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UPDATED: Papelbon suspended for season, Harper punished

Sep 28, 2015, 3:33 PM EDT

Photo by USA Today

UPDATED: 3:32 p.m.

After meeting for hours behind closed doors in the clubhouse at Nationals Park on Monday, the Nats announced their punishment for Sunday’s ugly incident that involved closer Jonathan Papelbon attacking Bryce Harper, the favorite to win NL MVP, in the dugout.

Papelbon will not only drop his appeal of MLB’s three-games suspension levied earlier in the week, he has been docked an additional four games without pay by the team. There are seven games left on the Nationals’ schedule, so that means he is done for the year.

On top of that, Harper has been punished by being left out of Monday’s lineup against the Reds. The Nationals believe he played a role in the incident by exchanging words with Papelbon before the altercation turned physical.

Williams took the podium at Nats Park over an hour after he was scheduled to and began his daily press conference with an apologetic statement:

“We suspended Jonathan Papelbon for four games without pay, reflecting how seriously we take the incident in the dugout yesterday,” Williams began. “When I was able to view the footage of yesterday’s incident, I was upset and appalled. I think the punishment we’ve announced today fits and reflects the feeling we have about the tolerance of issues such as this and the standards we hold all of our players in our organization, too.”

The decision was made along with general manager Mike Rizzo and ownership. The team also consulted the league and the MLB players’ association before releasing the news.

Rizzo issued a statement on the matter through a press release.

“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,” he said.

Williams expressed regret for several aspects of the situation. For one, he wishes he had asked for more information from coaches and players soon after the incident. He put Papelbon back in the game after the fight and on Monday said he would not have done so if he knew more.

Williams also spoke for the Nationals franchise, which has been been put in a national spotlight for reasons they never hoped for.

“It’s been a very difficult 24 hours for the organization. Incidents like that in the dugout is not the way we want to play our games,” Williams said. “We’ll do our best to move past this incident and go beyond that.”

Williams said he wishes Papelbon had expressed his frustration with Harper, whom he thought did not hustle on a routine flyout to left field, in a different way.

“Generally, this happens between players within the confines of a private clubhouse. It doesn’t happen out in the open. Generally, that’s how we would prefer to do it,” Williams explained.

The Nationals still have plenty of decisions to make. Papelbon is done for the year, but is under contract with the team for the 2016 season. There is also the question of Williams’ future, as the team has vastly underachieved in a season that was expected to include a World Series parade.

The fight brought up deeper questions about whether it spoke to larger issues within the Nationals clubhouse, which is a direct reflection of Williams and his job performance. Williams addressed that notion.

“I respect all those guys in there. They play their fannies off. They go about it the right way. I would think that this is an isolated incident because we just don’t have that. We don’t have that dynamic as a team. That being said, it did happen and we have to address it. We have to fix it and we have to move forward. For me, it’s an isolated incident. We’ll do our best to put it behind us. It’s been a difficult 24 hours for the organization as a whole. What we can do at this point is not let that define us as a team, as individuals, and go play,” he said.

  1. Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 28, 2015 at 2:28 PM

    So they punish us for Bryce not taking crap from Papelbon. That’s tired

    I think they are looking at a four-game suspension from me, themselves, next season.

    • ricandersen - Sep 28, 2015 at 2:44 PM

      FWIW, Harper was never going to be in the lineup today. He was scheduled to have the day off.

      I’m not sure why the Nationals/MW are spinning it that it is a punishment, as it was already planned. And there is no dock of pay. But again, Harper is not being punished.

  2. letswin3 - Sep 28, 2015 at 2:31 PM

    Good first step. Now trade him. I understand that he has a no trade clause, so, if that’s the case, find the escape clause that addresses misconduct. I don’t care how much of his ’16 salary they have to eat, just dump him before he finds a way to kill this team.This guy is a much bigger accident waiting to happen, and he’s already poisoned the clubhouse to some extent. It’s a pick and choose situation, and I pick Harper and the immediate future of the Nats.

    • jd - Sep 28, 2015 at 2:35 PM

      Absolutely. I would be OK to DFA him. He shouldn’t come close to Viera in the spring. I am surprised and disappointed that the Nats also chose to reprimand Harper.

      Another stupid and wrong move.

    • ricandersen - Sep 28, 2015 at 2:45 PM

      My guess is Papelbon will turn into the Ugla of 2016. Nats will find some team to take Papelbon, but pay the majority of his 2016 salary themselves.

  3. Doc - Sep 28, 2015 at 2:34 PM

    I’m sure that there are many similar incidents on many teams that don’t become public. Once they become public the team is forced to react.

