King Cole had a strange 24 hours.
On Sunday night, as you may have heard, he threw a baseball into a douchebag.
Yesterday, the narrative surrounding the old-timey move was discussed at length: Nationals GM Mike Rizzo called it “gutless chicken shit.” Curt Schilling, Morgan Ensberg, and Aaron Bleeping Boone all took issue with it. And Ruben Amaro somewhat defended it.
All the while, Hamels was at Saint Ephrem Elementary School, unfazed, and presumably depositing 94 mph fastballs into the backs of children. His speech, prepared on an iPad.
When Hamels arrived at the ballpark, he met with Amaro and pitching coach Rich Dubee, who were both present when the call came from Major League Baseball informing him of his five-game suspension. An anonymous reader was there and sent us some pictures:
There’s meme potential here, folks…
Here’s the thing, though: Besides winning the World Series, this is probably the greatest PR move Hamels’ career has seen, and the $400,000 fine might prove to be money well-spent.
Pic via reader Dan
Despite being an outstanding pitcher, Cole has never quite won over Philly fans the way Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Chase Utley have. Maybe it’s because, during Hamels’ first few seasons, he was quick to make excuses. Maybe it’s because he’s from California. Maybe it’s because of his hair and voice. Who knows? But Hamels' admittance to hitting Harper – already one of the most despised athletes in all the land – finally gave him that fuck you moment, which we Philly folks love so very much.
And the conspiracy theories are rolling in.
Hamels is going to be a free agent at the end of the season, and there’s no denying that this will raise his profile, which is especially important for markets like, say, Los Angeles.
Spike Eskin, of CBSPhilly.com, thinks that had something to do with it:
Being a great pitcher is the most important, but being a star is pretty important too. Especially when your potential suitors are in Los Angeles. For Cole Hamels to get the largest contract in the history of starting pitchers in Major League Baseball, it helps to make headlines. To think that Hamels isn’t aware of that, is to underrate his intelligence or awareness. $175 million is a lot of money, and Hamels would be smart to make sure his reputation lives up to his skill level if that’s the kind of contract he wants.
I don’t agree that Cole’s motivation was a larger contract. Those who know him say he is much more competitive than he looks, and hitting the in-your-face Harper is certainly a way to show that. But there’s no arguing the outcome: None of this hurts Cole, in having leverage with the Phillies or in making him more desirable for other teams.
Of course, there are other theories, too.
Reader Tom has this one, which I think is ridiculous. But fun. We like to have fun here.
We all know now that Hamels intentionally plunked Harper on purpose, but do you think Nationals GM had something to do with it? Think about it this past offseason Rizzo was trying to prevent Phillies' fans from going to Nationals Park because so many of them almost made it like CBP South. I feel as though he tried to try and flame a little rivalry before this thing even started. So here's how it goes:
Rizzo: Cole I will pay you (amount of money outside of Philly) to peg Harper and to say you did it on purpose.
Cole: Yeah I'll do it.
The reason it makes so much sense is because the Nationals have struggled to gain in their market and have struggled to get a consistent crowd to their games. By pegging Harper and having Hamels brag about it to the media, it draws national media attention. Call me a conspiracy theorist but the way this whole thing went down seems kind of fishy.
Yeah, no. That didn’t happen. But I’ll gladly picture, if just for a moment, a hooded Hamels walking into a D.C. parking garage and receiving an unmarked envelope filled with $100 bills from the Nats’ Billy Joel look-alike GM.
The end result in all this? Hamels is more popular today than he was on Sunday. Plus, memes like this, sent by reader Nick: