Skip to content

Will Papelbon face punishment from the Nats?

Sep 27, 2015, 8:31 PM EDT

Sep 23, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon (58) walks through the dugout after being ejected form the game for hitting Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado (not pictured) with a pitch during the ninth inning at Nationals Park. Baltimore Orioles defeated Washington Nationals 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

It was just four days ago that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon found himself in the middle of a suspension-worthy altercation, the result of plunking Orioles third baseman Manny Machado near the head during Wednesday’s 4-3 loss.

But after Sunday’s melee with his own teammate, NL MVP candidate Bryce Harper, might the 34-year-old reliever receive another punishment — this time from his own club?

“We haven’t spoken about that yet,” Nats manager Matt Williams said after the game. “We just got done with [postgame festivities], we’ll speak about that.”

Papelbon, who appealed Major League Baseball’s decision to suspend him for three games, was contrite in his postgame comments with reporters, saying that he spoke to Harper after the incident to clear up the issue. Still, the 10-year veteran was asked whether or not he believes the club will discipline him for this latest episode.

“No, I don’t,” Papelbon said. “But we’ll handle that all in-house. That’s something that will stay within the team and not [the media].”

Whether the “in-house” way of handling it is a fine, a suspension or some other punitive action is unknown at this point. But in less than a week, Papelbon has twice shown that he’s not averse to resorting to violence, something that certainly hasn’t gone over well with the home fans who booed him mercilessly Sunday as he imploded in the ninth inning.

Papelbon contends that occasional in-fighting within a clubhouse is normal for any team, however unpleasant it may be in the moment. But given all that’s happened with him recently, it’s fair to wonder if the Nats’ decision makers feel the same way.

“Not everything’s always hunky dory,” Papelbon said, “and seasons don’t go by everyone agrees on the same thing and there’s not one disagreement in 162 games plus spring training. It’s part of the atmosphere, man. It’s part of what happens in this game, and you put so much into it and you grind so much throughout the year that sometimes emotions spill over, and that’s what happened today.”
  1. janebeard - Sep 27, 2015 at 8:43 PM

    Pap says: “It’s part of the atmosphere, man. It’s part of what happens in this game, and you put so much into it and you grind so much throughout the year that sometimes emotions spill over, and that’s what happened today.”

    It has never been “part of what happens” to put your hands around someone’s throat. It simply cannot be. But he thinks it’s not a big deal. I mean WTF? That he thinks this should just be brushed off, that the team won’t and shouldn’t punish him. is part of the reason he is the bully he is. The only way this gets better is for him to be shown the door. There is no excuse. There is no apology big enough to make this ok.

    “We’ll GROW from this??” That guy should not be allowed in any MLB clubhouse again, ever.

    • ArVAFan - Sep 27, 2015 at 8:47 PM

      What does he think this is: football? At least in hockey they’re all wearing enough padding to (usually) avoid hurting each other. I understand adrenaline, testosterone, and frustration. I don’t understand hands around throat. If he’d done that to his spouse/girlfriend, everyone would be calling for his suspension or more.

      • janebeard - Sep 27, 2015 at 9:01 PM

        We would have been calling the POLICE. I don’t know why they didn’t here.

    • vannordens - Sep 28, 2015 at 12:10 AM

      I just took a close look at a replay. It looks to me that Harper said “You want to fight me? Then let’s go” Followed by Harper getting what he wanted.

  2. Karl Kolchak - Sep 27, 2015 at 8:47 PM

    If Papelbon is at least suspended by the team for the remainder of this disaster of a season, it might finally be the straw that causes me to cancel my season tickets. All of this and a steep price hike, too? It just isn’t worth it.

    • ArVAFan - Sep 27, 2015 at 9:01 PM

      Did you mean “isn’t” instead of “is” in that first sentence?

  3. JayB - Sep 27, 2015 at 8:48 PM

    @NFA_Brian: Send Papelbon home for the season. Fire Williams. And I’m pretty close to advocating Rizzo’s dismissal for creating this shitshow

    When Brian says it too….well Njack…you are real quite and alone in thinking things are just fine with this organization and just trolls like me see what you are too stubborn to admit has happened to our team.

