In a different era, Hall of Famers such as Don Drysdale and Bob Gibson intimidated through knockdown pitches. Former Dodgers great Maury Wills once told me that when you stepped into the batter’s box against Gibson, you had better be prepared for a pitch anywhere. “And anywhere,” Wills said, “usually meant right at your head.” In an era of multi-million-dollar salaries, the threats of injuries and unpaid suspensions has decreased the frequency of “beanball” wars.
On Sunday night, the Nationals policed the situation correctly. Harper went to first base without incident and later stole home. Washington starter Jordan Zimmermann hit Hamels and maintained his innocence. Everything probably would have ended there if Hamels had zipped it.
“I know all about guys getting hit, sending messages and all that stuff,” Rizzo said. “I’ve been in this game 30 years. I’m an old-school guy. But hitting a 19-year-old rookie and then going out there and talking about it. . . . That’s not the way you do it. That’s not going to make us [back down].”
For its part, Phillies management also would have preferred for Hamels to be less forthcoming. Why give the Nationals bulletin-board material and hand Selig a signed confession?
Still, some would argue that Rizzo took his criticism of Hamels too far. Is Rizzo writing checks with his mouth the Nationals players will have to cash on the field? Absolutely. And I’m good with that.
As the head of Washington’s baseball operations, Rizzo must establish an organizational culture. Among the District’s professional sports teams the past two decades, most have been weak.
Under Rizzo, the Nationals will stand up for themselves on and off the field. So go ahead and bring it.
“I’ve never had anything bad to say about the Philadelphia Phillies,” Rizzo said. “They’re a well-run organization. They’re the king of the mountain . . . but what [Hamels] did was wrong. We’re trying to knock off the king of the mountain and become the kings . . . and I’m going to say it like it is.”
Rizzo knows no other way. If anyone in baseball didn’t know that before this episode, they sure do now.
For Jason Reid’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/reid.