CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – A lot happened on Memorial Day when the Nationals’ Bryce Harper and Giants’ reliever Hunter Strickland went at it in a bench-clearing brawl. Helmets and punches were thrown, although the punches actually came close, some teammates collided, and others just watched.
If the situation were to arise in Cleveland, count Manager Terry Francona among those who might take the Buster Posey approach and enjoy his view.
The former player says he only watched Hunter-Strickland I on his phone and that it perhaps had not been done justice. Francona said he was never tempted to join an opposing pitcher on the mound for a good old fashioned donnybrook.
“No,” he laughed. “Get hit and it’s like insult to injury, then get your ass beat? I’m not going to do it. Yeah, it already hurts, why get beat up?”
He never took part as a player, but as a manager, Tito saw himself amongst the bodies in an Atlanta scuffle between friends. At least for a little while.
During his first managerial stint with the Philadelphia Phillies in the late 1999, former Brave Paul Byrd had struggled with his command against his former battery- and locker-mate Eddie Perez. After the second time Byrd plunked Perez, the two had words at home plate, and a brouhaha erupted at home.
Francona went out to protect his pitcher, though he did not do a whole lot of good.
“They’re shoving and I was the first one out of the dugout because I’m right – I’m like, ‘Woah.’ I’m like in the middle of it,” the former Phils skipper said. “It was so funny, Scott Rolen said somebody just spit me out of the pile. Like I was down underneath and I just rolled over there. I was like, ‘What am I doing?’ Rolen was like, ‘That was the funniest thing I have ever seen.’”
As he has aged, Francona says he has wisened up to the idea of getting involved, though he was never too hot on the idea. The 58-year old says those on the outside may not realize the danger of the scuffles that can sometimes involve upwards of 50 people.
“Guys come running and you might not be looking,” he said. “There’s a lot of stuff. It’s not good.
“Not too often do they get like that. And I laugh because people always kind of poo-poo it. But if you’re standing out there, even when it’s just shoving, it’ll make you think twice. Because you’ve got some big, strong guys that are breathing heavy and it just takes one.”
As a manager, Francona insinuated that there may sometimes be a temptation to retaliate to something unjust, but that wisdom now prevails.
“You know what, that’s the one thing that as you gain more experience or get older, you think twice about because it’s easy to tell somebody to do something,” he said. “It’s a lot harder, or it takes a lot more maturity to say ‘hang on a sec,’ because you have some responsibility for your players and what can happen in situations. So you always have to think about that.”