Hunter Strickland was having a career year in 2018. That was until Monday night, when Strickland compounded a blown save by punching a door in the clubhouse, breaking his pitching hand, and knocking him out for 6-8 weeks.
The incident is the second notable example of the 29-year-old’s emotions getting the best of him. In 2017, Strickland decided to plunk Bryce Harper in the back with a 98 MPH fastball for a nearly three-year old grudge. The incident led to a benches clearing brawl that ultimately ended the career of Michael Morse, who suffered a concussion during the skirmish.
Now Strickland, who already apologized to the fans and his teammates on Instagram, has some time to reflect on where he’ll go from here. Former Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt joined Murph & Mac on Thursday and offered some advice on what Strickland should do during his down time.
“For me with a guy like Strick, I know he has that aggressive personality,” Affeldt said. “But one thing if I was a player on the team, I would’ve sat with him after the situation and been like ‘Look, it is what it is, you did what you did and there’s nothing we can change about that so I’m not going to pound on you even more, but what I really want you to think about — cause you’ve got eight weeks to think, you’ve got plenty of time on your hands — is to go watch some of the best closers in the game.
“If this is what you want to do, you’ve got a perfect opportunity. You had it. You had the closer role. I don’t know if you’re going to get it back, but you had it. But go watch some of the best closers or setup men in the game and watch how they succeed. Most of them, the ones that are real successful, they didn’t show a lot of that kind’ve emotion. Maybe they showed it like they screamed or something, but at a certain point in time, you’ve just got to tip your hat and be like alright, you beat me. I gave you my best bolt, and you beat me, but I’m going to beat you.”
Strickland entered Monday’s game with a 2.01 ERA, easily the best of his career. Strickland had seemed to turn a corner this season, but Affeldt belives he can turn another one if he learns how to channel his emotions.
“You look at Mariano Rivera, when he got beat, he didn’t really show much emotion. He got walked off in the World Series, but when he beat you, he didn’t show a lot of emotion either. (Trevor) Hoffman, all these guys that are really good are mentally tough, and one thing that I didn’t want to ever do was let the hitter know that he existed. When I was pitching, you don’t exist to me. I’m not pitching to you, I’m pitching to a location. So I know who’s in the box, I heard your name announced. Whatever, don’t care. I know when I hear your name announced, this is the area I need to pitch to. I’m not pitching to the actual person. So if I get beat, I got frustrated because I got beat because I probably didn’t make the best pitch in the world, or maybe he beat me on a good pitch, but you know what, you tip your hat. He gets paid millions of dollars to hit which is really hard to do. He’s going to get hits.
“And I think that’s what I would like to see with a guy like him. Is saying, ‘I know the mistake I made, but now how am I going to change it. How I’m going to change it is you don’t get to me. If you beat me you beat me, but you’re not going to get to me. You are not going to get to me mentally, and that’s the kind of mental toughness and maturity that I’d like to see.”
Listen to the full interview below. To hear Affeldt on Strickland, start from 7:10.