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Hunter Strickland calls incident with Bryce Harper “a mistake”

To err is human. To apologize without ever actually saying you’re sorry is life in the year 2018.

Division Series - Washington Nationals v San Francisco Giants - Game Four
Two and a half years shall I wait. And then vengeance will be mine.
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

We all make mistakes. That’s part of being human. The next thing we’re supposed to do is to own up to those mistakes, apologize and learn from them.

In an age where it seems as though a growing number of people would rather eat nails than admit to being wrong about anything, it’s a true mark of character to be able to take responsibility for your actions, apologize, and grow as a person.

Hunter Strickland made arguably the biggest mistake of his career last season when he opted to bean Bryce Harper with a 98mph fastball in retaliation for a nearly three year old grudge against the Nationals superstar. He followed that up with an on-field brawl that effectively ended Michael Morse’s career, nearly caused Hunter Pence to be fined for trying to help, and brought Buster Posey under scrutiny for not defending his pitcher.

MLB: Washington Nationals at San Francisco Giants
Maybe the camo uniforms made him forget that he was literally fighting his own teammates at this point?
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

It was dumb. It was selfish. It was reckless. And Strickland should have taken something from it and grown as a player.

Instead, Strickland took to KNBR and obfuscated.

Now, I’d like to take a moment and go through his statement in the format of a game from the “Lovett or Leave It” podcast, in which panelists listen to an audio segment and pause it to object to what is being said. In the interest of not getting sued, however, we’ll call it “Hold Up.”

So to set it up, Strickland has just been asked, in the context of the incident with Harper, if grudges motivate his level of passion going into spring training.


But...I haven’t actually started the quote yet.

I don’t care, I object to the question as presented. Of course it doesn’t motivate him going into spring training. What kind of psychopath would you have to be for that to be what fires you up for a new season of baseball?

Fair enough. Let’s assume it’s more of a question about whether grudges are something he holds onto that have an effect on his play at different points throughout the season, since that is how Strickland chose to respond.

Let’s start. You can follow along through the KNBR link above, this section starts around the 2:40 mark.

“No, Honestly, I don’t think about those things.”

HOLD UP. No? You don’t think about those things? So what exactly were you thinking when you decided to plunk Harper, inciting a brawl that forced your teammates to get involved and drag you off the field like a wild animal while you were still throwing punches — at your own team members??

Yeah, I mean at this point, you kind of have to hope he’s answering the question as asked, but let’s hear it out.

“We’re all competitors out there. We’re playing the game, trying to support our family, and just doing something we love. But as far as holding grudges and stuff, I completely get that it seems that way.”

HOLD UP. You think? What other way should someone interpret that? ‘Hmm, this gentleman appears to be in a foul mood with this opponent who he hasn’t faced since the 2014 playoffs. In a series in which he was bested by him, but he ultimately went on to win the World Series so what does it matter? Surely that can’t be the reason he just hurled a baseball at his body. No rational person would hold a grudge for that lon- oh, goodness me, he appears to be squaring up to punch the young man. Surely this is just standard baseball tomfoolery, though.’

To be fair, it takes two to tango and Harper certainly didn’t help matters.

Of course, but his anger seems much more justifiable, considering his life just flashed before his eyes as that pitch barreled in on him.

“And I think that as human beings, we make mistakes. I’ll be the first to own up to that being one of my mistakes.”

HOLD UP. You are literally the last to own up to this, and you’re not really even doing that. Yes, we all make mistakes. And when we do, we clearly state what we did wrong, apologize for it in a way that is genuine and contrite, and we don’t try to downplay it when it has serious consequences like, say, the end of a teammate’s career.

Let’s be fair, Morse’s career was ending soon one way or another.

True, but considering how poorly the team ended up playing that season, he could have been about as good as Pablo Sandoval ended up being. And he could have gotten to finish his career on the field with some ceremony and love from the fans. Not to mention the fact that concussions are life-altering jerks and should be avoided at all costs.

“So there are some regrets in certain circumstances that I’ve done, but like I said, we’re human beings, we’re out there, we’re competing, and it’s just kind of one of those things you have to learn from.”


HOLD UP. Wait, they just left it there? No follow up?

Homer radio, my friend. Homer radio.

Well, that sure is a roundabout way of not saying you’re sorry about any of it.

I mean, I guess vaguely saying you regret it is something. We don’t know what he’s said or done in atonement to his fellow players, and he hasn’t had another issue like it, so if it weren’t such a monumentally dumb thing that he did this would probably be fine. He served his suspension time (six games for a relief pitcher, how ever did they manage without him) and we could have just moved on.

But we talk so much about playing the game the right way, being a role model to younger players and kids. And we hold players to the coals for any sign of personality, even harmless personality. Bryce Harper has literally been choked by a teammate for his personality. So to just let this slide as “mistakes were made, we’re all human” is just kind of bull.

MLB: Washington Nationals at San Francisco Giants Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

And yes, I understand that as a lowly internet sports blogger, I’m not really in the position to decipher what is truly in Hunter Strickland’s heart. But you know, if you’re really sorry about something, the easiest way of showing it is by literally saying you’re sorry. Seems like a pretty good place to start.

Because there’s a difference between regretting something and actually being sorry you did it. I can regret eating this entire cake because it made me sick without actually being sorry that I just stole little Jimmy’s cake and ruined his birthday.

Again, that’s conjecture, since I don’t have Strickland here to answer questions about it, and a damn shame that is. I feel like nothing would be more fitting punishment than to have him face the full McCovey Chroncast panel and answer some tough questions. But I digress.

The incident is obviously nearly a year old at this point, and it hardly seems worth it to bring it up if you’re not going to press the issue, but KNBR did and so we’re back here. And it brings up unresolved issues of how Strickland didn’t really actually face a lot of consequences from the whole thing.

I’d like to think that if nothing else, Strickland learned not to do it again. I don’t have any reason to think otherwise.

But having it brought up again with him just kind of brushing it aside was just another reminder that, “Oh right, this guy is still on our team. Great. /eye roll” And I hate having guys like that on my team.

Obviously there are worse things a player could do that would make me not want to root for them and I’m not going to equate the two.

But as I pointed out in the beginning, we are living in an age where very few people want to take personal responsibility for anything. Never apologize, never surrender, never admit fault. And to coin a term Bryce Harper famously used, it’s tired.