The Washington Nationals have suspended closer Jonathan Papelbon for the remainder of the season, general manager Mike Rizzo announced today.
As if being eliminated from the playoffs not even 24 hours earlier wasn’t enough, the Washington Nationals experienced a complete meltdown in the ninth inning of Sunday’s home game against the Philadelphia Phillies who beat the Nats 12-5.
To make matters worse, closer Jonathan Papelbon assaulted outfielder Bryce Harper in the dugout after Harper popped out to left field in the eighth inning. To add to the escalating in-game tension, Papelbon went back out to pitch the ninth and Harper was replaced by outfielder Matt den Dekker who switched from left to right field. [Read more…]
There are ways to let a teammate know you think he isn’t playing the game “the right way.” And then, there’s what Jonathan Papelbon did Sunday afternoon.
As if the Washington Nationals needed any more drama heading into the off-season after missing the playoffs in a season they started out as near-unanimous World Series picks.
You’ve seen it by now. Bryce Harper, everyone’s N.L. MVP, didn’t bust his hump on a pop-up in the bottom of the eighth inning in what was still a 4-4 game. Papelbon jaws at Harper the entire way off the field, then once Harper is in the dugout, below Papelbon’s vantage, Papelbon goes for Harper’s throat and the two have to be separated.
Here’s the entirety, if you missed it.
Papelbon is clearly in the wrong, on all accounts. It’s not his duty to police Harper’s actions, especially from the top of the dugout in front of his teammates and within view of national television cameras. It’s especially wrong to continue the confrontation in a physical manner.
This, on the heels of Papelbon awaiting a hearing for his three-game suspension for throwing at Manny Machado last week. It’s twice in a week Papelbon has resorted to violence to enforce his view of baseball’s unwritten rules. He’s a dangerous menace.
After the exchange, manager Matt Williams inexplicably allowed Papelbon to go out and pitch the ninth, in which the Phillies proceeded to score eight runs.
Williams was obviously asked about the incident in his post-game press conference. Here was the exchange:
Q: What was behind your decision to send Papelbon back out for the ninth?
A: At the time, it’s a tie game.
Q: But given what happened?
A: He’s our closer.
Q: It appeared [Papelbon] put his hands on [Harper’s] throat?
A: He’s our closer. That’s all I’m going to say on the matter. He’s our closer. In a tie game, he’s in the ballgame in the ninth inning.
Let’s forget, for an instance, that Papelbon only agreed to the trade to D.C. because the Nats acquiesced to his demand that he only pitch in save situations, the reason he only pitched four time in the first 18 days he wore the uniform.
The idea that the manager can allow any player, but especially the pitcher, to go back onto the field into a tied game after an altercation in the dugout — which, by the way, that player instigated — is simply incredible.
After the game, Papelbon told reporters that he apologized to Harper, that he was “in the wrong.” Harper said it was like brothers fighting, and he was concentrating on the remaining games on the schedule. The players tried to say the right things and de-escalate the situation.
But actions speak louder than words. Papelbon has a long and inglorious history of this type of behavior and absolutely nothing good has happened since the Nats traded for him at the deadline.
As for Williams, his words in the press conference continue to reinforce the idea of his tone-deafness and inability to deviate from his set plan.
Describing the incident as a “family issue” that would be handled internally is akin to brushing it off. He essentially once again acquiesced to Papelbon, tacitly backing him as opposed to standing up for the team’s MVP in an altercation that luckily got no one hurt.
And all the while, Mike Rizzo says nothing, allowing the situation to linger and cast a pall on what little baseball is left.
Instead of celebrating Harper’s MVP season, instead of sending impending free agents Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond off in style, we’re left with this: watching the worst trade deadline acquisition of the season — maybe of all time — choke out the team and league’s MVP in the dugout of a tied game, then allowed back onto the field while the manager sits idly.
