Monday afternoon, the baseball world witnessed a rare and incredibly heated exchange in a matchup between the San Francisco Giants and Washington Nationals. In the eighth inning of their Memorial Day affair, all hell broke lose. With two out and nobody on, Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper was at the plate in the three hole, when Giants reliever Hunter Strickland beaned him in the hip. The beaning was deemed international. As of a result of being intentionally plunked, Harper took offense and charged the mound, where he and Strickland threw punches at one another, sparking a benches-clearing brawl. After this overly physical confrontation, MLB handed out suspensions to both Harper (three games) and Strickland (six games). Though he was intentionally thrown at, some baseball people may very well give Harper a fair share of the blame. However, when it’s reflected upon, the blame for the Harper-Strickland brawl cannot in any way be placed on Harper.
Harper-Strickland Brawl Cannot be Blamed on Harper
Many different aspects of the Harper-Strickland brawl have been dissected. Everything from Harper charging the mound, to Giants catcher Buster Posey acting as a spectator while the brawl transpired, to Strickland’s motive in pegging Harper has been disscussed. Yet most of the speculation has focused on Strickland’s motive for drilling Harper. That reasoning, however, appears clear, in an odd way.
Back in the 2014 postseason, the Nationals and Giants faced off in the NLDS. In games one and four of the series, Harper hit two moonshot home runs down the right field line; he watched his shots leave the park before running down the line. Strickland was on the mound for both and appeared to stare down Harper as he trotted around the bases.
Was this ultimately Strickland’s motive for hitting Harper? It seems likely, as little else would make sense; however, such a reasoning (assuming it’s true) is pathetic. While staring down a home run never sits swell with a pitcher, it is asinine to hold a grudge against a player for something he did nearly three years ago; it only adds to the idiocy of drilling Harper. Strickland hit him without regard for logical thought and triggered Harper enough to spark a brawl. Harper looked insane, but in the heat of the moment, what other choice did he have?
When intentionally hit, the batter has every right to be furious. While many around the league aren’t so fond of Harper, given his high temper and motor, he should in no way receive the majority or even half of the blame for this brawl.
Strickland Put Harper in a No-Win Situation
At the end of the day, Strickland decided to go out of his way to intentionally hit Harper, in a game which the Giants were still in. From the moment he pegged him, Harper was justified in his anger. Was charging the mound the civil thing to do? No, but the baseball world should be considerate as to what’s going through Harper’s mind in the heat of the moment.
When you get drilled on purpose by the man on the mound, especially when you’re in the power spot of a lineup, it’s blood-boiling; the childishness of this incident only added to that.
While Harper can be an infuriating and annoying player to go up against, the best way for an opposing team to shut him down is to pitch to him, not throw at him. Also, the fact that Strickland couldn’t let go of a minor incident that occurred nearly three years ago is sad and shows a lack of maturity.
Harper is Not to Blame
Many will get on Harper for attempting to throw his helmet at Strickland and beginning the fight; however, he’s not the one who went out of his way to address something that had nothing to do with the game. That honor goes to Strickland. The Harper-Strickland brawl shouldn’t be remembered for Harper’s actions, as they were sparked by Strickland’s selfish decision-making.