The Washington Nationals had some high aspirations going into the 2015-2016 MLB season. On paper, the Nationals had a complete pitching staff with some great hitting led by Bryce Harper. Many experts had this team all ready to win the NL East crown and make a World Series appearance.
All of that looks like a distant memory and the Nationals now have even bigger problems to worry about. This past Sunday, Bryce Harper popped out in the 8th inning and went back to the dugout. He began to exchange words with his teammate, the always controversial Jonathan Papelbon. The situation escalated very quickly and before anyone knew it, Papelbon had his hand on Bryce Harper’s throat.
— SB Nation (@SBNation) September 27, 2015
Manager Matt Williams said he had no idea what exactly happened and normally would not have let Papelbon play if he saw what happened. Papelbon went on to pitch in the 9th inning and ended up allowing 5 runs (2 earned).
Last night’s game has essentially summed up the Nationals’ season, they start off well but can’t seem to close things out later on.
The issue as to why this whole altercation happens is because Harper didn’t give it his all when running out the fly ball attempt. Papelbon has been a great closer for some time but he’s also been known to be incredibly hotheaded.
Papelbon got hit with a three game suspension for beaning Orioles third baseman Manny Machado earlier this year.
This was a decision that Bryce Harper openly criticized and voiced his opinion over. Now, it seems like the relationship between Papelbon and Harper is in a difficult place to recover from.
Both players did the best they could to move on from the incident and both claimed that this was a brotherly-like altercation.
Papelbon said this after the game,
“It’s squashed and it’s good, we’ve moved on. I grew up with brothers, he grew up with brothers, I view him as a brother,” Papelbon said. “And sometimes in this game, there’s a lot of testosterone and things spill over.”
Harper was necessarily enthusiastic in his response,
“He apologized, so whatever,” Harper said. “I really don’t care. … It’s like brothers fighting. That’s what happens.”
This fight was obviously an embarrassing moment for everyone involved the question is who is to blame in this altercation?
Many players such as Papelbon have the approach of no player being greater than the team. Bryce Harper might be having one of the top 25 hitting seasons ever but that doesn’t mean he should slack off and put in less effort.
The other side of the argument is that Bryce Harper is clearly the best player on the team and he deserves some slack here. The Nationals wouldn’t even be in the playoff picture if it wasn’t for Harper, who is raking with a .340 batting average, 41 home runs and 96 runs batted in.
One of the reasons why Harper’s effort might have declined is because the team is out of playoff contention after losing the NL East to the New York Mets. The Nationals have also lost 5 out of their last six games and are really hobbling over the finish line.
The Nationals implosion is something that the organization will have to look at closely because the window for this team being successful is starting to close.