MLB fans were treated to some fireworks by the Bay on Memorial Day. The Washington Nationals arrived in San Fran for the first of a three-game series against the San Francisco Giants. The game would go to the top of the eighth inning with the Nationals winning 2-0.
After two outs were recorded, Nats’ outfielder Bryce Harper would step to the plate against Giant reliever Hunter Strickland, with no one on base. On the very first pitch of the at-bat, Strickland would exact some revenge that was nearly three years in the making. Check out the video below to see the result.
Now, given Harper was hitless on the day, some people were left scratching their heads. Did the pitch slip out of the hand of Strickland? If it was intentional, what was the reason?
Well, it just so happens that all signs point to it being very much intentional. Let’s go back to the 2014 NLDS between these very two teams. In game one of that series, Harper would launch a long home run in the bottom of the seventh.
The series would go on to a decisive game four. In the seventh inning, Strickland and Harper would square off again. Once more, Harper would send a ball flying with a monster homer into McCovey Cove. This would tie the game. But it was evident at this moment, Strickland and Harper had some beef. Check out the homer below.
The ball was hovering around the foul pole, leading to Harper staying in the box for a few seconds. But even after he likely knew it was fair, he still stood back and admired the blast a bit, just like in game one. As he rounded first, he threw his first up. At this point, he looked toward the mound and he and Strickland exchanged some words.
The yelling at one another would continue even once Harper was in the dugout. After that night in October 2014, the two would not face one another until yesterday, Memorial Day 2017.
So let’s take a look at a few things, shall we?
It is pretty clear, this was a personal mission on the part of Strickland. After getting shown up by Harper in October of 2014, Strickland has been waiting for this moment. He reared back, put a fastball right in Harper’s thigh and got the revenge he had been seeking for quite some time.
But to show that this was a one-man job, just check out Buster Posey’s reaction. Typically, when a batter charges the mound, the pitcher’s catcher is right there to hold the batter back. Posey did not move a muscle for some time. Plenty of other players reached the mound well before Posey.
Even in the Giants dugout, some players were a bit slow to react. Madison Bumgarner, who would usually find himself in the middle of something like this, barely moved a muscle in the dugout. Now, he is recovering from an injury, so that could very likely be the reason. But still, not seeing his passion overtake him in support of his teammate helps to show this was a personal vendetta.
Sure there was no reason for Strickland to hit Harper over a three-year grudge. But Harper still showed his true colors here. The Nats were winning, there was no one on base, and there were two outs. Strickland was in the perfect spot to hit the man he wanted to. And he did so in the best way possible, by hitting Harper below the waist.
He did not go head hunting. He didn’t hit him around the shoulders. The fastball got Harper in the thigh. Yet, Harper still took great offense. He started towards the mound, chirping. Sure, Strickland was likely going right back at him. But it is what Harper did next that is completely inexcusable.
Harper took off his helmet and reared back to throw it right at the man on the mound. Luckily, it slipped out of his hand and went flying towards the hole between first and second. But still, the intent was to harm. Then both men cocked their fists back, virtually at the same time. Both landed some blows before their teammates broke things apart.
So while Strickland got things rolling here, Harper is the one who took this to the next level. He has shown these tendencies before. He is simply a big baby. He could have just took it like a man and walked to first. Sure he could have chirped. But there is simply ZERO reason to throw your helmet with the intent of harming another player.
The moral of this story is that there are no real winners, as it was completely unnecessary. Strickland did not have to throw at Harper. But once it was done, there was no reason for Harper to make it into such a big deal. He surely did not need to throw his helmet. There was no need for punches to be thrown. Finally, given this was a personal vendetta, there was no reason for it to become a benches-clearing brawl, involving both squads. It will surely be interesting to see if the Nats now feel the need to retaliate.
So there you have it. This whole thing was born from one man’s three-year-old grudge. It was then blown up by the other player’s temper tantrum. At the end of the day, both men are at fault for what was clearly something that was avoidable.
I love a good baseball brawl just as much as the next guy. This one just cemented the idea that Harper is just a big crybaby in my head. Sure Strickland got things rolling, but he still did it the right way (two outs, no one on, below the waist).
What are your thoughts? Tell us in the comments!