Thus far in this debate we have Rich, Mark, Andrew and David in favor of Bryce Harper charging the mound against Hunter Strickland, versus Alexandra the lone voice against. I tend to agree with Mark’s case that Harper was justified, within the conventions of baseball – its “hidden law,” if you will – in dispensing some five-fingered justice against Strickland. But let me speak up for something missing here: prudence. Harper should have let his teammates do the avenging.
No amount of justice changes the basic fact that Harper is the star of the Nationals, while Strickland is just another reliever. Yes, the Nationals need the word to go out that drilling Harper will not go unpunished. But it’s Bryce Harper’s job to stay in the lineup, especially given his injury history. It’s not that hard to find someone else more expendable on the Nats’ roster to knock down Strickland next time he bats (or perhaps one of the Giants’ stars), or spike Strickland covering first base. That’s the old-school baseball way, and it’s certainly how hockey teams typically handle this sort of thing. It’s why Mike Piazza didn’t charge the mound against Roger Clemens during the 2000 World Series.
Let me illustrate as well with a recent political example: Montana congressional candidate Greg Gianforte body-slamming reporter Ben Jacobs. Now, in Gianforte’s case, there was no justification for doing that at all, but even if you thought Jacobs was asking an out-of-line question, it’s the job of staffers to hustle him out of the way and take the bad press for “staffer prevents reporter from asking question,” not let the candidate himself boil over to the point where he gets arrested for assault the night before an election. (One might also analogize to the President of the United States personally feuding with washed-up comedians on Twitter).
When you’re the star, your responsibility to the team is bigger than just protecting your own reputation. Dusty Baker should sit Harper down and tell him that next time, he should grit his teeth and let his teammates have his back.