Yesterday afternoon, who-dat Giants relief pitcher Hunter Strickland plunked Nationals wunderkind and future Pantene spokesman Bryce Harper. Harper charged the mound, where Strickland was waiting, punches were thrown and the benches for both teams cleared.
I saw highlights and there are various entertaining stills from the brawl on Twitter, but especially in light of Mike Trout going on the DL, I just watched with a surprising amount of dread and discomfort, considering how much animosity I have for both teams.
You hear of old timers talk about intentionally hit batters as the result of a violation of the unspoken rules of baseball. Former Phillie and current Dodger Chase Utley gets hit all the time, mostly because his take-out slides, in which he basically slide-tackled infielders, are incredibly vicious. Other violations include taking too long to admire a home run. Harper’s transgression, according to the article referenced above, is simply hitting home runs off Strickland three years ago.
(Aside: Interesting how women are considered the more petty sex but a grown man getting paid exceptionally well to play a child’s game can hold a grudge for three years and start a fight because the other guy hit the ball well is acceptable behavior.)
The brawl was interesting in other ways. The Nationals are running away with the National League East, mainly because all of the Mets are in sick bay. (The Phillies have forgotten how to pitch and hit.) The Giants are floundering in their division. Why did Harper—the best Nats player and arguably a league icon—even engage? Giants catcher Posey, who clearly did not call for a fastball inside, stands up, sighs, and almost audibly says “NOPE,” when his pitcher starts swinging. He doesn’t enter the fracas at all. Neither does most of the Giants’ infield. National Jayson Werth, elder statesman and future Loreal spokesman, literally looks like Jesus as he scrambles to separate everyone. Are the subsequent fines and suspensions even worth it? And these are guys who depend on their health to play every day; depending on how their contracts are structured, they get bonuses for how many games they start. Their chances for injury increase exponentially when they enter that scrum.
If I’m a Nats fan attending a game this week, I’m going to be pissed I’m not going to be able see franchise star Harper as he sits out a suspension because he couldn’t just stare down Strickland for a few seconds, slowly take the base and afterward tell reporters he doesn’t even know who the reliever is.