On Memorial Day, Hunter Strickland, a very, very, very large baseball man capable of firing a five-ounce orb upwards of 100 mph decided to reignite virtually nonexistent beef, turn the nucleus of the national pastime into a weapon and plunk Bryce Harper, one of baseball’s brightest stars, for two moonshots he clobbered three seasons ago instead of, I don’t know, doing his job.
Harper, the plunkee, if you will, decided he did not appreciate being hit with the projectile because he, unlike this very, very, very large baseball man, performed the task he was paid to complete, again, three years ago.
Instead of proceeding with his day, Harper tried to prove just how much he did not appreciate the gesture by throwing his anti-projectile headpiece at Strickland, inadvertently writing the latest chapter in sporting meme history as the helmet “Shooting Star’d” its way into right field, then asking this very, very, very large baseball man: “Hey, what did the fist say to the face?”
— Anthony (@anthonypane28) May 30, 2017
In the middle of a perfectly normal baseball game, Strickland and Harper decided to show their excitement for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals by engaging in the type of brawl which is usually reserved for the ice.
Harper got a punch in. Strickland got a punch in. Michael Morse and Jeff Samardzija, two equally very, very, very large baseball men, collided with each other running close to top speed trying to de-escalate the fight because of their pitcher’s absolute buffoonery.
Hunter Pence risked a suspension by running out on the field during the fight to restrain Strickland, who needed four grown men to drag him into the clubhouse as he looked more reminiscent of a spoiled child pouting because he didn’t get a scoop of ice cream for dessert after not eating his broccoli than a 28-year-old major relief pitcher, i.e. an adult.
Madison Bumgarner, instantly realizing he had no role in the beef, quietly snuck away to go polish his dirtbike.
Strickland and Harper single-handedly incited a benches-clearing fight featuring upward of 50 people with more than 40,000 men, women and children in attendance and thousands watching and listening from some outlet.
If these two took their little skirmish outside the confines of AT&T Park, they would promptly be arrested and shamed in the local news. Because they duked it out away from reality, their punishment came in the form of a suspension which will put them out of commission for a week at max, a slap on the wrist considering how many games there are in the regular season.
Despite Strickland and Harper’s antics, eyes gravitated toward Buster Posey and his course of action, or rather lack thereof. Posey did not attempt to stop the fellow-MVP from charging at his pitcher and didn’t jog out toward the pitcher’s mound until Strickland and Harper had already exchanged blows.
By the time Posey made his way to the mound, the damage had been done. Following a lot of pushing and shoving, Harper made his way to the first baseline while a pack of Giants attempted to control Strickland. Posey completely distanced himself from the moshpit, looking on like a disappointed father whose child sits in the right field grass picking daisies as a base hit rolls on by.
“Guys….quit it.” pic.twitter.com/Ock1F7DO7a
— Mike Foster📎 (@scout_6) May 29, 2017
Posey wanted absolutely nothing to do with the skirmish. Watch the clip one more time, but focus only Posey.
Posey gives Strickland the sign for a fastball down and in, a pitch which, according to Fangraphs’ heatmaps, Harper has difficulty hitting. Strickland comes set and Posey sets the target, most likely hoping for a fastball to be throw in the vicinity of where he places his glove.
Instead, his pitcher fires a 98 mph heater right at Harper’s hips. Posey fully extends his arm in a frivolous attempt to spear the ball, but it is all for naught as the ball connects with Harper’s body and flies toward San Francisco’s dugout.
The disappointment was immediately apparent. Posey slumped his shoulders, stared at Strickland and most likely uttered, “Really?” under his breath.
If Posey wanted to intervene before Harper charged the mound, he unquestionably had the opportunity: Posey was already standing up from trying to reel in Strickland’s beanball and Harper was no more than a couple feet away. Plus, Harper didn’t immediately charge the mound, rather pointing his bat at Strickland and taking some steps toward the first baseline before charging the pitcher.
Posey decided to stand idle and watch the situation develop. While the catcher probably questioned why his pitcher would take such an idiotic course of action, home plate umpire Brian Gorman started out jogging in an attempt to intervene before citing the “not my job” clause in his contract and allowing the respective teams to handle the situation.
Posey made his way to the pile, but only made it as far as the outskirts before removing himself from the situation entirely and standing on the island that was the patch of infield grass near the third base line. Was Posey in the wrong for not immediately jumping in front of Harper?
Well no, obviously.
Wait, I actually have to explain this? But I already shut down my compu-
Let’s logically break down the scenario.
We’ll most likely never know what Posey was thinking when Strickland went rogue, but it was most likely something along the lines of, “You’re really going to go down this road? Fine, I’ll let you handle that situation yourself.” I’d like to believe the majority of players on both sides had this thought, but chose to intervene anyhow instead of allowing a Memorial Day ballgame to turn into the second iteration of Nolan Ryan and Robin Ventura’s bloodbath.
Posey called for a pitch and a location, but Strickland ignored his batterymate and fired away. One man was trying to do his job. The other wanted vengeance. So instead of attempting to clean up Strickland’s mess for him, Posey allowed Harper to charge and held Strickland responsible for his own actions. You reap what you sow.
Even if Posey wanted to join in, he knew that doing presented exponentially more risks and absolutely no reward. The Giants and Posey know that he’s their golden boy, the MVP who was at the center of the team’s three World Series championships and will be one of the reasons they’ll remain in contention for years to come.
San Francisco is already in the midst of an abysmal season, currently looking like a bottomfeeder in the National League rather than a team which many predicted would make the postseason. Part of that venture into mediocrity has been a result of Taijuan Walker accidentally concussing Posey in the noggin with a stray fastball this season, which put San Francisco’s catcher out of commission for, miraculously, only eight days.
Posey knows his importance and how much worse the Giants are off without him behind the dish. Ask the 2011 Giants how their season may have gone with the reigning Rookie of the Year making 600 plate appearances.
While his decision to remain out of the incident looked horrible in real time, Posey chose to preserve his body so that he may carry out his job, a job which is by far the most physically demanding in comparison to other positions.
Besides, what if Posey joined in on the action and suffered an injury as a result? The entire debacle becomes so much more worse and fans are most likely screaming that Posey should have stayed the hell out of it in the first place because it wasn’t his battle. A true lose-lose situation.
Luckily for baseball, which has already lost MVP candidates in Freddie Freeman and Mike Trout to injuries, the Giants and Nationals escaped without anyone harmed. Everyone will most likely forget about Posey’s inaction a week from now when Aaron Judge hits another home run anyhow. Now, if only baseball would have the guts to finally crack down on all this retaliation nonsense.