Closer Jonathan Papelbon has filed a grievance against the Washington Nationals for using the team-imposed four-game suspension at the end of the 2015 season as an excuse to cut his pay.
During a September 28 game against the Phillies, Papelbon seized the throat of teammate and 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper as they argued in the dugout. Harper lazily running to first base after lofting a fly ball to left field catalyzed the scuffle. That incident prompted the Nationals to suspend Papelbon for four games; the team issued a statement that asserted Papelbon had accepted the three-game suspension from MLB for throwing at Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles on September 23, and the four-game suspension would be added to that.
Mike Rizzo, the Nationals’ GM and president of baseball operations, stated, “The behavior exhibited by Papelbon yesterday is not acceptable, 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.”
Yet according to CJ Nitkowzki of Fox Sports, both current teammates of Papelbon and Harper and some former players supported Papelbon, 35, chastising the 22-year-old for loafing. Some sample quotes included; “Pap did what should have been done three years ago,” “I would have done the same thing if I were Papelbon,” and “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.”
Sources report that Papelbon will argue there is no precedent of a player losing salary after a team-issued suspension similar to his. He may have a point; in 2014, outfielder Tyson Gillies, a member of the Phillies’ 40-man roster, was suspended three games by the team, but no salary cut was announced.
Papelbon has one year remaining on his contract with the Nationals, making $11 million. But his history of trouble portends a difficult path for the Nationals if they decide to trade him, even though he went 24 for 26 in save opportunities with an ERA of 2.13 for the Phillies and Nationals in 2015.