Friday, May 11, 2012
Sports Q&A: The Truth Won’t Set You Free
Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels was suspended for intentionally hitting Washington Nationals rookie Bryce Harper on Sunday night. What's the bigger issue here: Hamels hitting Harper, or admitting he did it on purpose?
Finally, after much speculation about how it would go down, Major League Baseball has its answer to the burning question: what happens when a player "outs" himself?
But seriously, Hamels sexuality isn't in question here, only his manhood. And let's face it, in Major League Baseball, real men don't tell the truth, they skirt it. Only in baseball can one's integrity be questioned by the very act of showing integrity.
Commissioner Bud Selig bas likely never faced such a quandary in his 20 years as commissioner of baseball. In all likelihood, Hamels would not have been suspended had he not admitted to intentionally plunking Harper. But his intent was plainly evident. Even former umpire Don Denkinger, or any blind man, could have recognized Hamels' intent without having it verified by Hamels' admission. Therein lies Selig's dilemma — suspending a baseball player for telling the truth! Oh, the horror! If Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens, etc. were in graves, they'd be spinning in them like blood samples in a centrifuge.
According to Hamels, he hit Harper as an "old school" way to welcome the rookie to the big leagues. Harper went "new school" in his reply, by stealing home on Hamels in the same inning. The Nationals later went "old school" when pitcher Jordan Zimmerman nailed Hamels in the leg as he squared to bunt in the third inning.
That could have been the end of the situation. It was all square. Hamels made his point; the Nationals made theirs. Then Hamels had to give an interview that was too candid for his own good. Apparently, according to baseball's "unwritten codes of conduct," a player should never admit to purposely hitting another. In other words, as many steroid and HGH scandals have told us, you should lie when breaking baseball's unwritten rules, as well as baseball's written rules.
Most in the Phillies organization wished Hamels had not been so forthcoming — manager Charlie Manuel said as much when he commented that Hamels could have been "more discreet" or "less honest." Look what baseball has become; now, managers are advising players to be less honest, and not just their lawyers. As a precaution, Hamels' next post-start interview should be held in front of Congress. There's no way the truth comes out then.
Of course, Selig was left with no choice but to suspend Hamels. It was likely the easiest decision Selig has ever made, and for once, it seems, everyone can agree with the Commissioner's call. Possibly, for the first time in his tenure, Selig has an approval rating.
But give Hamels credit for having the guts to tell the truth, even when he knew he would likely be punished by the league, as well as ostracized for some, if not many, fellow players. This is professional baseball, and Hamels was well-aware of the plight of another fellow big league left-hander, Andy Pettitte. Pettitte learned the hard way that the longer you delay in telling the truth, the greater your chances of misremembering it. Everyone in the sports knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that your credibility is shot once Roger Clemens starts making up vocabulary words to describe your actions.
But Clemens, more than any player, knows when to tell the truth and when to lie. Never and always. What did Clemens say after slinging the business end of a broken bat towards Mike Piazza in the 2000 World Series? "Piazza delivery," maybe. I doubt it, but whatever he said, it wasn't the truth.
In MLB, the truth, in most cases, won't set you free. Just ask Pete Rose. He lied, and can't get into the baseball Hall of Fame. He told the truth, and still can't get in. At least, not without a ticket. If Rose had told the truth from the start, then, in all likelihood, he would now be allowed to enter the Hall of Fame. So, if you're going to lie, it makes more sense to do so well after the fact.
So, what's in the future for Hamels? Can he put this behind him, or will the only thing in the future ‘behind him' be a high, hard fastball the next time the Phillies face the Nationals? I'm guessing the next time Hamels hits a batter, he'll be nothing but truthful when he says it was an "accident."