Jonathan Papelbon, the Washington National's newly acquired relief pitcher, put teammate Bryce Harper in a stranglehold on Sunday night, and it resulted in suspensions for both men. The initial consensus was that Papelbon stepped way out of line and that he was in the wrong during the confrontation, but it has since been revealed that many players are siding with the reliever in his assault on Harper.
The initial incident was a result on what could have been seen as an act of poor sportsmanship from Bryce Harper. Harper hit a fly ball to the outfield during the eighth inning of a 4-4 game against the Philadelphia Phillies. From the moment the ball left the bat, one could tell it would result in an out, and so Bryce jogged half-heartedly towards first base instead of running.As you can see in the video above, a wild brawl occurred after Harper returned to the dugout. It was later revealed that, although the Washington Nationals are by now statistically eliminated from the playoffs, Jonathan Papelbon took serious issue with Harper and his apparent lack of effort on the play.
Papelbon's anger resulted in him putting his hands on his teammate's neck and pushing Harper to the back of the dugout. Sources report the two had to be restrained and pulled apart by other Nationals players.
Some sources, such as this report from the Washington Post, argue that Bryce Harper was perfectly reasonable in his actions.
"One insane thing about Sunday is that Harper did run out that pop-up," the report says. "He muttered in frustration, tossed his bat, shook his head and trotted down the line. He reached the base. In Game 155 of a mathematically dead season, that constitutes running it out. That counts."
MLB officials did not comment on the play itself, but they agreed that Papelbon's harsh treatment of Harper was definitely uncalled for. They let it be known, too, with the suspensions they dished out. Although Bryce Harper was suspended with pay for one game "because he was involved in a dugout fight," Papelbon was suspended for the rest of the Nationals' season without pay.
Harper "was involved in it, [but] you could see by the way we weighted the disciplinary actions [that] we felt who was more at fault than the other," commented the Nationals' general manager.
Although the officials sympathized with Harper, however, a statistical 100 percent of players sided with Papelbon and agreed Bryce totally had it coming. A columnist for Fox Sports organized a poll by asking 12 current MLB players what they thought of the kerfuffle between Bryce Harper and Pap, and all 12 of them were in agreement that Harper needed to be taught a lesson.
"Kid has been allowed to loaf for the past two years. [Nationals manager Matt] Williams got crucified for benching him last year; media and fans took Bryce's side so he kept doing it and wasn't getting punished. Veteran finally said something; kid ran his mouth at the wrong guy and got beat up," said one of the poll's respondents.
"Bryce is a great player. He's a true superstar. But he's not above playing the game the right way. I'm glad someone finally told him that," said another.
A third respondent summed up the general consensus among players in a succinct fashion.
"I would have done the same thing if I were Papelbon."
Indeed, Bryce Harper is one of baseball's well-documented hotheads. He has become well known for dissing his own teammates and opposing players, feigning injury in order to gain an advantage during games, and exhibiting outward displays of emotion. And, as the Washington Post article quoted above points out, Jonathan Papelbon "is a self-appointed flame bearer of baseball code" and was just trying to get through to Harper... although his methods of doing so may have crossed a line, as Pap admitted himself in an interview after the game, reports CNN.
"Sometimes in this game there's a lot of testosterone... there's a lot of intensity that spills over and I think that happened."
Whose side do you take in this matter? Is Bryce Harper justified in his actions? Did Papelbon react inappropriately? Or is Papelbon a hero for taking matters into his own hands? Leave your opinion below.
[Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images]