  4. Mrsb loves the Nats - Sep 27, 2015 at 9:01 PM

    I hope to not see Paps pitch again this year… im close to feeling that way about him as a National….

  5. Drew - Sep 27, 2015 at 9:01 PM

    Imagine this was your workplace.

    It’s OK on occasion for passionate people who care about the product to call each other out – preferably behind closed doors.

    Praise in public, criticize in private, right?

    But you can’t accost somebody. You can’t choke somebody.

    If a leader allows that to go unpunished there are no rules.

  6. Annoymous - Sep 27, 2015 at 9:02 PM

    I am a victim of domestic violence. My former spouse put his hands to my throat once. The cops took him away and I moved out the next day. I want the organization to part ways with Papelbon, now! I cannot and will not support this team unless they do.

  7. natsfan1a - Sep 27, 2015 at 9:11 PM

    When I first saw the video, on a phone screen at the park, I thought that Pap had shoved him, and I was steamed at that. Watching the recording on tv later, I realized he laid hands on Bryce’s throat. I think the same thing I thought on first viewing – that dude needs to be gone. Good-bye.

  8. philipd763 - Sep 27, 2015 at 9:15 PM

    This team under performed all season for a variety of reasons but things really fell apart after Rizzo brought Papelbon on board. Rizzo used very poor judgement and he should be held accountable because everyone knows Papelbon is very disruptive.

    • NatsNut - Sep 27, 2015 at 11:38 PM

      Well, I read someone’s take that Rizzo was limited to what he could get a the deadline because the Lerners didn’t want to increas ’15 payroll. I wonder if it’s true.

  9. dryw4nats - Sep 27, 2015 at 9:28 PM

    It may be “part of the atmosphere” on some teams, but it’s exactly the opposite of the atmosphere we’ve been working to eliminate on this team. All of the former Nats who would have found this behavior excusable are FORMER Nats. The real leaders on this team (Zim, Jayson, Ian come to mind) will certainly have a talking-to with a young guy if they think he needs it, but can you really see any of them physically attacking their own teammate?Papelbon is welcome to take that attitude somewhere where it will fit in. Not here.

  10. joemktg - Sep 27, 2015 at 9:37 PM

    Daniel makes a great point:
    But in less than a week, Papelbon has twice shown that he’s not averse to resorting to violence…

    That’s a frightening notion.

  11. natfan33 - Sep 27, 2015 at 9:37 PM

    Any chance that there is something in Papelbon’s contract that allows the Nats to get rid of him now based on his conduct today? We can only hope.

    • dryw4nats - Sep 28, 2015 at 4:40 AM

      If you were Papelbon, would you sign a contract that held you responsible for acting like a civil human being?

  12. RoadApples - Sep 27, 2015 at 9:48 PM

    Simply Harper should have agreed with Papelbon’s assessment for not running hard on the potential fly ball out and when Harper ran his mouth; Harper .consequently should accept the circumstances

    • Section 222 - Sep 27, 2015 at 9:52 PM

      Assuming you meant consequences not circumstances, I think you may be in a minority of one among Nats fans.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 27, 2015 at 9:58 PM

        If by “accept the [consequences]” one means telling Papelbon to go do something anatomically improbable, then I agree.

      • RoadApples - Sep 27, 2015 at 10:15 PM

        10-4 . Thank you for response.
        Are you possibly cherry picking because the player called out is the probable NL MVP.
        With all due respect please do not assume what I indeed said.
        Also I am am pro-Nats since the teams inception:
        Very disconcerting when the Nats underperformed as a team.

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Sep 27, 2015 at 10:21 PM

      I just want to make sure I’m reading this correctly, are you blaming Harper for this?

