By Dan Bernstein–
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta was a big fan of the melee Monday that started when Giants relievers Hunter Strickland hit Nationals slugger Bryce Harper with a pitch. Though he says he has never been in a baseball fight of any kind.
“I thought it was awesome,” Arrieta told 670 The Score on Tuesday, calling the decision to charge the mound “refreshing.”
“When something like that happens, versus continuing to chirp and talk about it, why don’t you go out there and see somebody?” he asked rhetorically. “If two guys want to go see each other, let them be in the middle, let them throw some punches, then 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’ve got something wrong with a guy, go see him. And then they’ll break it up and continue to play the game.”
As Arrieta continued to discuss the event, he even sounded more than ready for his chance at something similar with every next response, going so far as to lay out the free rein he’d appreciate from his catcher.
“I want him to wait, and give me an opportunity to do a little damage,” he said. “I don’t want it broken up right away. I like my chances toe to toe with just about anybody. Hey, give me 10, 15 seconds to get some work in and then come out and see me.”
Even as he conceded that an injury to an important player could significantly damage a team’s chances of winning, Arrieta still believes such occurrences are appropriate “in the heat of battle.”
And he wasn’t alone on his team in condoning behavior that much of the rest of us find aberrant, either. Even manager Joe Maddon — renowned as more of a new-agey postmodern thinker than some of his peers — finds his inner tough guy regarding such topics. Talking with 670 The Score earlier in the day, Maddon supported Harper’s decision to attack Strickland.
“I don’t blame Bryce for what he did whatsoever,” Maddon said. “I always tell my hitters ‘Either go to first or go to the mound if you’re challenged like that.’”
When it comes to curtailing fighting, Maddon was dubious about the effectiveness of a top-down solution.
“I just think it has to be a peer kind of thing,” he said. “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.”
It doesn’t seem as if that kind of discussion among players is going to happen any time soon, however, with more siding with Arrieta than some may care to believe. What appears from the outside to be stupid, reckless machismo is seen from another perspective as competitive fire that can’t be sublimated in ways allowed by contact and collision sports.
Somebody with experience in both is Giants right-hander Jeff Samardzija, who was a record-setting receiver at Notre Dame and a two-time All-American. The former Cub was involved in the scrum following Harper’s charge, and he later got a text from a former teammate.
Arrieta said he sent him a note that read “Man, that was awesome.”