Harper Papelbon Dugout Altercation Has No Winner

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Unwritten Baseball Rules Have To Be Interpreted Correctly

By John Ventola

The grind of a 162-game regular season can be trying on major league baseball players and managers. Playing with consistent effort, frequent travel, and disappointing team and individual performances, all contribute to nightmares for team managers. Throw in the game’s unwritten rules of never showing up an opponent, hustling on each and every play, protecting your teammates (a pitcher will retaliate if a player on their team is thought to have been thrown at by the opposition), and the pressure can be unbearable.

Managers may look like they have an easy job sitting in the dugout, but putting the right players on the field with the proper attitude, and statistical advantages (right hand

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No Black Eyes Except For Game of Baseball

hitters against lefthanded pitchers, etc.} is only part of their duties. They must keep players motivated and happy. Throw in the fact players come from so many culturally diverse backgrounds, managers not only have to be “solid baseball men”, they have to be firm and fair disciplinarians.

Any kind of breakdown, whether lack of effort by an eliminated team, or a disgruntled player in the clubhouse, can put the manager’s job in jeopardy, and send team General Managers looking for a potential team pilot with a different set of baseball and interpersonal skill sets.

When a season is winding down, and your team has disappointed with their overall performance (Washington Nationals), it can be extremely tough keeping the team together mentally and physically. Nationals Manager Matt Williams, despite a poor performance by his team that was expected by many to win this year’s World Series, failed miserably in his managerial duties last Sunday. The season, and Williams’ handling of a dugout incident between star player Bryce Harper and relief pitcher teammate Jonathan Papelbon, will cost Williams his job.

Harper, who will be named the National League’s Valuable Player based on his leading the league in home runs and batting average, mistakenly failed to hustle,and run out a fly ball he hit to left field in the eighth-inning. Papelbon, an 11-year major leaguer and

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Papelbon Wrong To Criticize Teammate Who Has Carried Team

six-time all-star, thought it was incumbent upon him to say something to the 22-year-old superstar. Words were exchanged, things escalated, and before Papelbon could say “we Nationals are a frustrated bunch”, lunged at Harper from the top steps of the dugout, grabbed him by the neck, and slammed him against the dugout wall.

Teammates broke up the altercation, but Williams’ handling–or lack thereof– of the incident sealed his fate with the team, a franchise that underachieved this season, and is considered 2015’s biggest flop. He sent closer Papelbon out to the mound for the top of the ninth when he had an opportunity to protect and support his top player. Not surprisingly, Papelbon was rocked for five runs before being removed from the 12-5 loss.

A couple of days later Papelbon was suspended for the season, and Harper was sat down for one game by General Manager Mike Rizzo. The suspension, no doubt, ends Papelbon’s tenure with the team. The hard-throwing reliever, who was born in Baton Rouge and played collegiately at Mississippi State, will be employed elsewhere next season, provided he can learn to properly interpret the unwritten rules of baseball, and not overreact to what he considers an offensive play, or lack of effort by a teammate.

Two ways baseball purists can look at this dugout breakdown. Papelbon saw and reacted to what he perceived as a young player not giving the game his all. He reacted, although not properly. I am sure he would not like a teammate of his getting in his face as he walked off the mound after he gave up five tallies to basically lose a game that was tied 4-4 when he took the hill in the ninth inning.

I am not giving Harper a pass on his lack of full-out effort on one play, but he has

Harper Has Earned Respect For His Overall Effort

Harper Has Earned Respect For His Overall Effort

basically been the only bright spot on the team this season. His performances and effort have been exemplary. Sure, he was probably upset with himself for not hitting his 42nd home run in that eighth inning to give the Nats the lead, but one play should not define Harper either. The guy has carried his team singlehandedly, and he, and the Angels’ Mike Trout, are the game’s top two stars today.

Papelbon overreacted, Williams failed to act in a timely manner and protect his top player, and Harper showed he was tired of carrying an underachieving team on his youthful back.

There were no winners in the Nationals dugout Sunday, the lowly Philadelphia Phillies eight-run ninth-inning rally was just the outcome.

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ByJohn


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