Harper steps to the plate, gets drilled on a 98 MPH pitch to the hip, and the rest is history. What not many writers are talking about is just how big of an impact Bryce Harper’s suspension will have on the Washington Nationals during these three games. Yes, the Nats were able to handle the San Francisco Giants, yet again, by outclassing them in almost every phase of the game, but let’s not overlook the fact that the night before that, Bryce went 0-5 at the plate, with three strikeouts.
Bryce has been known to be none-too-shy about wearing his emotions on his sleeve, but one can’t begin to think that the MLB didn’t take into account his history with pitchers on this particular suspension length. If this kid wants to be one of the greatest to play the game and collect that impending huge payday, he needs to learn to get his emotions under control. Bryce is having one of his better seasons in recent memory, and the impact he has on the rest of the squad is immense.
Dusty Baker hasn’t had to do too much tinkering of the lineup knowing that if the squad on the other bench walks his main man, he’s got 3 or 4 others behind him who can bring him home. Before the Harper suspension, the Nats’ lineup consisted of Turner, Werth, Harper, Zimmerman, Murphy, Rendon, Weiters, Taylor, and Gonzalez. Talk about “pick your poison,” for sure. When Harper struggles, he’s got All-Star caliber talent all around him to pick up the slack.
However, with the suspension now in effect, Bryce’s impact will be felt. Dusty will obviously have a huge hole to fill in the 3 spot of the lineup card, and for three long games, they won’t be able to count on the “Bryce factor.” Murphy can’t count on having a runner to drive in if they walk Harper. Turner can’t count on the replacement (Werth/Murphy) to bring him around to score. Murphy has since dropped to the 3 spot in the lineup. This ripple effect of adjustments really throws a wrench in the Nats’ strategy.
As far as the Giants are concerned, losing a starting rotation pitcher in Strickland for 6 games, seems like a fair trade for someone who pitches every 5 games. Likely, Strickland will miss only one start.
The league lost a great chance to make a bold statement by suspending Strickland for at least a month for being so reckless with the baseball. Yet, here we stand waiting on the long appeal process while Strickland can basically laugh about how easy he got off, while “helping” out his squad by getting rid of the opposition’s best asset. One thing is for sure, the Nats will not soon forget this incident if the Giants find a way to climb back into playoff contention and meet again in October.