Tuesday, May 8, 2012

MLB's suspension policy a joke

Cole Hamels deserves more than five games.

After the Phillies' left-hander openly admitted he hit Washington rookie Bryce Harper with a pitch over the weekend, Hamels was suspended for five games.

No one knows Hamels' reaction when he heard the news, but the safe bet is it involved a chuckle.

Why? Because Hamels, as well as any other pitcher who is suspended for five games, knows the suspension policies of Major League Baseball are a joke, and they are easy to work around.

When MLB suspends a pitcher for five games, in essence, it is only a one-game suspension because pitchers only pitch once every five days. It's a much stiffer penalty for a hitter who is suspended for five games because they actually MISS five games in which THEY WOULD HAVE PLAYED.

Pitchers get off easier. Not only is a five-game suspension in reality only a one-game suspension, but because of the MLB's appeal policies, pitchers often don't even miss a start. They might push a start back a day or two, but they rarely actually miss a start.

A player can postpone his suspension by announcing his intention to appeal the suspension. By doing so, he can dictate WHEN his suspension begins. Pitchers often announce their intention to appeal, make their next start (prior to a scheduled appeal hearing), then drop their appeal and serve the suspension in a time frame that includes an off-day on the schedule - hence no missed start because the rotation is adjusted to accommodate the off-day.

In Hamels's case, he began serving his suspension Monday night. With Cliff Lee expected to come off the disabled list and start Wednesday, coupled with Thursday's day off, Hamels really won't miss a turn in the rotation.
Voila! Problem solved! (at least in Hamels' case).

That doesn't do much to deter a player from doing what Hamels did - admitting he intentionally hit a player.

''I was trying to hit him,'' the two-time All-Star lefty said Sunday night. ''I'm not going to deny it. I'm not trying to injure the guy. They're probably not going to like me for it, but I'm not going to say I wasn't trying to do it."

Because he admitted he was trying to hit Harper, Hamels deserves to miss a few starts. At least a 10-game suspension is apropos. Because it would ensure that he actually misses a start. Rather, a 12-game suspension, which virtually guarantees he misses TWO starts, is better.

As long as the current suspension policies are in place, there is nothing to deters a pitcher from doing what Hamels did. A deterrent isn't attainable until the policy hurts the player or the team in question, i.e. the Phillies.

Hamels won't miss a start for being a thug with a dangerous weapon - a baseball - in his hand.

It's time for MLB to adjust its suspension policy for pitchers to make it hurt, not to make it a punch-line to a joke.

- John Kampf


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