Getty Images

The Harper-Strickland fight was stupid. MLB doesn’t  have to be.

76 Comments

On a visceral level, the Bryce HarperHunter Strickland fight was fun to watch because we don’t get a lot of actual fights in baseball anymore and we’ll take what we can get.

On an intellectual level, of course, it was all stupid. Every single part of it.

Hunter Strickland throwing at Harper because Harper hit a couple of homer off of him three seasons ago is about as weak as it gets. Indeed, the Giants actually won that series and went on to win the World Series that year, so the fact that Strickland was still holding a grudge over Harper’s bombs is not just weak, it’s inner-circle weak.

Harper, of course, is not blameless. He’s the victim of a dumb plunking and Strickland is owed far more condemnation in all of this in my view, but the mound charge/helmet throw was not wise. He’s mounting an MVP season here, and the Nats look like the best team in the National League. At the time he made his charge, the best case scenario was that his team would lose the services of its best player for a time. Worst case scenario is that Harper could’ve gotten hurt or gotten his teammates hurt. Would a busted hand on the MVP favorite have made anyone feel better, no matter how much Strickland deserved it? Luckily that didn’t come to pass.

Now Major League Baseball has a chance to be dumb. It can be dumb by doing what past precedent suggests it will do here in punishing Harper as much if not more than Strickland due to the charge/helmet toss. Pitchers throw at guys a lot. Given that most pitchers don’t throw every day and given that they almost always claim that the ball “just got away from them,” those suspensions often cause them, at worst to get five game suspensions which in reality has them only missing a couple of games. When batters throw things or charge the mound their intentions are clear and they tend to lose a lot more time. The baseline on those are 5-7 games. A few years back Carlos Quentin got eight games for charging Zack Greinke. Throwing the helmet could add time.

My hope in all of this is that Major League Baseball does not do something dumb. My hope is that they, for once, appreciate that intentionally throwing a 90+ mile per hour pitch at a batter and hitting him is worse than a batter wildly flinging a helmet at a pitcher at about, oh, 20 miles per hour and missing. My hope is that they appreciate that a pitcher holding a nearly three-year grudge over a baseball player hitting a home run is more immature and damaging to the game than a batter losing his cool for a moment when the pitcher tries to hurt him.

Strickland should be suspended a lot more than Harper is. If he isn’t, we’re just compounding the dumb.

Bryce Harper defeats Kyle Schwarber 19-18 to win the 2018 Home Run Derby

Rob Carr/Getty Images
7 Comments

Bryce Harper, who said he was tired after taking his cuts in the first round, certainly appeared gassed in the final round. So, too, did his dad, who was throwing to him. But Harper caught fire, going on a tear and tying Kyle Schwarber with 18 home runs before time expired in the final round of the 2018 Home Run Derby. Harper unlocked 30 seconds of bonus time by hitting two home runs at least 440 feet. With his second swing in bonus time, Harper homered to straightaway center field for No. 19. He tossed his bat in celebration, grabbed his trophy, then gave it to his dad before he was mobbed on the field by his All-Star teammates.

Harper hit 13 home runs in the first round, eliminating Freddie Freeman and advancing to the semifinals. In the semis, Harper topped Max Muncy 13-12 to advance to the finals. On Schwarber’s side of the bracket, he bested Alex Bregman 16-15, then defeated Rhys Hoskins 21-20.

Harper is the first member of the Nationals (or Expos) to win the Home Run Derby. Harper participated in the 2013 Derby but finished in second place behind Yoenis Céspedes. Harper is also the first left-handed hitter to win the Derby since Prince Fielder in 2012. The only players to win the Derby in their home park are Todd Frazier in 2015 and Ryne Sandberg in 1990.

As a spectator, the 2018 Home Run Derby was tons of fun. The four-minute clock adds a lot of tension and intrigue even to the initial rounds. Seeing teammates cheer and get excited for their teammates in the Derby is really fun. Of course, watching dinger after dinger is cool, too. Can’t wait for next year.