One of the most thoughtfully articulate baseball players of his time stands athwart sense, yelling “Super!” about brawl games such as that instigated by Hunter Strickland against Bryce Harper on Memorial Day. It’s enough to provoke lustful thoughts about the Kardashians, to whom exhibitionism equals articulation.
Schpritzing about who does and does not have the right to flip a bat upon a monster mash may be one thing, but Jake Arrieta, Cubs pitcher, thinks the Strickland-Harper rumble was “awesome.”
“I don’t think anybody is right or wrong,” Arrieta told Chicago’s CBS affiliate, known colloquially as 670 The Score, the day after Strickland-Harper. “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.”
Apparently, Arrieta thinks it’s jake that Strickland, who hadn’t faced Harper since the 2014 National League division series, but who’d been “chirping” back and forth with Harper since, threw one into Harper’s hip on the first pitch Monday afternoon, over a pair of long home runs Harper hit off Strickland in that series.
Somehow, the “refreshment” of two teams being or remaining emotionally charged over events two years and seven months in the past is an absurdity that doesn’t register. With Arrieta, and with a lot of people.
Harper connected off Strickland in Games One and Four of that division series—which, by the way, the Giants went on to win, en route a third World Series ring in five seasons. It’s thought the Game Four blast got under Strickland’s skin particularly, since Harper had the audacity to pause long enough gazing at the ball before taking his round trip.
Except that there was a method to Harper’s apparent madness. Before the ball landed in McCovey’s Cove behind AT&T Park, it flew right down the right field line. Harper and everyone else in the park that night, from the dugouts to the top of the upper deck, couldn’t be certain the ball would pass the foul pole on the fair side until it did just that.
Any pitcher with the common sense God bestowed upon a gnat would have seen the trajectory and understood in an instant that this wasn’t a case of trying to show anyone up. Indeed, the split second Harper connected, Strickland jerked around in a split second of his own to watch and wonder.
And any observer with the same common sense, who watched Monday’s game closely, could have seen Strickland’s intended target—facing Harper with two out, nobody on, the Nationals up 2-0, Harper freshly checked in at the plate, and Giants catcher Buster Posey set up for a pitch on the inside corner but no further—wasn’t Posey’s mitt but Harper’s anatomy. (Posey may even have called for a curve ball, not the fastball Strickland threw.)
The ball ricocheted off Harper’s hip and floated up the third base line several feet. Harper charged the mound, throwing his helmet away and sailing right up to Strickland to swap punches. Posey stood behind the plate, possibly thinking to himself, You’re on your own, bro, I didn’t call for that pitch, and wouldn’t it be easier not to throw home run pitches than to steam about them for almost three years?
To Strickland, apparently, that was a clown question, bro.
It took almost seven full seconds before any Giant or Nat reached the combatants. En route, two Giants, pitcher Jeff Samardzija and first baseman Michael Morse, collided. It cost Morse a seven-day trip to the concussion list.
Arrieta likes that it took that long before either team joined the fun. “If two guys want to go see each other, let them be in the middle, let them throw some punches, then break it up,” he told The Score. “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.”
He even admired Posey’s conduct, though not necessarily for the reason anyone else does: “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.”
With no known report quoting him otherwise, is it fair to assume that, his call for a “moment” between initial combatants before everyone else joins up, Arrieta thinks nothing of the prospect of teammates being injured in such scrums, as Strickland surely didn’t? What does he think Morse’s concussion is? Collateral damage?
It’s reasonable to think Arrieta wouldn’t have liked his chances if, as happened in the 2015 National League wild card game he dominated, he was not just hit on the hip by a pitch but perhaps piledriven by a rampaging Pirate in the middle of the melee. Sports Illustrated‘s Jon Tayler asks a question provoked by just that: “What if Arrieta’s newly resurgent career had been affected because of a pointless hit-by-pitch? Will it take something like that to make all the performative posturing passé?”
Arrieta might not have liked his chances with baseball government, either, if the following season his primary order of business in his next outing against the Pirates was to drill, say, Andrew McCutchen. Harper after his appeal was suspended for 27 innings (three games); Strickland, at this writing, awaits the net result of his appeal. If it fails, he’d be suspended six innings (three games, in relief pitching terms). If it succeeds, he’d be suspended, what? Four innings? (Four games.) Three innings? (Three games.)
Some would say that’s not justice no matter how you parse it. Others would lament that that’s one of the problems with baseball government—you hope for Solomon, but you wind up with Inspector Clouseau.