It was just over five years ago that Bryce Harper was in the news because of another plunking. In 2012, Cole Hamels hit Harper for breaking the unwritten rule of existing. It remains one of the sillier reasons someone has been thrown at over the last decade — “Because he’s there,” said the George Mallory of pitching — and I figured it would be the silliest reason someone would ever throw at Harper.
We have a challenger, though. There was a Memorial Day donnybrook between the Nationals and Giants, and it looked like this:
Who was at fault? Who acted like a nincompoop? We’ll rank the people at fault in order, from “nincompoopiest” to “pretty chill, actually.” Starting with …
Strickland threw at Harper for a home run he hit. In 2014. During a series in which the Giants were victorious. Which happened shortly before they won a championship.
That’s where it should have ended. The plunking was already done, and it was a 97-mph fastball right to the butt of Harper’s soul. Strickland was the punchline of the 2014 postseason, but he finished with a ring. Harper had the home runs, but he had 1,000 pounds of what-ifs yoked to his neck. Advantage: Strickland.
Just ask Harper:
Harper repeatedly mentioned that Strickland has a World Series ring, and Nats lost the series. Why still harbor a grudge?
— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) May 29, 2017
Dunno. It makes no sense. Let’s take a look at the tape.
That baseball was two weeks away from retirement, but then it was murdered. Seems like that should be against the unwritten rules. Sure, Harper looked at the ball for a beat, but wouldn’t you? When I hit a golf ball that far, I stare at it approvingly, like, yeah, I just made physics do that. If I hit a home run that far, I would probably pretend the bat was a spyglass and yell, “Yarrr, she won’t be troublin’ us anymore, mateys” before I left the box.
I would get hit an awful lot with baseballs.
But, fine, there was a little admiring from Harper, but nothing that deserved a baseball to the butt.
Here’s round two, though:
Now that’s a fella admiring his home run. However, to play Boras’ advocate, a lot of that had to do with “fair or foul?” more than anything that broke an unwritten rule.
Strickland noticed that Harper was about 55 feet away from first base when the ball landed, though, and words were exchanged.
Death stares were exchanged, even. How would this end? Tune in next week for another exciting episode of Harper vs. Strickland!
Then the Giants won the World Series.
Then 2015 happened.
Then 2016 happened.
Everything was pretty much settled. The show was cancelled.
There was a parade in 2014, and Hunter Strickland was in it. His float came right before Metallica’s float, which featured James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich waving to an adoring crowd while the Hall and Oates song “I Can’t Go For That” blared over loudspeakers. That detail has absolutely nothing to do with this story, but I’ve been keeping it in for so long that, here, you figure out what to do with it.
Bryce Harper got 30 plate appearances vs. the Giants in 2015. Which means there were 30 chances for various teammates to settle the score. Jean Machi faced Harper when the Giants were behind 9-2 with the bases empty in the eighth. George Kontos faced him when the Giants were leading 10-5 with the bases empty in the seventh. Strickland did not face Harper because Bruce Bochy was trying to win.
Harper got 24 plate appearances vs. the Giants in 2016. Strickland did not face Harper because Bruce Bochy was trying to win. At no point were baseballs thrown in Harper’s direction. This is because everyone had forgotten about whatever happened two years earlier. Remember the parade? Metallica was there. The grudge was gone, at least when it came to everyone else involved.
Which means it’s super weird for Strickland to remember that vividly, to use a baseball as a weapon because he was still so offended about 2014. I guarantee you that striking Harper out with a 97-mph fastball would have felt about six million times better than hitting him in the thigh.
So do that.
If Harper jaws a bit and takes his base, he gets to play in every game over the next few weeks. He decided to charge and use his helmet as a weapon.
Bad decision. Major League Baseball takes it very seriously when a player fires a rock-hard projectile at another player in the hopes of inflicting bodily harm and pain. Unless it’s a baseball. Then it’s totally cool.
If Harper’s helmet connected with Strickland’s knee, it could have broken a bone and caused a serious injury. Which would really make me upset if you couldn’t say the same thing about the the baseball that started this whole mess.
No, the most egregious part of Harper’s decision was that he looked like a goober throwing his helmet into right field. Here comes the angry baseball man, filled with baseball anger!
Yikes! Be mindful of that helmet, for it is a dangerous projectile!
Gadzooks! Here it comes!
lol you idiot
Years after you’ve forgotten that Hunter Strickland was a thing, you’ll remember Harper chucking his helmet into right field. It’s like Nolan Ryan giving a noogie to himself instead of Robin Ventura.
But if Harper didn’t charge the mound, every dingus who has been victimized by a long home run and an admiring gaze would have felt emboldened to do the same thing. That is, just about every active pitcher. Maybe they’ll still be emboldened, but at least they’ll know that it might come at a cost. And they’ll know that a prideful Harper will spend his entire offseason practicing throwing his helmet in his garage.
So I’m not even sure if I disagree with Harper charging. It was proactive protection. Even Giants announcer Duane Kuiper said, “I don’t blame Harper for going out. Not one bit.” There was a dumb, schoolyard method behind this madness.
Except throw the helmet straight, you idiot.
Apparently, this is a thing. When Strickland hit Harper, Buster Posey’s shoulders collapsed in exasperation. Unlike what we’re used to, Posey didn’t try to protect his pitcher.
Posey is wearing a mask, so I can’t see if he’s giving the best you-idiot face of the year … but I’m absolutely positive that he’s giving the best you-idiot face of the year.
I’ll be honest: There isn’t a lot of visual evidence that Posey likes to be in the middle of these things. Madison Bumgarner redassed his way to a bench-clearing incident with Yasiel Puig, but it happened after a ball was put in play. Bumgarner yelled at Wil Myers after the inning was over earlier in the year. The benches cleared in the 2014 World Series when the delicate pitcher took exception to failing in front of everybody, but that was also after the play was over. Chase Utley was already on his way to first in 2010.
But evidence does exist that Posey is willing to get between a hitter and his pitcher.
So it’s not like Posey’s a lily-livered coward. He’s just like the rest of us.
“Dude, really? That was three years ago. You’re fine. We’re all fine.”
He sat back behind home plate with a you-break-it-you-buy-it attitude, and I don’t blame him one bit. Like he needs to recover from a separated shoulder at age 30 because some doofus got his feelings hurt in 2014.
It is my solemn promise to you, gentle reader, that if you charge Chad Dalderban at the bar because of something he yelled at you in high school, I will let you. As fists rain down upon your previously beautiful face, you will wonder where I am.
I am keeping my face beautiful, thank you for asking. Because high school tiffs don’t mean a damned thing.
The same goes for dumb 2014 baseball tiffs. I can almost understand it if Strickland gave up the homer that allowed the Nationals to advance. As is, the Giants won. Strickland recovered from the acute dingeritis that threatened his career in that postseason. He’s had a solid career. Harper has won an MVP. It’s over. Find something else to be mad about.
Knowing baseball players, they won’t need an excuse. There’s always something to be mad about. And it’s putting my kids through college.