      • RoadApples - Sep 27, 2015 at 10:39 PM

        With all due respect to you:
        Blame is for children.
        And should not have verbally challenged a fellow teammate that was indeed correct in his assessment.
        By verbally challenging an older and veteran player ( a player who I personally do not respect nor appreciate that he is on this team )he should have been prepared for a verbal or even physical response ( for which apparently did happen )

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Sep 27, 2015 at 10:42 PM

        I don’t know how to take you serious with any of your statements about this incident. I really dont.

        ‘Blame is for children.’ Yet you blame Harper.. wow.

        So im done with this you and this conversation.

      • RoadApples - Sep 27, 2015 at 10:58 PM

        In this situation Harper is indeed being child like.
        He should not be coddled by fans.

      • Karl Kolchak - Sep 27, 2015 at 11:38 PM

        You’re a moron, RA. Violence is NEVER an acceptable option against a teammate, any more that it would be in your place of employment. Not only that, Harper is a four-year veteran himself, so even that stupid argument doesn’t hold water.

    • vannordens - Sep 27, 2015 at 10:22 PM

      I agree.

      • natsguy - Sep 27, 2015 at 11:03 PM

        All I can is wow. I doubt if you would feel that way if you were being choked..

      • RoadApples - Sep 27, 2015 at 11:54 PM

        K and V,
        You have little if at all reading comprehension:
        I have at no time blessed the physical altercation that occurred.
        I will repeat that Harper was child like in his response to P alpes on

    • janebeard - Sep 27, 2015 at 10:34 PM

      There are NO CIRCUMSTANCES under which anyway is justified to put his hands around someone’s throat. None. It’s assault plain and simple.

      • funnationals - Sep 27, 2015 at 10:40 PM


      • RoadApples - Sep 27, 2015 at 10:43 PM

        Respectfully understand .
        Curious question:
        Did indeed Harper threaten Papelbon?

      • NationalAnthem - Sep 27, 2015 at 11:44 PM

        @ Road Apples
        It really doesn’t matter what Harper said or did. Papelbon is guilty of assault. Debate over.

    • NatsNut - Sep 27, 2015 at 11:40 PM

      Yea, just like when an abuser says, “well, I TOLD her to keep her mouth shut…”


      • RoadApples - Sep 28, 2015 at 12:14 AM

        I find your response revolting at best and disgusting at worst and totally inappropriate comparing this situation to female abuse. 

  13. xbonat - Sep 27, 2015 at 9:55 PM

    Job Postings for DC area:

    An experienced baseball GM
    An experienced manager with a spine
    A setup man
    A closer
    A couple left hand hitters

    Lost and Found:

    Reward If found, the return of consistency back to the Nationals starting pitchers.

  14. Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 27, 2015 at 9:59 PM

    But hey, one more ballgame tomorrow! Let’s go get ’em.

    • Section 222 - Sep 27, 2015 at 10:10 PM

      six more games, six more games, six more games.

      • 3on2out - Sep 27, 2015 at 10:34 PM

        Seven but who’s counting. As long as PapelBUM is done.

  15. funnationals - Sep 27, 2015 at 10:39 PM

    He said 6 because he’s off tomorrow

  16. natsguy - Sep 27, 2015 at 10:46 PM

    Today was the 2nd saddest day for me in watching Washington baseball since 1962. The saddest being in 1971. Very bummed out by today. Very sad. This is probably my last season and I had such hope. This is very sad. I’m sorry that Bryce has had a magical season ruined by this thug.

  17. thisizit - Sep 27, 2015 at 10:51 PM

    Papelbon should be arrested for assault. Hands to the throat is not a fight among brothers, and cannot be tolerated. Nats better do something, and Papelbon better not be with the team tomorrow.

  18. Sonny G 10 - Sep 27, 2015 at 11:23 PM

    The Nats must punish Papelbon. I believe they will, but if they keep it all in-house, we may not hear about it. I have to believe Rizzo will find a way to get rid of Papelbon. I will be very disappointed if he doesn’t.

    • natsguy - Sep 27, 2015 at 11:27 PM

      The punishment has to be public for it to do any good. There is a lot more than Papelbon who need to be leaving. When he was acquired I commented that this might be subtraction by addition. All I is can say too bad too sad for what could have been.

