While the dust is starting to settle in the Washington Nationals' clubhouse, there has been no shortage of analysis about the showdown between Bryce Harper and Jonathan Papelbon on Sunday in the aftermath of their disappointing season.
The next few weeks and months will be interesting to observe and to see how Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo ultimately handles this embarrassing melee, which was the cherry on top for a true disaster of a season.
Out of all the articles I've seen though, perhaps the most interesting was Fox Sports' CJ Nitkowski's poll of a handful of baseball players, which showed support for Paps reaction.
This “he got what he deserved" kind of mentality isn’t really surprising. The antiquated baseball credo of “playing the right way” has always seemed super vague. When exactly does a young player "pass" into the terrain where he is ALLOWED to think or act like he's the best in the league?
Harper has been in the crosshairs seemingly ever since his helmet perfectly flew off his perfectly coiffed hair as he hustled around the bases during his rookie campaign. Where the players stand on whether or not Papelbon's actions were justified, based on this article at least, seems to come down to tenure.
Whether it's Harpers general attitude, or even a Yasiel Puig bat flip, there seems to be this invisible rule with baseball. This, you-have-to-earn-your-cockiness mentality with players that frankly I just don't understand. Some former players think there should be more physical intimidation and attacks. For example, Gregg Zaun, who provided as example of what Cal Ripken and several Orioles teammates did to younger players back in the day.
I'm not necessarily justifying what Harper did. Should he have run the ball out? Sure. Did he possibly pop off to Papelbon after he made the comments as he was walking back to the dugout. Looks like it. Honestly, nobody should really be popping off at him at this point though. I think accusing Harper of not trying is ridiculous.
As a young baseball fan, I was raised to hate showboats. Barry Bounds and his one-handed catches were anti-team and pure self promotion. In time, my attitude toward cocky players has somewhat changed. Baseball and it's players can be a bit dull at times so I have no problem with some youthful energy being interjected into this game.
Also, Papelbon clearly knew what he was doing. It really just seems like this whole thing stems from him being upset over Harper’s comments over the Machado incident and when he had a moment to pounce, he hopped into the spotlight. Hence, the altercation on the steps in front of everybody on the team (except, of course, manager Matt Williams who apparently was too busy working on his resume to notice his players fighting).
If Papelbon really is this player that other players defended, the one who was standing up for how the game SHOULD be played, why wouldn’t he just take this into the clubhouse or wait until after the game to make a balanced and composed assessment of Harper's effort?
My guess, it's because he loves always being the villain. I mean, does anybody believe he was really fixing his jock in Philly last September and not telling the crowd to fuck off? The dude thrives on this crap. It just seems like he couldn't take a young player showing him up with the media about his dumb antics throwing at player's head.
I mean, his reaction after the fight says it all:
Back to Pap throwing at Manny Machado last week, which it appears got this whole thing started between the two of them in the first place. Fine, intentionally throwing at a batter after he admires a home run is "old school" but it does seem a bit tired to me as well, so I have to agree with Harper here. Not to mention, again, Papelbon’s "old school reaction" was to throw at Machado’s HEAD. This wasn’t a fastball to the back or thigh. Papelbon’s high-and-in pitch could have done some serious damage.
So is that old school “respect your elders” baseball? If so, then give me a Yasiel Puig bat flip any day. Good luck Mike Rizzo and thanks again for taking this ding dong off the Phillies' hands.