by Steve Dunn

Last night Cole Hamels did a stupid thing. In a crucial game with the Washington Nationals, Hamels intentionally threw a pitch at Nats rookie phenom, Bryce Harper. In the first inning he hit Harper in the small of the back. In the language of baseball, he “plunked” him. “I was trying to hit him,” Hamels, a two-time All-Star left-hander, 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. I think they understood the message, and they threw it right back. That’s the way, and I respect it.”

Baseball responded promptly and issued a five game suspension. It is a small punishment. He will be pitching again right after the suspension is up without basically missing a beat in the rotation. One baseball blogger wrote: “In any event, regardless of how you feel about Hamels’s “old school” affectations, five-game suspensions of guys who appear only once every five days remain pretty toothless.” The Nats Ryan Zimmerman, of course, retaliated.

So often people defend their actions as being “old school” and wear that as a badge of honor Yet so often “old school” describes out of date and out of step. Out if date because it lives in the past and excuses not living constructively in the present. Out of step because it is so often a reflection of a reactionary lifestyle that has not bothered to understand or value the present.

We do not live in the past. We live in the present. “Old school” seeks to return to a time before the world changed, thumbing its nose at the present and refusing to participate in making a better future. “Old School” often lays claim to the “values” position as if anything “new” is amoral or immoral. No, the values are just different. History will judge which values were better, God certainly will judge.

“Old School” in America thought separation of the races was the natural order, that women should have no other career than homemaker, that quality music should have a minor key and not played by anything that required electricity. Yet now we know that that separation foster virulent racism, that women kept the war machine functioning and the national financially healthy while men went off to repel the Nazis. A pipe organ connected to an electrical circuit produces a sound of majesty and joy.

Baseball does not need an “old school” tactic that could seriously injure or even ruin a man’s career and lifetime earning capabilities. Those of us who love baseball prefer to win because of a timely home run or a daring steal or at light’s out pitching with a fastball across the plate as the power hitter flails to catch up with its speed.

Cole, to paraphrase John Kruk on Baseball Tonight,when did the MLB hire you as the welcoming committee for bright young rookies? Your kind of Old School needs to close its doors.


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