    • Karl Kolchak - Sep 27, 2015 at 11:35 PM

      How exactly do you punish him without making it public? Say, “naughty, naughty, don’t do it again?”

      A fine and/or suspension are the only punishments that matter, and those will definitely be reported in the press.

  19. derwink - Sep 27, 2015 at 11:35 PM

    Whoaa, I read the comments of the last three posts first and then watched the video. The actual incident was far worse than I imagined!!!!

    I’ve followed this team from the 80s Expos on to DC. If Papelbon is not supsended and then released or traded, there’s always Canada’s team to root for.

  20. ccallahan15 - Sep 27, 2015 at 11:58 PM

    Incredibly disappointing day at the park. Most of the vendors were out of supplies. The beer vendor in my section shouted “no Heineken no blue moon no flying dog no hard cider” as his sales pitch. A friend in the diamond club said 4 of the 6 taps were dry and no diet coke. And then this disgraceful show. And an 8 run bust under the direction of an unconscious manager. 30%+ price increase. (That’s really all the Lerners want. Its the mall developer in them. Increase the rents!) I have diamond tickets tomorrow. $200 for old hot dogs I expect. (And no Harper tomorrow?) What an unconscionable way to show fan appreciation. You can dress all the staff in “Thank You Fans” t-shirts but it’s just a mockery. Slum lords have collected their rent. At this point there’s no need to pretend to field an entertaining product or provide pleasant hospitality. What a mess!

  21. RoadApples - Sep 28, 2015 at 12:01 AM

    K and V,
    You have little if at all reading comprehension:
    I have at no time blessed the physical altercation that occurred.
    I will repeat that Harper was child like in his response to Papelbon complaning about not running a fly ball out.
    I also stated that Harper should have been prepared for a verbal or physical response to Harper running his mouth in a provocative manner in response to Papelbon admonishment.
    Indeed I find you a moron for lack of reading comprehension and living in a fantasy world to fit your dillusions. I at no time advocated nor accepted that p hysica l violence is acceptable.
    An apology on that issue by you is expected.

    • stoatva - Sep 28, 2015 at 12:27 AM

      Don’t hold your breath.

      “RoadApples” seems like an apt characterization of your contribution to the discussion.

    • BatBoy - Sep 28, 2015 at 9:12 AM

      You perfectly are described by your name “RoadApples”!! Where I come from we call you a large pile of HORSE SHT !!! Ha!!! Crawl under the slimiest rock you can find!! SHAME ON YOU!! Like to have Paps put his lethal yes lethal hands around your neck you fool ! Go away before someone drops a house on you!

      • RoadApples - Sep 28, 2015 at 1:24 PM

        Stoat/BB: Please reread my post. Specifically: I believe Harper overreacted initially but I am at no time advocating physical violence.
        BB: Are you indeed threatening me? If you are then Cease and Desist.

  22. corkybb - Sep 28, 2015 at 12:08 AM

    Mike Rizzo, if you read this blog and the comments, please get rid of Papelbon. I am a die-hard fan, but if Papelbon is a National next year, my interest will greatly fade. You cannot tolerate having a player put his hands to the throat of another player. You cannot tolerate having a pitcher throw at the head of a hitter. Please make the Nationals a team that one can feel good about rooting for. It means a lot to us.

  23. abqnatsfan - Sep 28, 2015 at 12:27 AM

    I think Rizzo is very stubborn and not particularly open to thoughts from others outside his inner circle, or those he already knows. Hopefully some of those folks are helping him with revisiting the state of his team. i think Rizzo has done a lot of good in building the Nats, but I think today is an example of some of the ways the team-building has gone wrong.

    I don’t blame Rizzo for what Papelbon did, but I hope Rizzo is able to see how the last 6 weeks is a collection of events that speak to having to change the way things are being done. I don’t know the answer, thought I know it will be hard to get right. I hope Rizzo and the Lerners can sit down together, accept their roles in how this all spiraled down, and fix it.





As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at Click here for past audio clips.

Follow us on Twitter