What is a player supposed to do when the benches clear?
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During the Nationals' 3-0 win over the Giants on Monday, Bryce Harper and Hunter Strickland got into a bit of a situation. After Strickland hit Harper with a pitch in the top of the eighth inning, the benches cleared and both hair and helmets went flying. This week, Gemma Kaneko and MLB.com Nationals beat writer Jamal Collier discussed what a player's responsibility is when the benches clear.
This transcript has been edited for clarity and length.
Kaneko: You were there for all of the action on Monday night.
Collier: All of the action is a good way to put it.
Kaneko: There was a lot going on there. Everybody has their feelings and opinions about it. We wish [fights] would not happen -- it's never good to see people putting themselves in harm's way for something that is kind of silly. But we did get Bryce's helmet throw and majestic hair situation. But, what was it like in the clubhouse after that? What were people feeling and doing? It was such a strange incident.
Collier: Yeah, well there was a lot of hair. Between Bryce,
That was the strangest thing. The game had played out innocently for the first 7 innings or so -- even the first two outs of that inning. When Bryce first got hit, I remember looking and Bryce is obviously pointing and shouting there and I'm thinking "Oh man, he's pretty upset about getting hit," and just thinking "OK, he just doesn't want to get hit by this pitch."
Then all of a sudden he starts escalating and I'm thinking "How did we get here?" I wasn't even thinking about the thing [that happened] between these guys in 2014.
That was the biggest takeaway from the clubhouse. The Nationals were just baffled that this thing stemming from 3 years ago -- that [Strickland] would still be holding a grudge over it. Especially a series the Giants won, and then of course won the World Series.
It was just an odd occurrence and I think nobody was really ready for or expecting or thinking about this. I kind of figured that Strickland and Harper had faced each other at some point, and this had been settled between the last couple of seasons. It was just a weird unfolding of events for me because I was caught completely off-guard and not ready for it to happen at all. The rest of the Giants and the Nats seemed to be the same. It just caught everybody by surprise.
Kaneko: Yeah, like you said, we would have thought they would have faced each other before this and these home runs that happened three years ago is definitely on no one's mind, except for maybe one person's.
Collier: Yeah, imagine Hunter Strickland in the 2014 postseason, then we have the offseason, then you have a whole season, then you have an offseason, then you have a whole season, and thinking "You know what, if I get a chance, I got something for him."
<o:p>Kaneko: I think a lot of fans really enjoyed the photos of Bryce that came out after the fight, the stills of the moment. They just look very dramatic. That's kind of the sense we get [away from the action], but you said it's kind of baffling for players on the field. What happens when players have to clear the benches? What do they feel their responsibilities are in that situation?"<o:p>
Collier: That was actually one of the questions I was asking a couple of guys. [I asked] "What's your strategy, what's your gameplan there?" Because again, you're not really ready for that, nothing's boiled up to it, it's just sudden. There were no other punches thrown apart from between Harper and Strickland.
I think that was the biggest thing. Everybody really was caught off-guard and felt their drive was to protect their respective guy, whether it be Harper or Strickland, and make sure that guy's not getting pounded on or getting hit unnecessarily. Especially the Nationals side, they were saying "Hey, we're trying to get Bryce out of there." You obviously saw Zimmerman and that great photo -- that was my favorite photo from the whole thing, of Zim holding Bryce in a prom-like pose by the dugout.
Don't talk to me or my son ever again. pic.twitter.com/cnKrGBtRfL— Molly Knight (@molly_knight) May 29, 2017
But [the thought] was "Get Bryce out of there, and make sure he's safe and healthy". Obviously, you can tell how much importance he has to this team and how important he is to the franchise, but that was the biggest thing for most of these guys -- to separate those two and make sure their star player was okay.