Washington fans are nothing if not skeptical. They are slowly waking up to the fact that the Nationals may be for real this season, that their perch atop the National League East standings may be more than just an early season fluke. They are also beginning to realize that rookie Bryce Harper deserved the hype he got as a No. 1 draft pick.
The Phillies also feel Harper should get what he deserves. So Cole Hamels plunked him with a pitch in the first inning Sunday night. After the game, Hamels cheerfully admitted he did it on purpose. Major League Baseball reacted less cheerfully, suspending Hamels five games for his unusual candor.
“I was trying to hit him,” Hamels said. “I’m not going to deny it. . . . I remember when I was a rookie, the strike zone was really, really small and you didn’t say anything just because that’s the way baseball is. Sometimes the league is protecting certain players and making it not that old-school, prestigious way of baseball.”
(Ah, yes, that old-school, prestigious way of baseball that includes segregation, spitters and steroids. Let’s not put the sport too high on a pedestal, there, Cole.)
Harper, who still throws little hissy fits when things don’t go his way — he’s 19 — handled the situation perfectly in just his eighth major league start. He walked to first base, took third on a single by Jayson Werth — poor Jayson Werth — and then he stole home. Now that’s some old-school baseball.
General Manager Mike Rizzo, who almost never throws hissy fits, was ready to go 10 rounds with Hamels on Monday morning, telling Post reporter Adam Kilgore that Hamels should be suspended and that Hamels is “fake tough.”
“He thinks he’s sending a message to us of being a tough guy?” Rizzo said. “He’s sending the polar opposite message. He says he’s being honest; well, I’m being honest. It was a gutless, chicken [scratch] act. That was a fake-tough act. No one has ever accused Cole Hamels of being old school.”
And speaking of poor Jayson Werth, the former Phillie has new incentive to quickly rehab from the broken wrist he suffered in Sunday night’s loss, thanks to those former fans of his.
“After walking off the field feeling nauseous knowing my wrist was broke and hearing Philly fans yelling ‘You deserve it,’ and, ‘That’s what you get,’ I am motivated to get back quickly and see to it personally those people never walk down Broad Street in celebration again,” Werth e-mailed Kilgore. And with one good hand, too. Now that’s Natitude!