WASHINGTON — Regardless of where you stand on the Hunter Strickland vs. Bryce Harper altercation on Memorial Day, it’s hard to argue with the trajectory that each player and team has taken since that fateful day.
Here’s a recap:
San Francisco Giants: A perennial contender for the World Series, the Giants have been in freefall since this moment, currently sitting 23.5 games back of first place in the National League West. Since May 29, they have won just five of 24 games, falling from 22-31 to 27-50. This is the type of season that could see long-time manager Bruce Bochy fired and sweeping changes to the roster if things don’t turn around fast. Here’s another big reason why:
Washington Nationals: While this brawl wasn’t pretty, few argued that Harper and the Nats were not justified in defending themselves. Since Harper’s suspension ended, it was been a non-topic in Washington, where the Nats have a commanding lead in the NL East. Even while dealing with bullpen woes, the team has won 14 of 24 games and leads the division by nine games.
Strickland: It’s not certain what Strickland expected to happen, but things probably played out differently in his head. While Harper charged the mound, his catcher, Buster Olney, did not rush to stop him. His teammates that did run onto the field were put into harm’s way, as Jeff Samardzija and Mike Morse banged heads. Morse suffered a concussion that has kept him off the field and away from the team ever since. According to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle, Morse doesn’t even remember yelling at teammates after the game, and acknowledged that this could be the end of the road for him.
Strickland’s ERA has risen half of a point and he has three holds and a loss in nine appearances since the plunking.
Harper: While Harper’s numbers have regressed slightly from early season superb (.337/.448/.675) to simply very good (.307/.412/.583), he is almost certainly heading to his fifth All-Star game. He will also continue to learn and grow from the experience, hopefully understanding that throwing a batting helmet takes a different skill set than he originally anticipated.
It’s difficult to say with any certainty if the brawl was a catalyst moment for a very good Nationals team or a fatally flawed Giants. But whether it was fate, bad juju or an inevitable dance with destiny, these teams are trending in very different directions.