SAN FRANCISCO — Bryce Harper didn’t do what the rest of us did after Monday’s huge brawl he headlined with San Francisco Giants reliever Hunter Strickland. While baseball fans pored over replays and highlights, looking to assign blame and pass judgment on what players did and did not do, Harper retreated back to his hotel room and watched the Food Network.
He woke up and talked to his parents over breakfast, still somewhat in shock about what happened — how a three-season-old grudge from Strickland meant a 98-mph fastball into his hip and a benches-clearing brawl in which fists were flying after an angry Harper decided to charge the mound.
“It’s just crazy that it even happened. After three years, to do that,” Harper said Tuesday in the Nats’ clubhouse at AT&T Park, about the beef that dates back to a pair of postseason homers he hit off Strickland in 2014 and some jawing that ensued between the two players.
“I don’t know what was going through his mind or how upset he was the last couple years,” Harper said. “If he did have a problem, he could have talked to me during BP about it and said, ‘Hey I didn’t like the way you went about it.’ That’s not human nature, I guess.”
Shortly before Harper spoke to reporters word had come down about punishments: Harper was suspended four games by MLB; Strickland got six. There’s a bit of an exchange rate there, since Strickland is a relief pitcher and doesn’t play every day like Harper. Both players didn’t have too much to say about the league’s decision. Both said it was out of their hands. Both elected to appeal.
The big question was what would happen next? Would the Nats retaliate by throwing at a Giants player? Would anybody on the Giants want to go after Harper again? Both managers said Tuesday that they hadn’t gotten a call from the league office, like what happened during the thick of the Red Sox-Orioles feud. And during the game, there were no additional fireworks. Unless you count Harper’s left-on-base total for the night.
Harper remained in the lineup against the Giants on Tuesday night and went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts against Giants pitcher Jeff Samardzija and a handful of relievers. Harper left eight men on base, but the Nats won the game 6-3 anyway.
Before Tuesday’s game, Harper said he hoped he wouldn’t be hit again. And he wasn’t.
“That’s gonna suck if I get hit again,” Harper said. “If they hit me in the same spot, it’s gonna hurt really bad. I hope not. I don’t think Samardzija would want to start that or do that. I think a lot of their guys were shocked yesterday. You could see it on a lot of their faces.”
Harper did note that he might have been hurt in the brawl if not for current Giant Mike Morse, who is also an ex-Nat. Morse collided with Samardzija in the thick of the brawl.
“I’m kinda thankful that Mikey Mo and Samardzija collided because Samardzija saw blood a little bit, I thought,” Harper said. “I’m very thankful for Mikey Mo.”
Nats manager Dusty Baker said he thought Harper’s suspension was unfair and hopes it gets reduced by the league under appeal. He cracked to reporters: “Probably only Martin Luther King or Gandhi would’ve turned a cheek.”
Before the game, both Baker and Giants manager Bruce Bochy said no further retaliation would come, though it’s not like those things are broadcast before the game starts. But even Strickland said the whole beef should be over.
“I think it’s done,” he said.
Harper hoped the same — for his own sake and for both teams.
“Hopefully both sides can play the game,” he said, “and not really worry about things that happened in the past.”
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