Major League Baseball did not approve of Monday’s Bryce Harper-Hunter Strickland brawl, if the combined 10 games’ worth of suspensions the players received is any indication. But to the Chicago Cubs’ Jake Arrieta, the midgame melee was “awesome.”
In fact, the 2015 NL Cy Young winner said just that in a text he sent to former teammate Jeff Samardzija, who had his own role in the hostilities. “Man, that was awesome,” Arrieta told Samardzija, according to his interview Tuesday with a Chicago radio station.
Samardzija crashed into Michael Morse, a Giants teammate and former teammate of Harper’s with the Nats, while attempting to intervene in the fracas Monday. Harper had taken exception to getting hit with a 98-mph fastball by San Francisco pitcher Hunter Strickland, so he charged the mound, threw his helmet and sparked a benches-clearing brawl.
Some, assuming that Strickland was still smarting over home runs Harper had hit off him in the 2014 playoffs, thought his purpose pitch was ridiculous. Washington second baseman Daniel Murphy described it as “completely uncalled for,” while radio host and former Nats general manager Jim Bowden called Strickland a “thug” who should be forced to sit out “15 or 20 games.”
But to Arrieta, it was all good. “I don’t think anybody is right or wrong,” Arrieta said on 670 The Score. “I thought it was awesome.
“Every once in a while, it’s refreshing to see two teams emotionally charged getting after it. And when something like that happens, versus continuing to chirp and talk about it, why don’t you go out there and see somebody? That’s exactly what happened in the game yesterday.
“Bryce and Hunter went out there, there were a few punches; they landed one apiece, I believe,” Arrieta continued. “And then Samardzija comes out of left field and smashes into Morse. I’m pretty sure Harper was lucky that they collided, because Samardzija was coming in to do some damage.”
Bryce Harper & Hunter Strickland engaged in some Memorial Day Fireworks. pic.twitter.com/XQ01hxETwM
— 120 Sports (@120Sports) May 29, 2017
To the 31-year-old Arrieta, who began his career with the Orioles and is in his eighth MLB season, baseball is essentially best off adopting the NHL’s unofficial position toward fighting. That is, players who want a piece of each other should be allowed to square off for a few moments before officials get involved.
“If two guys want to go see each other, let them be in the middle, let them throw some punches, then break it up,” Arrieta said. “I don’t like to see any sucker punches.
“I do think, in the heat of battle, if you’re getting hit on the hip with 98, then you should be able to go out and see somebody. I think the umpires handled it well. They let them exchange for a moment, then they tried to break it up.
“What I don’t like to see is a lot of chirping and guys just talking crap to each other. If you got something wrong with a guy, go see him. And then they’ll break it up and continue to play the game.”
Some dinged Giants catcher Buster Posey for remaining at home plate while Harper sprinted toward Strickland — “Those were some big guys tumbling around,” Posey said afterward — but Arrieta said that his preference would be for his own catcher to “wait and give me an opportunity to do a little damage.”
“I don’t want it broken up right away. If it happens, I’ll let you know,” said Arrieta, who is listed at 6-4 and 225 pounds. In the 2015 playoffs, Arrieta beaned two Pittsburgh Pirates batters, then himself was hit by a pitch, to which he took exception, which got both teams off their benches and onto the field.
“I’ll be ready,” Arrieta added Tuesday. “You know, I like my chances toe to toe with just about anybody.”