WASHINGTON – More than two months after Hunter Strickland hit Bryce Harper with a pitch and set off a mano a mano brawl in front of the mound, Giants manager Bruce Bochy bristled a bit when asked if he had talked to his right-handed reliever.
“It’s behind us,” said Bochy, as the Giants took batting practice prior to their series opener at Nationals Park. “I had forgotten about it till you brought it up.”
There is one person who hasn’t forgotten about it. It is hard to forget the last moment of your major league career.
Michael Morse sustained a concussion when he tried to separate Harper and Strickland, and ended up knocking heads with Giants pitcher Jeff Samardzija.
Morse was diagnosed with the concussion the day after the May 29 fight, and placed on the disabled list. That is where he remains, out of sight and out of mind after going back to his family in the Miami area.
Bochy said he tried to call Morse earlier this week, and he heard from the training staff that the former World Series hero would visit the team at Marlins Park on Tuesday.
There has been no discussion of putting Morse on the active roster as a September call-up, Bochy said. It appears his career is over at this point.
The collision with Samardzija ended a second act that probably wouldn’t have lasted much longer, anyway. The Giants conceded the season in the following weeks, and as great a story as Morse was when he came out of retirement to bash the ball in spring training, he wouldn’t have served much purpose on a team that is looking to the future with younger players.
Still, for a player who was hugely popular in both Washington and San Francisco, it is a sad and unfortunate way for things to end. Awkward, too.
In the aftermath of the fight, Harper thanked Morse, a former teammate, for preventing him from getting sucker punched.
“I’m kind of thankful that Mikey Mo and Samardzija collided, because Samardzija saw blood a little bit, I thought,” Harper said at the time. “I’m very thankful for Mikey Mo.”
Was Morse coming to the defense of a former teammate instead of supporting his current mates? Was he ostracized as a result?
It’s hard to make that claim when so many other Giants wanted nothing to do with Strickland’s assault to avenge a three-year-old grudge that dated back to the 2014 NL Division Series. Catcher Buster Posey stood behind the plate and watched as Harper charged the mound and sidearm-chucked his helmet. Giants infielders kept their distance, too.
Samardzija was the first to reach the two combatants – and he appeared to have a clenched fist guided at Harper’s jaw before he and Morse knocked heads in a swirl of waving, brown hair.
There probably won’t be any escalation of tensions in this three-game series at Nationals Park. The Giants and Nats played two games after the Harper-Strickland fight without incident, even though Samardzija started one of them. Both Strickland and Harper served their suspensions.
Most likely, it’ll be business as usual – and while it could get interesting if Strickland faces Harper, I’d wager that Bochy won’t let that happen. His pitcher went rogue on him once already. Managers do not like to have their authority challenged.
For Morse, though, the consequences of that fight continue to linger.
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