As Bryce Harper explained it, when Hunter Strickland hit him with a 98 mph fastball in the series opener of the Washington Nationals’ series with the San Francisco Giants in AT&T Park, he had two choices.
“You never want to get suspended or anything like that,” Harper told reporters, as quoted by MASNSports.com’s Mark Zuckerman later that night, “... but sometimes you’ve got to go and get him.
“You can’t hesitate. You either go to first base, of you go after him and I decided to go after him.”
Harper was not, he said, expecting to get hit. He had history with Strickland, yes. He hit two home runs in two at bats against the hard-throwing Giants’ reliever in 2014’s NLDS matchup, and there were glares, some talk as he rounded the bases, and chatter once he got back to the dugout, but that was three years earlier, and he hadn’t faced Strickland since.
“It’s so in the past, it’s not even relevant anymore,” Harper said.
“They won the World Series that year. I don’t think he should even be thinking about what happened in the first round. He should be thinking about wearing that ring home every single night. I don’t know why he did it, or what he did it for, but I guess it happens.”
Those two arguments, offered by the 24-year-old outfielder after the game, were the ones he and his agent, Scott Boras made when they appealed Major League Baseball’s decision to hand down a four-game suspension for Harper, “... charging the mound, throwing his helmet, and fighting,” with Strickland.
Boras provided the details of the appeal they made in an appearance on MLB Network Radio’s Inside Pitch this afternoon.
The agent said he used the four-game suspension that Baltimore Orioles’ infielder Manny Machado received for charging the mound and fighting Kansas City Royals’ starter Yordano Ventura in June of 2016 as precedent for his argument.
“I think the first thing was that we wanted to see what the precedent was,” Boras explained, “... and immediately, right after the altercation, we started and really discovered that the Machado situation was one where he had had a couple pitches close that were up and in the prior at bat.
“There had been some aggressive conversation that occurred between the pitcher and Manny prior to the next at bat where he was hit and then charged the mound.
“So, the idea of this was that notice of provocation had been registered with Machado and then he charged the mound and there was a physical altercation and he received a four-game suspension.
“So my point was that certainly in Bryce Harper’s case there should be mitigation of that suspension amount because Harp had no notice.
“There was nothing that occurred between the teams, he really had no ‘mens rea’ as we call it in the law to be able to develop an intent to what to do and he was just — really, I think when you’re a baseball player and you’ve been hit by a near-100 mph fastball, there is a fear, something dangerous has happened to you, and then all of a sudden it’s a flight or fight response.
“You really don’t have time to register your thought about what to do if something like that happens to you, much like in Machado’s case, he kind of knew that there was a provocation situation that occurred, and so our point was that it should be less than that and in the end, the league complied.”
Harper sat out of the series finale with the Giants in AT&T Park, and he’ll sit out of the first two of three with the A’s in Oakland.
All things considered, Nats’ skipper Dusty Baker said after the original suspension was reduced, he was happy with the decision to limit it to three games.
“Very happy,” Baker told reporters. “Not happy that it was three, but three is better than four, and so he decided to take it today so he’ll miss this game tonight and then he’ll miss the first two games of the Oakland series and then hopefully he’ll be ready to play on Sunday.”