Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon grabbed one ball too many on Monday night, prompting an ejection and a seven-game suspension.
After surrendering four runs in the ninth inning of a 5-4 Phillies loss to the Miami Marlins, Papelbon left the mound amid boos from the crowd. The passionate pitcher responded by grabbing his crotch. Umpire Joe West, seeing the gesture, ejected Papelbon.
Papelbon, enraged, stormed toward West and got in his face, whereupon West grabbed Papelbon’s jersey. Papelbon followed his argument with West by arguing with first-base umpire Marty Foster. Once he reached the dugout, Papelbon hurled a cup of liquid onto the field.
West defended his ejection of the fiery reliever, saying, “The whole thing started because the fans booed him and he made an obscene gesture. He had no business doing that. He’s got to be more professional than that. And that’s why he was ejected.”
The Phillies issued a statement supporting the seven-game suspension from the commissioner’s office and apologizing to their fans:
The Phillies fully support the decision of the Commissioner’s Office, which has exclusive jurisdiction for on-field player behavior. By Major League Baseball rules, the Phillies have no authority to make official judgments about activity which occurs on the field or to determine the appropriate penalty for misconduct. We apologize to our fans for the actions of our player yesterday.
Papelbon released a statement in which he attested that he would start serving the suspension immediately. He also apologized, writing, “While I completely understand how the fans would perceive my gesture while being booed, it was not my intent whatsoever to insult the fans of Philadelphia. If it was perceived in that manner, I sincerely apologize.”
The ninth-inning meltdown had to be a shock for the reliever. He had converted 14-straight save chances since July 22, and had only blown 4 of 41 save chances the entire season. Papelbon combined with three other Philadelphia pitchers to throw a no-hitter to start September.