November 29, 2015

Bryce Harper named National League MVP

After a stellar 2015 campaign, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper has been unanimously named the 2015 NL Most Valuable Player by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

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Washington Nationals officially introduce Dusty Baker as manager

Dusty Baker was formally introduced on Thursday morning with great fanfare as the sixth manager in Washington Nationals history in a press conference at Nationals Park.

Baker, 66, was accompanied by the team’s general manager, Mike Rizzo. The overall mood of the day was one of humor and looking toward the future, with the affable Baker cracking a number of jokes and Rizzo saying that it must be a big day when the occasion calls for him to wear a tie. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 162 Review: Turn out the lights, the party is over


Curtis Granderson hit an eighth inning solo home run off reliever Blake Treinen and the Washington Nationals season — which started with so much promise but ended in disappointment and dysfunction — came to a close with a 1-0 loss to the playoff-bound New York Mets at Citifield in Queens.

Maybe in just the faintest bit of irony, Tyler Clippard (5-4) earned the win for the Mets, pitching a perfect eighth inning and striking out two.

The Nats (83-79) managed just two hits on the day — Clint Robinson’s single off Jonathan Niese, and Bryce Harper’s ninth-inning two-out opposite field double — which extended the season one more batter, allowing Jayson Werth to fly out weakly to center to end the season. [Read more…]

Report: Matt Williams to be fired as Washington Nationals manager

The Washington Nationals will fire Matt Williams as the team’s manager at the end of the season, according to CBS Sports.

The move comes as an expected beginning to a crucial and surely eventual offseason for the organization. 2015 saw preseason talk of a World Series title give way to an 81-78 record (at press time) and the face of the franchise, Bryce Harper, get choked in the dugout in the season’s penultimate home game by closer and trade deadline acquisition Jonathan Papelbon. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals suspend Jonathan Papelbon

The Washington Nationals have suspended closer Jonathan Papelbon for the remainder of the season, general manager Mike Rizzo announced today.

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Washington Nationals Game 155 Review: Nats Fall Apart in Finale Against the Phillies

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…]

More off-field drama for Nationals in aftermath of Papelbon-Harper altercation

It’s unacceptable.

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.

Papelbon attacks Harper in dugout during game

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.

A season ends: Nationals eliminated, Williams ridiculed in media

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…]

Washington Nationals Game 154 Review: Nats Beat Phillies in Extras, Eliminated from Playoffs

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…]

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