If you reach back to the recesses of your mind all the way back to say, March of this year, and ask who was going to win the NL East, I would venture to say 100% of the people in the know would have said the Nationals. The only questions were, how many games were they going to win and how early would they clinch the division?
Somehow this superteam with an amazing rotation, one that was so good that a pitcher with an ERA under 3.00 last season had to go to the bullpen and an MVP front runner is still trying to finish above .500 let alone above the rest of the teams in the Division.
So in a microcosm of the season on Sunday, when Bryce Harper returned to the dugout after a pop-out in the bottom of the 8th, new closer Johnathan Papelbon had enough of Harper dogging it, and started to choke him out, in the middle of the dugout, in the middle of the game, in front of TV cameras.
Now a lot of people have jumped all over Papelbon for his outburst here. Especially because A) He was only a relief pitcher and B) He has only been on the team for about 6 weeks. But what the hell did you expect when you traded for him? From Boston to Seattle everyone knew the volatility of Papelbon, that should come as no shock. The fact that he is reliever should have no bearing on this. He was pissed because Harper wasn’t running out the pop-up and basically giving up. So in that regard I agree with Papelbon.
If you ask me, plays like that should lose Harper MVP votes. I actually think Jake Arrieta, Zack Grienke, Kris Bryant or even Michael Wacha are better choices for MVP than Harper. Not a single one of those guys has dogged it this year. Bryce Harper is a spoiled brat, an extremely talented ball player who could be a Hall of Famer, but a spoiled brat nonetheless.
So in THAT regard, I applaud Papelbon for stepping up and nailing him on his actions. Of course, he could have chosen a better arena in which to do it, and I think suspending him for the remainder of the season, which is essentially what the Nationals did, was the right move too.
The sad part about all of this is the respect I lost for Matt Williams. I figured it was a no brainer her was going to be the fall guy for this choke job of a season, and I felt sorry for him. But when he sent Papelbon out for the 9th inning on Sunday, because he didn’t know what was going on in his own dugout, I lost a ton of respect for him. You better believe that post-season or not, Bruce Bochy ALWAYS knows what’s going on in the Giants dugout.
I guess it is a fitting end to their season, which can be best symbolized by a pair of hands around their biggest offensive stars neck, because how else could you describe this season for the Nats except for one giant choke.