They say athletes are more sensitive than they have ever been. Especially in baseball.
What Bryce Harper showed us on Memorial Day against the San Francisco Giants is "living proof", as my man Lil Dap from Group Home once said, that baseball players are still 'bout it when it comes to expressing their toughness.
That’s if we still equate fighting with toughness. In hockey they do. In baseball, they obviously still do because guys are getting beaned with 97 mile-per-hour fastballs with regularity this season. If you flip a bat or show a pitcher up in any way, or in Harper’s case if you hit two bombs off them in the playoffs and then bark at the pitcher because he stares at you rounding the bases, then as a hitter you are subject to getting one in the rib cage or the hip. It might happen three years later as was the case between Washington Nationals star Harper and Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland.
It was the first time the two had met since Harper hit two home runs off Strickland during a heated 2014 National League Division Series.
Guys aren’t too sensitive in baseball. They are just extremely passive-aggressive, but they have long memories and get back is still very much a part of the game.
Harper reacted more out of shock than anything. He wasn’t even expecting to get drilled.
"No, not in that situation," Harper said after the game. "Especially since it's been three years and they won the World Series that year. So I wasn't really thinking about it at all. But when somebody comes at you like that, throws a 90 mph fastball where he did, I wasn't very happy with it and took it into my hands and tried to go after him."
He did take a pause to exchange words with Strickland, giving catcher Buster Posey time to step in and break it up before it elevated. That’s usual baseball etiquette. A player will run towards the mound if he really wants to get at the pitcher, but when Posey played the role of scared friend at a club brawl that hides under the table and surfaces on the way out of the exits, Harper had no choice but to finish what Hunter started.
It wasn’t his sensitivity that caused him to rush the mound and it certainly wasn’t a sensitivity in Strickland that gave him the courage to drill Harper with a 98 mph heater.
Strickland caught Harper with a short hook before getting grazed by Harper’s blow. He says he was just trying to pitch inside, but once Harper turned up the juice, he was a more than willing participant.
“Its go time, Strickland said. “You got to protect yourself and stand your ground. I was pretty fired up to be honest with you. It’s just part of the game.”
Team brawls, bean balls and war of words has always been a part of baseball. Professional sports in general is trying to deal with this modern transition where aggressive behavior and spontaneous emotion is somehow frowned upon. We are still trying to figure out the balance in baseball which is considered a gentleman's sport but has a permanent culture of violent retaliation.
Harper has even brawled with his teammates before, so he's built for war.
End of the day, it added excitement to the game, you clearly see each player’s passion for the game and it’s the type of confrontational crossover event that even baseball haters would be interested in. MMA doesn't get the highest rating for nothing. It also puts the league on notice that if you hit Bryce Harper, he doesn’t give freebies because he’s worried about a suspension.