Bryce Harper and Hunter Strickland got into an ugly brawl on Monday after Strickland beaned Harper in the hip in the eighth inning.
Harper pointed at Strickland, charged the mound, threw his helmet, and the two exchanged blows, as the Giants and Nationals rushed the field.
Luckily, nobody was hurt in the incident, and both teams did a good job separating Harper and Strickland as opposed to escalating the fight.
Afterward, it became clear that history — and, as usual, baseball’s strange unwritten rules — played a part in the melee.
In 2014, during the playoffs, Harper homered off Strickland twice in a series the Giants went on to win. In both cases, Harper perhaps took a little too long to enjoy watching the home runs, and after the second, trash-talked Strickland a bit, yelling, “Again, baby!”
After the fight on Monday, Strickland essentially admitted that the previous incidents were in his head while pitching to Harper.
“Yeah, I can see how that kind of stands in people’s minds but that’s the past,” Strickland said. “I left the ball over the plate a couple of times to him and he’s taken advantage of that. So obviously I’d rather miss in than over the plate.”
That’s a pretty basic admission from Strickland: I’d rather hit Harper than get homered on again.
Harper seemed to also recognise the incident, saying it was so long ago, it shouldn’t be relevant.
“It’s so in the past that it’s not even relevant anymore. They won the World Series that year. I don’t even think he should be thinking about what happened in the first round. He should be thinking about wearing that ring home every single night. I don’t know why he did it or what he did it for, but I guess it happens.”
Harper, however, also admitted that Strickland did something right if it was an act of vengeance.
“One thing I’ve got to say about Strickland is he hit me in the right spot, so I do respect him for that. He didn’t come up and in toward my face like some guys do, so I respect him on that level.”
Translation: “If you’re going to hit me, just don’t hit me in my face, please. Thanks.”
This is certainly not the first or last time this discussion will be had. Earlier in May, the Atlanta Braves hit the Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista for flipping his bat after a home run — while the Jays trailed by five runs. Still, Atlanta wanted revenge for being shown up by Bautista, who also carries a reputation for being a bit excessive in his celebration.
Both Harper and Strickland may be facing suspensions for the incident, but MLB may need to come down harder on Strickland if a home run three years ago played a part in intentionally hitting someone.
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