The United Negro College Fund has used the phrase for four decades now: “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”
When I first heard of Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels’ decision to deliberately throw at the Washington Nationals’ teen phenom outfielder Bryce Harper in the first inning of a game last Sunday evening, I wasn’t terribly surprised based on how Harper periodically “acted out” on his way to the big leagues. I assumed (having admittedly not seen any of the weekend series between the two clubs) Harper had done something extremely unprofessional or unbecoming to infuriate his opposition…and Hamels was simply making a statement that kind of behavior would not be tolerated by the Phils.
And then I subsequently learned Hamels’ reasoning was…well…lacking any reason at all:
“That’s something I grew up watching, that’s kind of happened. So I’m just trying to continue the old baseball because I think some people are kind of getting 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’s protecting certain players and making it not that old-school, prestigious way of baseball.”
My mind is still trying to wrap itself around that garbled testimony…as well as the fact no one in the local Philly media apparently can unearth anything Harper did or said over the weekend to even marginally rationalize getting deliberately thrown at. My mind is also trying to process the fact Hamels ADMITTED he threw at Harper, which of course automatically takes money out of his pocket and makes him a potential “repeat offender” for future situations should they arise…not that baseball actually punishes anyone.
I could have cared less about all this nonsense until people started to call Hamels a “tough guy” for his action, allegedly taking it upon himself to represent all of major league baseball in letting this budding superstar teenager know nothing would come easy for him upon arriving in the show just a short time ago.
“Tough guy?” Cole isn’t even the toughest person in his own bedroom.
That title is reserved for his wife, Heidi. She was on “Survivor.” I don’t think Cole could have lasted more than a couple of days on an island. In fact, even if he survived the initial starvation and sunburn he would surely have been voted off early on for not being able to play nice with others.
Some baseball fans seem to have conveniently forgotten how selfish, petulant and whiny Cole Hamels was…is?
2005 – He broke his pitching hand in a bar fight prior to the start of his minor-league season. That was brilliantly selfish, especially when the organization was already putting up with his various injury issues and history.
2007 - In only his second year in the bigs, he called out the organization for not providing a full-time chiropractor on the road…and even claimed he wouldn’t have been on the DL if they had one. Ruben Amaro, Jr. publicly responded to the “cheap Phillies” assertion, questioning if the elbow tendon problem Hamels was having at the time was really relevant to being best served by chiropractic medicine.
2008 – Before his third season even began, Hamels questioned the organization low-balling him on salary, calling it a “low-blow” and catching him “off-guard”…and knowing the fact Hamels is “in play” right now for future employment, check out this fascinating (yet equally convoluted) quote from back then:
“They do want to keep you happy, and that will affect down the line with certain things that come up because you can’t just all of a sudden throw everything out (at a player) at the last second and think that’s really going to make him happy because he’s still got check marks for what they didn’t do in the years before.”
2009 – After signing a 3-year, $20.5 million deal with the organization…Hamels left training camp complaining of arm troubles while the Phillies’ medical staff could not figure out what was wrong (apparently, neither could any chiropractors). In the World Series that year, after losing Game 3 he told reporters, “I can’t wait for it to end.” This prompted the now famous quote from teammate Brett Myers several days later who said to Hamels, “What are you doing here? I thought you quit.”
I have always felt deliberately throwing a baseball at a batter is gutless period. Hearing Hamels’ bizarre explanation of why he did it in this instance is sad. And as you can see from the above, not so surprising when you consider how he has conducted himself at times over his relatively short time in the majors.
A mind IS a terrible thing to waste.