San Francisco Giants closer Hunter Strickland, a man well-known for his even temper and kind demeanor, is out for six to eight weeks after punching a door in rage at his own poor pitching. It’s a bad situation for the Giants, who were not in particularly good shape pitching-wise anyway, and it’s bad for Hunter Strickland, who now not only has to endure the pain of a broken hand and the forthcoming pain of the surgery he will likely need to repair it, but must also endure the emotional pain of having to explain to his team and the world at large that he, a fully grown man, is unable to perform his job—a job which he is paid millions of dollars to do—because he got mad and punched a door.
At the very least, though, Strickland is not alone. He can claim a place in the annals of baseball history as one of a storied, stupidly large class of pitchers: those who got mad, punched something, and got injured. In honor of Strickland’s induction into this venerable class of baseball men, let's journey back and enjoy a few of the finest—and, it follows, some of the most idiotic—examples of these incidents in the history of America’s Pastime.
1985: Jon Tudor Threatens To Punch Reporter; Punches Inanimate Object Instead
Jon Tudor could have been the hero of the 1985 World Series. Pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals against the Kansas City Royals, he allowed only a single run in his Game 1 start; in his Game 4 start, he pitched a complete-game shutout to put the Cards up 3-1 in the series. But after two losses over which the Cardinals scored a total of two runs, the series was tied 3-3, and Tudor took the mound for a third time in the Series — this time for all the marbles.
And it was there, in the biggest moment of his life as a pitcher, that Tudor absolutely shat the bed. He gave up a homer, a double steal, and four walks, including one with the bases loaded, and was pulled after only 2 ⅓ innings. He was charged with five earned runs. The Royals went on to win the game 11-0.
Even in good times, such as immediately after his Game 4 shutout, Tudor had done his best to antagonize the media, suggesting that they issued press passes to anyone who had a driver’s license and got so annoyed by reports that he asked one, “Do you want me to take a swing at you?” Perhaps with this rage still bubbling over, Tudor went on to have that spectacularly bad showing in Game 7. Once pulled, rather than seek out his reporter friend, he went into the dugout and took a swing at an apparently defenseless electric fan.
The electric fan, it turns out, was perhaps a worse foe than a reporter would have been. Tudor shredded his hand to the point that he needed stitches. To add insult to injury, he had to address this in front of assembled reporters.
For his part, though, Tudor seemed no worse for wear. He explained to the press that, rather than waiting for a doctor to do it, he was going to cut the stitches out of his hand himself. He wanted to go scuba diving as soon as possible.
1997: Jason Isringhausen Takes It Out on the Trash
Poor Jason Isringhausen—anybody who needed that many Tommy John surgeries over the course of his career warrants at least a little sympathy. It must have been frustrating to be sidelined, time and time again, with injuries to the same part of his arm, losing months and years of development to the interminable waiting of surgery recovery.
It was during one of these recovery periods that Isringhausen lost patience with his injury luck. In a Triple-A rehab game in early April, Isringhausen allowed three runs in the first inning. Enraged that he had come through injury and surgery only to emerge on the other side still in the minors and still struggling, Isringhausen walked off the field and punched a plastic trash can. He then went back out and pitched six more innings, despite the fact that his wrist was swelling alarmingly, and an X-ray taken after the game came back negative.
But Isringhausen found himself in so much pain the next day that he couldn’t throw, and a subsequent MRI revealed that the encounter with the trash can had, in fact, broken his wrist, meaning he would be out of commission until after the All-Star break. A month later, by that point afflicted with something resembling tuberculosis, he was caught directing a racial epithet at the Mets’ director of public relations while on a media conference call. When it rains trash, it really pours.
Isringhausen did manage to get into six games for the Mets that season, but, still haunted by his injury, he posted a 7.58 ERA, and walked only three fewer batters than he struck out. He did not play in 1998.
2010: AJ Burnett Slices Hands On Sharp Door, Tries To Cover It Up
After escaping the purgatory that was the 2000s Toronto Blue Jays and signing a plush free-agent contract with the Yankees prior to the 2009 season, A.J. Burnett seemed to be set for life. But he failed to put up a single decent season for the Yankees. 2010 was no exception: it was a season that saw him post a 5.26 ERA, and the only category he led the league in was hit-by-pitches.
Mired in his frustration by mid-July, Burnett, after a rough second inning, stormed off slammed his hands on the clubhouse door, failing to consider how sharp the edges plastic lineup-card holders on the doors could be. He sliced up the palms of his hands.
In a uniquely shameful display, though, Burnett initially lied about the source of his injuries, claiming to training staff that he had tripped on the dugout steps, cutting up his hands in his attempt to break the fall. He even convinced everyone that he was okay to pitch, though he would be pulled in the next inning after facing two batters, greeted by a chorus of boos. His web of lies did not hold up under Joe Girardi’s withering gaze, and Burnett was forced to admit that he was not only the kind of asshole who injures himself by attacking doors full of deadly plastic edges, but also the kind of asshole who lies about it.
There are plenty more where these came from, too. Walls seem to be the most common punching object, which seems counterintuitive given that they are one of the more impliable objects one could choose to punch; a wall felled, for example, the Yankees’ Kevin Brown and Doyle Alexander.
And this is not even taking into account all the players who have been injured punching other players in brawls, lacerated their hands slamming their bats into the ground, broken toes in failed attempts to kick helmets that weren’t even theirs, or subluxed their shoulders trying to throw their gloves—the creative assortment of injuries boggles the mind. Strickland’s is but the latest in a long line of entirely preventable, invariably foolish rage-induced injuries in baseball, one that will likely continue to get longer as long as the sport remains. They never seem to learn.