It’s been a long season. The offseason promises lots of turnover. Some of it was by design. Some of it now will be out of necessity. The turmoil surrounding the Nats is palpable. What just a few months ago seemed a model franchise is now under scrutiny for dysfunction.
Before Aug. 1, the play on the field wasn’t what everyone wanted, but they were still in first place. Since the trade for Papelbon, it’s all gone to hell — on the field and off. The trade was a mistake at the time, and now will prove infinitely more so.
I wrote in my piece yesterday the Nats wasted another year of Harper and Stephen Strasburg in their primes. How they handle this altercation could hasten their departure from D.C.
To add insult (and possible further injury) to injury, in the bottom of the eight inning Jonathan Papelbon took issue with Bryce Harper presumably for not fully running out a pop-up. Papelbon jawed at Harper on the way off the field, then in the dugout, physically attacked the likely N.L. MVP.
The only appropriate response to this is Mike Rizzo coming out at the manager’s post-game press conference to announce Papelbon’s suspension and Matt Williams’ dismissal.
More following the game.
The New York Mets made official what we’ve known around here for the better part of two months: the Washington Nationals aren’t going to the playoffs.
The Nats were doomed by starting the month of August in a 4-13 slump — a period where they went from three games up in the division to 4 1/2 games back. They’ve never recovered, as a five-game losing streak — three to these very Mets — early in September further reinforced the idea that the Nats just didn’t have “it” this year. [Read more…]
Saturday evening was a bittersweet affair for the Washington Nationals. They beat the Phillies 2-1 in extra innings on a walk-off double hit by outfielder Bryce Harper, but — after the Mets beat the Cincinnati Reds to clinch the National League East division title during the game — the Nats were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.
Starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg threw a noteworthy game with thirteen total strike outs in eight innings pitched. It was the fifth time this season Strasburg has tallied 10-plus strikeouts, the fourth consecutive time he’s done so in 2015, and the twenty-first time of his career. Strasburg gave up three hits and one run while walking a batter, and throwing one wild pitch. He threw 101 pitches and 73 strikes. [Read more…]
JORDAN ZIMMERMANN MAKES LIKELY LAST HOME START BEFORE FREE AGENCY
Jordan Zimmermann would have liked to have gone out on a brighter note. His final start of the season at home — and likely for his Washington Nationals career — was nowhere near his last start a season ago.
Zimmermann gave up six earned runs on six hits and two walks over five innings and the Nats fell to the Philadelphia Phillies 8-2 on Friday in a game that paled in comparison to Zimmermann’s no-hitter on the final day of 2014. [Read more…]
The Washington Nationals bullpen failed to hold a late-inning lead once again and the Baltimore Orioles completed a three-game sweep beating the Nats 5-4 at Nats Park.
Up 4-3 going to the eighth courtesy of a two-run seventh-inning rally, Blake Treinen was summoned to keep the status quo. He did not, allowing a single and homer to the first two batters he faced — the latter to lefty swinging Matt Wieters — and the Nats were unable to scratch anything out against the O’s pen. [Read more…]
LATE HOME RUN IS DIFFERENCE-MAKER AS ELIMINATION NUMBER DROPS TO FIVE
A late home run by Manny Machado ruined Washington’s night on Wednesday. As Nationals fans celebrated the arrival of the Pope — in part hoping for a miracle — the Orioles doused the coals of the Nationals season. Max Scherzer racked up 11 strikeouts, but surrendered a pair of home runs. The Nationals assembled 3 runs on extra base hits from Anthony Rendon and Wilson Ramos.
There’s a point in every season where a fan’s emotional investment evaporates. Some years, that’s after the last out of the last game your team plays, others it’s late in the season when your team has moved from dark horse to longshot. [Read more…]
The Baltimore Orioles beat the Washington Nationals 4-1 in D.C. on Tuesday night after starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez gave up all four of Baltimore’s runs.
Gonalzez pitched 4 2/3 innings while giving up six hits, four runs, walking two, and striking out six batters. He threw 82 pitches and 51 strikes. [Read more…]