The first thing he did was to wind up to throw his helmet, but ended up doing his best 50 Cent impression and chucked it somewhere in the middle of first and second base.
Bryce Harper Channeling his Inner 50 Cent
— Singh (@S1NGH7) May 29, 2017
The next thing he did was take two or three swings at Strickland’s face, landing only one of them before the benches cleared and chaos ensued.
Now besides the obvious of a benches-clearing brawl usually being pretty interesting, there was a lot of stuff to unpack from yesterday’s scrum:
It appears that the motivation of the hit by pitch stemmed from Harper blasting monster home runs off of Strickland in two separate NLDS games in the 2014 playoffs as seen below:
Yesterday was the first at bat Harper has had against Strickland since the 2014 playoffs, so it was Strickland’s first opportunity at ‘revenge’. It seems as though the Giants poor season (22-31 after yesterday’s loss) has been having an obvious effect on their players. Travis Sawchik at Fangraphs recently wrote an article about how Buster Posey is tired of their losing ways and not trying to hide his frustration with other teammates. This may be part of what played into Hunter Strickland deciding to hit Harper now despite nothing having happened at all between the two for almost three years by this point.
Speaking of Buster Posey and being tired of sloppy play by teammates or bad decisions in general, after Harper is hit by the pitch, you can see Posey hang his shoulders and completely hang back while Harper started walking toward the mound and then eventually charging it. From KNBR.com after the game, Posey said:
“Well I mean after it happened, I kind of saw Harper’s point. Next thing you know, he’s going out after him. Those are some big guys tumbling around on the ground.”
It appears pretty obvious that Posey did not endorse the hit by pitch and was ready to let Strickland learn a lesson. It wasn’t until a few punches were thrown that ran out to join his many teammates in the brawl.
Lastly, in all of these we go back to Hunter Strickland. He was the one who took it upon himself to start the whole incident (unless you count Harper with the audacity to hit two home runs off of Strickland in the 2014 NLDS). But even after teammates on both sides came out to break up the fighting, Strickland was incensed and had to be restrained by several teammates, fighting back against them the entire way to the dugout, as seen starting at 23 seconds into this video. Poor Hunter Pence seemed to take the brunt of Strickland’s aggression with his collar being tugged, an elbow against his throat, and even a hand shoved into his face.
The Giants were already a team on edge seeing as how they were supposed to be a team that could win the Wild Card, but instead are playing like one of the worst teams in baseball. Add to that the fact that they lost their ace pitcher Madison Bumgarner for at least two months early in the season from a dirt bike accident, and things just have not gone well for them. Hunter Strickland undertaking a selfish personal vendetta against Bryce Harper for something from the playoffs three seasons ago, a series in which the Giants actually won, is just going to make things worse. Not only are there likely to be suspensions coming soon, but does he think that the Nationals are going to take no actions when their franchise star was hit intentionally? This is something where they can’t get revenge on Strickland, seeing as how he doesn’t ever hit. It will be someone like Posey that will likely be taking the revenge for Strickland here, which will just compound the issues that the Giants currently have.
All in all, it was an incredibly short-sighted decision by Hunter Strickland to hit Bryce Harper in yesterday’s game for something that happened so long ago, that was just Strickland’s fault for not pitching better to begin with. Hopefully, cooler heads prevail and no more batters get hit, because nothing good comes from any of that. We will have to see what happens the rest of the series, but I would imagine there will be some short tempers in both dugouts the next couple of days.
Bobby Down, Baseline Times MLB Contributor