The Tenth Inning – Week 6

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The Tenth Inning – Week 6 ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>


By Mike Ivcic

I’m about to do something that I don’t think I’ve ever done before. It’s like Bill Simmons praising the Lakers, Mike Lupica loving the Red Sox, Bob Ryan glorifying the Giants, Michael Wilbon cheering for the Pistons. And now, on May 7, 2012, I’m about to write a column supporting a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.

(I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.) ]]>

To start, let me first say that one of the best things that has happened in baseball this season is the Nationals’ addition of Bryce Harper to their roster. This kid, in just 10 short days, has already proven he will be a legitimate star in this league. From taking pitches and drawing walks to stealing bases and adapting to two different outfield positions, Harper’s proven that the praise leaped on him as a teenager is warranted, and he will, without question, live up to and likely exceed those expectations.

And after all of that, for one night (and one night only), my favorite player in baseball was Cole Hamels.

For those that didn’t watch the game and haven’t seen or read a recap, allow me a brief summary. Bottom of the first inning, two outs and nobody on base for Washington with Harper coming to the plate. Hamels delivers a first-pitch fastball that nails Harper right between the 3 and 4 on his back. As Hamels was quoted as saying later, “It was kind of like, ‘Welcome to the big leagues.’”

Thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Hamels, for doing the exact type of in-game policing by the players themselves that so many others – in baseball and in other sports – have stopped doing. In some cases, executives concerned about “perception” have decreed an end to such policing. Other times, criticism-fearing officials or umpires have issued warnings too early, preventing proper and necessary retaliation and defense of players who were already attacked. Even coaches, leery of suspension or reprimand if a player appears to be taking matters into his own hands, have instructed their players not to live by the code and instead allow themselves and their team to be bullied on the field of play. But on Sunday night in D.C., the code of sports was in full effect, and it was perfect.

A couple quick caveats here, so you all don’t think I’m some sort of Neanderthal. First off, at no point should anyone, in any sport, ever attack the head. Not with a body check, not making a tackle, and certainly not with a fastball. Also, tit-for-tat is where it ends. Escalation is bad, but Nationals starter Jordan Zimmerman – a young player in his own right – fired a fastball at the legs of Hamels in the third inning as a way to provide some support and defense for Washington’s new superstar. Hamels knew it was coming, wore it like a champ, and took his base. No benches cleared, no words were exchanged, and no punches were thrown. It was textbook, by-the-code baseball, the way the game is supposed to be played, and it was a pleasure to watch (when I wasn’t watching the Devils throttle the Flyers for a third straight game).

So while he still wears a despicably ugly red hat with a white P, Cole Hamels has moved up a couple of notches in respect in my book. His perfectly acceptable approach to his first encounter with a headline-grabbing rookie was more of what I would like to see in baseball – players respecting the game, the history, and the “code” in those situations, and not allowing the fear of retribution from some corporate suit with a terrible hairpiece to deter the proper actions in the course of a game. Nicely done, Cole – you honored this great game well.

And the best part of the entire encounter? Two batters later, Harper stole home on a Hamels pick off move to first.

Hey, I am still a Mets fan.

Three series to watch this week…
1) TEX @ BAL (5/7-5/10) – Schedule makers certainly didn’t give the O’s any favors – go play the Yankees and Red Sox on the road, then come home for four with the two-time defending AL champ. Can’t say Baltimore’s not earning their record.
2) SFG @ LAD (5/7-5/9) – Always a good time when these two bi-coastal teams match up. Kershaw pitches Tuesday, but Lincecum vs. Billingsley on Wednesday should be a gem.
3) TB @ NYY (5/8-5/10) – You probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you that three AL East teams would make the playoffs if the season ended today and none of them would be the Yankees or the Red Sox. I know it’s early, but… wow.

If the season ended today, the playoff teams would be…
National League
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Washington Nationals
3. St. Louis Cardinals
4. Atlanta Braves
5. New York Mets

American League
1. Baltimore Orioles
2. Texas Rangers
3. Cleveland Indians
4. Tampa Bay Rays
5. Toronto Blue Jays

Check out my weekly column, “The Tenth Inning,” every Monday and the weekly “Power Rankings” every Friday, only at

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