The Washington Nationals effectively closed out the season of controversial closer Jonathan Papelbon on Monday.
Papelbon, after blowing a lead by letting up five runs against the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday, engaged in a physical altercation with Bryce Harper. The reliever grabbed Harper’s neck in the dugout.
The team suspended Papelbon for four games. The punishment comes atop a Major League Baseball suspension of three games for throwing at Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles. MLB’s punishment begins tonight. With seven games remaining on the schedule, Pabelbon’s season effectively ended when he grabbed Harper’s throat.
Nationals fans pledged thousands of dollars in donations if the team cut Papelbon. Several anonymous players told Fox Sports that they supported Papelbon’s actions in the dugout. “Do it behind closed doors,” one player told writer C.J. Nitkowski. “However, it needed to be done.”
Harper, batting .336 with 41 home runs and 96 RBI, likely wins the NL MVP. But the 22-year-old’s alleged loafing and lack of commitment rubs some veteran players the wrong way. Harper called Papelbon drilling Machado “pretty tired” in remarks critical of the closer on Wednesday night.
“The behavior exhibited by Papelbon yesterday is not acceptable,” Mike Rizzo, the Nats GM and president of baseball operations, explained in a prepared statement about the dugout dust-up. “That is not at all in line with the way our players are expected to conduct themselves, and the Nationals organization will not tolerate it in any way.”