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Jake Arrieta calls Harper-Strickland brawl “awesome,” “refreshing”

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No surprise here: Cubs starter Jake Arrieta is a big fan of Monday’s brawl between the Nationals and Giants that starred outfielder Bryce Harper and reliever Hunter Strickland. As a guest on the Bernstein and Goff Show on 670 The Score on Tuesday, the right-hander called the brawl “awesome” and “refreshing,” as CBS Chicago reports.

I don’t think anybody is right or wrong. I thought it was awesome. Every once in a while, it’s refreshing to see two teams emotionally charged getting after it. And when something like that happens versus continuing to chirp and talk about it, why don’t you go out there and see somebody? That’s exactly what happened in the game yesterday.

Bryce and Hunter went out there, they were a few punches, they landed one apiece, I believe. And then Samardzija comes out of left field and smashes into Morse. I’m pretty sure Harper was lucky that they collided, because Samardzija was coming in to do some damage.

Arrieta continued:

If two guys want to go see each other, let them be in the middle, let them throw some punches, then break it up. I don’t like to see any sucker punches. I do think in the heat of battle if you’re getting hit on the hip with 98, then you should be able to go out and see somebody. I think the umpires handled it well. They let them exchange for a moment, then they tried to break it up.

What I don’t like to see is a lot of chirping and guys just talking crap to each other. If you got something wrong with a guy, go see him. And then they’ll break it up and continue to play the game.

Giants catcher Buster Posey memorably stayed around home plate while Harper went after Strickland. Arrieta said he wants his catcher to do the same. Arrieta said, “If it’s my catcher, I want him to wait and give me an opportunity to do a little damage. I don’t want it broken up right away. If it happens, I’ll let you know. I’ll be ready. You know, I like my chances toe to toe with just about anybody. I know Willson (Contreras) would probably beat whoever charges the mound to the mound, but I’ll tell him and Miggy (Montero), ‘Hey, give me 10, 15 seconds to get some work in and then come out and see me.'”

Unfortunately, Arrieta is wrong for championing continued violence in baseball. Eventually, someone is going to be seriously hurt or killed because a baseball man had his feelings hurt. It’s not good for the game, especially if a star like Harper is involved and gets injured either by the pitch or by joining the fracas. It’s not good for kids watching, who learn that violence is an acceptable response to a perceived slight. It’s great for sportswriters, though, who get something to talk about for a couple days. So, uh, thanks, I guess.

Nats’ success shouldn’t be about Bryce Harper

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Bryce Harper turns 27 years old today. As an early birthday present, he got to watch his former team reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history. His new team finished exactly at .500 in fourth place, missing the playoffs. These were facts that did not go unnoticed as the Nationals completed an NLCS sweep of the Cardinals at home last night.

Harper spent seven seasons with the Nationals before hitting free agency and ultimately signing with the Phillies on a 13-million, $330 million contract. The Nationals offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million contract at the end of the 2018 regular season, but about $100 million of that was deferred until he was 65 which lowered the present-day value of the offer. The Nats’ offer wasn’t even in the same ballpark, really.

Nevertheless, Nationals fans were upset that their prodigy jilted them to go to the Phillies. He was mercilessly booed whenever the Phillies played in D.C. Nats fans’ Harper jerseys were destroyed, or at least taped over.

Harper, of course, was phenomenal with the Nationals. He won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, then won the NL MVP Award several years later with an historically outstanding 1.109 OPS while leading the league with 42 homers and 118 runs scored. Overall, as a National, he had a .900 OPS. Pretty good. He was also productive in the postseason, posting an .801 OPS across 19 games, mostly against playoff teams’ best starters and best relievers. Furthermore, if the Nats had Harper this year, he would have been in right field in lieu of Adam Eaton. Harper out OPS’d Eaton by 90 points and posted 2.5 more WAR in a similar amount of playing time. The Nationals would have been even better if they had Harper this year.

The Nationals lost all four Division Series they appeared in during the Harper era. 3-2 to the Cardinals in 2012, 3-1 to the Giants in ’14, 3-2 to the Dodgers in ’16, and 3-2 to the Cubs in ’17. They finally get over the hump the first year they’re without Harper, that’s the difference, right? I saw the phrase “addition by subtraction” repeatedly last night, referring to Harper and the Nats’ subsequent success without him.

Harper, though, didn’t fork over four runs to the Cardinals in the top of the ninth inning in Game 5 in 2012. He didn’t allow the Dodgers to rally for four runs in the seventh inning of Game 5 in ’16 before ultimately losing 4-3. He didn’t use a gassed Max Scherzer in relief in 2017’s Game 5, when he allowed five of the seven Cubs he faced to reach base, leading to three runs which loomed large in a 9-8 loss. If certain rolls of the dice in those years had gone the Nationals’ way, they would have appeared in the NLCS. They might’ve even been able to win a World Series.

The Nationals saw how that looks this year. It was the opposing manager this time, Dave Roberts, who mismanaged his bullpen. Howie Kendrick then hit a tie-breaking grand slam in the 10th inning off of Joe Kelly to win the NLDS for the Nats. The playoffs are random. Sometimes a ball bounces your way, sometimes an umpire’s call goes your way, and sometimes the opposing manager makes several unforced errors to throw Game 5 in your lap.

Reaching the World Series, then thumbing your nose while sticking out your tongue at Harper feels like a guy tagging his ex-girlfriend on his new wedding photos. It’s time to move on.