On Monday, San Francisco Giants reliever Hunter Strickland hit Bryce Harper on the hip with a 98 mile-per-hour fastball. In retaliation, Harper charged the mound and delivered arguably the most exciting moment of the entire MLB season.
Punches were thrown. Bodies were flying around everywhere. Players from both dugouts spilled out onto the field.
While the entertainment value was off the charts, the MLB league office struck both players down with suspensions.
Strickland was suspended six games for intentionally hitting “Harper with a pitch, inciting the bench-clearing incident and fighting”. Harper was handed a four-game ban for “for charging the mound, throwing his helmet and fighting.”
Since Strickland is a relief pitcher, his six games likely would have resulted in a few innings of in-game action and since Harper is a right fielder, the Nationals will miss him dearly, since he hits in the three-hole in the order on a nightly basis. Therefore, his punishment can be considered more severe than Strickland's.
The beef between the two players began three years ago, when Harper homered off of Strickland twice in the NLDS. Giants manager Bruce Bochy did not condone Strickland’s actions and called the pitch “a personal thing”.
Prior to Tuesday night’s game between the two clubs, Nationals manager Dusty Baker was quick to explain that fans should not expect any drama from his team.
"I know Bruce Bochy didn't give the command and order," Baker told reporters. "I could tell the way Buster Posey reacted he had nothing to do with it. In our mind, it was not a team act but a selfish act on his part. It's more selfish because he probably won't ever get to come to the plate for there to be any retaliation.”
As you can imagine, both players weren’t very excited about the news of their suspensions.
"You can't really worry about what MLB is going to do because you don't really know," Harper said. "Whatever they say goes and I'm just going to worry about the four games I got and see what I can do.”
If anything, his reaction to getting hit by Strickland gained Harper even more popularity. In fact, he's leading the entire MLB in early All-Star voting.
"I'm obviously not thrilled about it," Strickland noted. "It's their call. We'll go from there. Whatever they ultimately decide, I'll own it and take the responsibility."
Each player was also fined an undisclosed amount of cash and was eligible to play in Tuesday night’s game as a result. Bryce Harper started the game batting in his usual third slot in the lineup while Strickland was available out of the bullpen.