Recently Washington Nationals outfielder and probable National League Most Valuable Player Bryce Harper was hit by a weaponized fastball. San Francisco Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland decided that he would throw in and tight to the lefty slugger to send a message.
It seems that back in the 2014 NL playoffs Harper made mincemeat of a couple of Strickland’s pitches and let the veteran hurler know with a mean mug.
Harper decided that he wanted to dance with the right handed flame thrower. He grabbed his helmet and tossed it like he was playing frisbee golf while running to the pitcher’s mound.
Strickland had an inkling that Harper was on his way so as the helmet was being tossed he started his warmup and began to fire punches at the batter.
Harper fired a few in return like two battleships next to each other with their guns pointed too close they only made incidental contact but no direct hits. Bullpens and dugouts ran to the field and everyone acted like they were auditioning for a part in West Side Story- you’re either a Jet or a Shark baby.
After all the crazies had left the field, it was up to me to ask: was Strickland seriously pissed about those two home runs for three years? Come on dude you won a World Series with the Giants in 2014. Did you not see Frozen? Let it go already.
But it’s not just Strickland, there have been numerous incidents where batters were thrown at or hit by pitchers because they took them deep. Maybe they also put a little “jump” in their step too when they rounded the bases, but it’s a sport isn’t it? When was the last time you played or watched a sport you cared about and didn’t get emotionally involved?
One of my favorite players lights up the radar because he tends to hold on to his bat “too long” or toss it “too high.” In case you aren’t sure, I’m referring to Jose Bautista, or “Joey Bats” as he is lovingly called, of the Toronto Blue Jays.
During the 2015 American League Division Series, the Jays were tied with the Texas Rangers 3-3 in the decisive fifth game. The series had been a grueling nasty affair and neither team liked the other. With two men on base, two outs and relief pitcher Sam Dyson on the mound, “Bats” saw a 97 mile per hour fastball and crushed it over the left field fence.
He watched the ball fly reminding me of Roberto Alomar’s 92 ALCS home run off A’s pitcher Dennis Eckersley. Alomar put his arms out as he ran to first, he had never hit a bigger home run in his career. He would never hit another as big as that.
Bautista however paused, watched and then threw his bat as if to say “you can’t throw a 97 MPH fastball by me.”
The Rangers however were none too impressed. Most of baseball wasn’t impressed.
But I wonder, in a sport where we celebrate the home run and passion behind it why is it so wrong for hitters to show emotion? Haven’t we moved past the point where our home run slugger gently places a bat down and runs as fast as he can around the bases? Why are we so afraid to “show up the pitcher?”
If the pitcher didn’t want to be shown up, throw a better pitch. The pitcher holds all the advantages in this game- he can fire pitches at someone’s body and ruin a career. If Sam Dyson faced Joey Bautista again and wanted to “send a message,” he could throw the ball at the Jays’ slugger’s head. If he made contact it could be lights out especially at 97 miles per hour.
Letting pitchers “send messages” only serves to create more conflict, cause injuries and take away the passion in the game.