knows how effective he will be once he returns. Chase Utley has been plagued by a chronic knee injury, and there are questions about whether he’ll ever be healthy enough to play again, let alone return to his All Star form.
Hunter Pence is hitting .243, Jimmy Rollins is at .230, and Shane Victorino is at .259. The Phillies’ pitching staff has been stellar as usual, but it’s asking a lot for them to shoulder the load and overtake Miami, Atlanta, and Washington, all teams that have the capability to pitch with the Phillies.
Washington’s pitchers might have the best stuff top-to-bottom of any team in baseball, and Atlanta has the deepest collection of pitching talent in the league.
Rob: It’s hard to argue that the Dodgers are the real thing, but for the sake of offering another view, I’ll advocate for the Cleveland Indians here.
There’s only one challenger in the AL Central, the Detroit Tigers, and they’ve been so-so this year. THe rest of the division is crap.
And the Indians took a major step forward last year (which the Dodgers did not take). The next logical step for Cleveland is to win a division or at least contend for it so I will pick the Indians as the surprise team most likely to stick.
For the second part of this question, I definitely disagree with the pick of the Phillies. They still have the best starting pitching in baseball, and the lineup has finally started to hit.
Unless they get absolutely NOTHING from Utley & Howard, the Phillies will be there at the end. Instead, I think the favorite that’s in big trouble right now is the Los Angeles Angels. No one’s catching Texas. They’ve been the best team in b
aseball overall for the last two years and they will cruise to another AL West title.
Meanwhile, there’s a whole host of solid teams in the AL, starting with Oakland right in the Angels’ division, standing in the way of the Angels’ making a run. The Angels were lousy last year and the big change this year was they added Albert Pujols.
Well Albert’s been nothing special this year, and while I think he will rebound, I don’t think he will suddenly start tearing it up. And that spells trouble for LA, who stand five games under .500 and seven games behind Texas already.
How do you feel about MLB firing arbitrator Shyam Das, the man who ruled in favor of Ryan Braun a few months ago.
Adam: I think it’s a good move. Look, everything indicated that Braun took steroids. His own defense even pointed to it. He didn’t argue that the test was wrong. Rather, he argued that his sample wasn’t collected and stored according to protocol.
Never mind that science has yet to provide a way for synthetic testosterone to magically appear overnight in a sealed bottle of urine; if the collector’s basement can cause that, then remind me to never visit Milwaukee. Braun got away with cheating because Das let him skate by on a technicality. Das screwed up, and MLB has the right to fire him.
That being said, I was surprised to hear that MLB had the power to fire him. It seems like a conflict of interest if the arbitrator works for one of the parties.
Rob: I’m probably in the minority here, but I have a pretty cynical view of this entire deal. First off, I suspect Das was fired for being too player friendly in the only kind of cases baseball owners ACTUALLY care about – money.
They’ve probably been itching to get rid of him, and are now using the Braun decision to justify the move. Beyond that, is it really too much to ask that samples be collected and stored properly? We’re talking about issues that can potentially ruin a career and a reputation and, frankly, tarnish the reputation of ALL of baseball.
So is it really such a burden to treat those samples like they’re radioactive and follow protocol TO THE LETTER? I don’t think it is, and if baseball is cavalier with the way it collects and stores evidence, then I have no problem with a ruling body (arbitrator or otherwise) determining that the sample in question is untrustworthy and should not be used as the basis to justify a lengthy suspension.
I hate the steroid guys. A-Rod, Bonds, Sosa, Palmeiro, McGwire. . .ALL OF THEM. I don’t want to see any of those guys polluting the Hall of Fame.
But I also feel that baseball needs to treat players fairly, and taking the necessary steps to avoid any risk of contamination is part of treating players fairly.
As for Ryan Braun, let’s hope he learned his lesson. Next time he may not be so lucky. We know he won’t have Shyam Das to bail him out, in any case.