Joe Maddon Understands Bryce Harper’s Actions, Believes Players Must Take Center Stage In Ending Head Hunting, Brawling

(CBS) A day after Nationals star outfielder Bryce Harper charged the mound to fight Giants reliever Hunter Strickland after he was purposely struck in the hip by a 98-mph fastball, Cubs manager Joe Maddon expressed his support for Harper and understanding of why he he escalated the situation.

Both players were ejected. Strickland’s beef with Harper dated back to the 2014 playoffs, when Harper homered off of him twice in a National League Divisional Series that the Giants would win en route to a championship. The fact that Strickland retaliated against Harper for the latter simply doing his job three years ago was as puzzling to Maddon as it was to so many in the game.

“I was really disappointed in all that myself,” Maddon said on the Spiegel and Parkins Show on 670 The Score on Tuesday. “I don’t blame Bryce for what he did whatsoever. I always tell my hitters, ‘Either go to first or go to the mound if you’re challenged like that.'”

The strange part in Maddon’s mind is how easily some pitchers can be offended, as Maddon pointed out he’s never in four-plus decades been upset at foes when his own team is being beat.

“I honestly — and I’ve talked about this before — I’ve never felt the other team has embarrassed me on a baseball field,” Maddon said. “Because if they’re beating up on us, I’ve always considered it my fault, our fault. As an athlete, if I’m getting my butt beaten, it’s because it’s my fault. Their job is to beat us up. Harper’s job is to hit home runs really far against Strickland. That’s what his job is. Now, all histrionics that happen afterward, again, I still, I’ve never been a Major League pitcher, so I don’t know how all that deals when a guy maybe flips a bat or whatever, I kind of understand that in the sense you might get a little upset, but to throw a baseball at somebody when you throw that hard to me is also very dangerous.”

Maddon believes to curtail pitchers hunting hitters and brawls that may ensue, it must start with the players changing their ways.

“I just think it has to be a peer kind of thing,” Maddon said. “I think that has to be something more than the players’ association might get together with and educate among each other. I don’t think it can be external. I don’t think people in suits or managers or whatever talking to them is going to change anything. It’d have to almost be a paradigm shift among the players, peer discussion that, ‘Listen, we’ve got to get beyond this situation, because it’s very dangerous to everybody.’ But again, I do not blame Harper one bit for what he did.

“I don’t know if you’re ever going to absolutely get it out of the game itself. You’re going to attempt to regulate it, and like I said before, I’m so not into over-regulation of anything — my politics are showing through right there — but I don’t know exactly what can be done. To me, honestly the first step would be to have MLB players talk among each other.”

Watch & Listen LIVE