Bryce Harper and Hunter Strickland likely will both be suspended for their roles in Monday’s brawl at AT&T Park. After being drilled by a 98 mph fastball, Harper charged the mound and threw his helmet toward Strickland before exchanging punches with the pitcher, who later told reporters that he was simply trying to work Harper down and in.
Yeah, right. There is history between Strickland and Harper. It was ancient history before Strickland brought it to the forefront Monday, but it was history nonetheless. Harper hit two long home runs off Strickland during the 2014 National League Division Series. After the second one, in a Game 4 loss at San Francisco, Harper stared at Strickland as he rounded the bases and celebrated with more enthusiasm than usual in the Nationals’ dugout.
The ridiculous nature of Strickland’s three-year grudge is one reason that SiriusXM radio host and former Nationals general manager Jim Bowden passionately defended Harper’s decision to charge the mound.
“Bryce Harper should not be suspended for a single game and what he did was absolutely appropriate, and he should have done it,” Bowden said Tuesday on his SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio show with co-host Craig Mish. “And for Strickland, I think he should get 15 games or more, maybe 20. So it was 2014 when Harper took him yard twice in the postseason. I’m going to say it again: 2014. It is now 2017, so, are you kidding me? You wait three years and then you throw at him on purpose, on Memorial Day? Like, really? Like, what in the world are you thinking? It’s just unbelievable to me. For that to happen was incredible. Now, if you’re Bryce Harper, what are you supposed to do, really?”
The eighth inning on Monday marked Harper’s first plate appearance against Strickland since the 2014 NLDS, but Bowden’s point still stands.
“For people that think he should be suspended — and the league is going to suspend him five games, which is going to hurt my fantasy team — but what does everybody expect him to do?” Bowden said. “When you throw a baseball 98 miles per hour at someone, that’s seriously a weapon. You can break a bone, you can end somebody’s career if you put it in the wrong place. And give him credit, he put it in the right place. But it was on purpose, and what if there was an injury there? What is Bryce supposed to do for his family? How is he supposed to protect himself, really? You tell me.
“The umpire could’ve come out and ejected Strickland right away, which he should’ve, because he threw on purpose. You don’t need a warning to do that. He should’ve done that, he didn’t. But besides that, what’s he supposed to do? As he charged the mound and threw his helmet, he clearly threw the helmet away from everybody, right? In fact, when he threw the helmet, it caused a punch to his face, because Strickland was able to land a punch because of the follow-through on the helmet. And then Harper came back and got a good right on Strickland, but what else is Harper supposed to do? You’ve got to be able to defend yourself.”
While Harper missed the mark with his helmet, it’s not clear that was intentional. “I was just trying to go after him, with the helmet or just myself,” Harper said after the game.
“I really don’t think he should be suspended at all,” Bowden continued. “I think everybody’s wrong. And I think Strickland should get 15 or 20 games, and knock him out. Really, if I’m running the Giants, I’m gonna option him out and just end it. I know how great he is, but what a thug. To do that, you’re a thug. I’m sorry, that’s what you are. And I don’t want to hear this unwritten rule. And by the way, the Giants won the World Series that year, so what does Strickland really want here? He gives up two homers, they win the World Series anyway, he got a ring and a trip to the White House. He got the champagne, Harper didn’t, Harper’s team went home.
“So what is this all about? Because you left two pitches over the plate and he destroyed you? Three years later you want to hit him because of it? I’m so angry about this thing, Craig, if you could see my face right now, it is redder than a tomato and I’m not making that up. I am fuming. I’ve got gasoline coming out of my earlobes, smoke coming up through the pores of my scalp, I’m so upset at this.”
Bowden reiterated that part of the reason he’s so steamed about Harper’s likely suspension is that the Nationals outfielder is on his fantasy team. So how many games should his fantasy owners — and real-world employers — expect him to miss? Last year, Orioles third baseman Manny Machado was suspended four games for charging the mound and throwing a punch at Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura, who drilled Machado with a 99 mph fastball. Ventura, who was suspended seven games in 2015 for sparking a benches-clearing brawl against the White Sox, was suspended nine games for intentionally throwing at Machado.
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