The NFL is learning the hard way about how to protect its athletes. Several lawsuits have been filed against the league by former players seeking monetary compensation for what they say was information the NFL held back from them during their careers regarding head injuries. One can only assume that other sports are going to follow suit; fights in the NHL will be taken more seriously, and the NBA has cracked down on dirty fouls. Major League Baseball, with its five game suspension of Phillies Starter Cole Hamels, shows they are well behind the curve.
A baseball is a hard object. Every year, we see highlights (or low-lights) of players getting hit and missing time due to bruises, broken bones, and concussions. Enough of these incidents happen by pure accident, but when pitchers start aiming for players because they are rookies, an ethical line is being crossed.
I understand the game of baseball and the need to protect players. There is so much more that goes on behind the scenes that people watching the game at home aren't aware of. In this case, however, there was nothing more to comprehend. Cole Hamels decided to throw straight at the back of Bryce Harper simply because he was Bryce Harper. Then, as if that wasn't bad enough, Hamels commented later that night that he was "...trying to hit him."
Hamels then went on to explain that he was practicing "Old School Baseball" and that the league has gotten away from the way the game used to be played. His excuses were simply poor attempts at covering up what really happened: Hamels had a complete lapse of judgment, and made an immature decision that could have hurt a defenseless batter in the box.
Major League Baseball handed out a five game suspension, which for a starting pitcher is literally of no consequence. With a few scheduling tweaks, Hamels will move a little in the rotation and it won't even feel as if he has been gone.
This was a very poor, and antiquated, response to an event that could have resulted in an injury to one of baseball's rising young stars. Major League Baseball should have been able to see the writing on the wall with the other major sports leagues, and followed their lead in responding to player safety issues.
Jack Grunpe is an avid baseball fan. Follow him on Twitter at @MNSportsWriter1.