    If Bryce hadn’t publicly reacted to Papelbon’s plunking of Machado, none of the subsequent events would probably have taken place.

    • jd - Sep 28, 2015 at 2:37 PM

      Maybe so but under no circumstances can you allow a moron like Paplebon to publicly challenge and assault your best player who incidentally plays very hard.

    • theoneontheleft2 - Sep 28, 2015 at 2:45 PM

      The entire Nats team standing idly while the Orioles went after Papelbon was a bigger public reaction. That’s the day Williams and Papelbon lost the clubhouse for good.

  4. fomeols - Sep 28, 2015 at 2:39 PM

    Williams is either an idiot, a sycophant, or a complete incompetent.
    I’m no Harper fan, but punishing him AT ALL is ridiculous.
    Considering the Nats(Go Nats! Always get a kick out of that) invaded baltimore territory and are now trying to finagle many millions from the Os by reneging on an agreement, the turmoil at the Walgren’s is not unwelcome.

    • akiterp - Sep 28, 2015 at 3:23 PM

      fomeols … please do not ever think Baltimore and the DMV are the same territory … from this end of Maryland Baltimore is just a place to drive through on my way to the north

  5. letswin3 - Sep 28, 2015 at 2:39 PM

    No pitcher should ever call out a position player, let alone physically attack one … that’s the privilege of other position playing teammates, a coach or the skipper, but even then, only in privacy and never in the course of a game. Pap is going to be a problem wherever he lands, and no self-respecting GM would ever let him land back in a Nat’s uniform.

  6. theoneontheleft2 - Sep 28, 2015 at 2:43 PM

    This is Matt William’s lovely parting gift to Rizzo and the Nats. Allow me to demoralize your best player for the last home game of the season. Have a great winter everyone, tip your waitresses!

  7. langleyclub - Sep 28, 2015 at 2:45 PM

    I read the quote from MW explaining the suspension for Pap. Where is the quote explaining the punishment for Harper? Want to hear exactly what he is being punished for. Putting his neck in the way of Pap’s hand? IMO, Harper showed restraint. He was verbally and physically attacked, and lot of (if not most) guys in the situation would have physically retaliated. Harper did not.

    • ricandersen - Sep 28, 2015 at 2:48 PM

      You are absolutely correct. After they were separated, Harper walked away. He was still stewing, but he walked away.

      Pretty tired of everybody pointing out how immature Harper is. He showed considerable maturity yesterday.

      • kkpp3 - Sep 28, 2015 at 5:25 PM

        I’m one of the people whose knocked Harper for being immature, but you are absolutely right, he showed restraint and maturity by walking away and not playing that nut case’s game.

  8. Section 222 - Sep 28, 2015 at 2:46 PM

    Incredible that MW says that Bryce was benched for “his part in the altercation.”
    (1) Bryce was scheduled for a day off — he said so himself yesterday
    (2) what part in the altercation exactly is MW talking about –yelling back at Pap when Pap continued to hound him after he came down the steps? Putting up his hands in self-defense when Pap charged him? Going to the clubhouse after he was assaulted rather than going out on the field for the 9th inning?

    That’s absurd.

    • ArVAFan - Sep 28, 2015 at 3:14 PM

      For saying “let’s f ing go at it” or words to that effect.

    • alexva6 - Sep 28, 2015 at 3:37 PM

      someone should mention to MW that Harper already said he was scheduled to be off today.

      once again MW looks like an uninformed fool.

      he can’t be gone soon enough.

    • Dave - Sep 28, 2015 at 4:00 PM

      Absolutely, alexva6. The fact that Harper has today off was announced immediately after the game yesterday, in the context of Desmond’s curtain call.

      MW does indeed look clueless once again. He has seemed clueless on at least a half a dozen occasions in the past 24 hours–most notably with his “He’s our closer” line in the press conference yesterday.

    • janebeard - Sep 28, 2015 at 4:01 PM

      It is absurd. And it’s also a lie. It’s some sort of bizarre face-saving thing because he was never going to play today. And why? To make Pap feel better? Bryce DID show maturity to get out of there.

      • Dave - Sep 28, 2015 at 4:12 PM

        I really believe MW and Papelbon are cut from the same cloth when it comes to this idiotic “playing the game the right way” BS.

  9. Todd Boss - Sep 28, 2015 at 2:47 PM

    Not sure this is “punishment” on Harper. The entire lineup is skipping all the regulars.

  10. Susan - Sep 28, 2015 at 3:55 PM

    Punishing Harpet in any way is ridiculous! What was he supposed to do or what would u do in that situation? Further, the fans need to have a chance to applaud Haroer for the year he gave them!

  11. Dave - Sep 28, 2015 at 4:03 PM

    You know what, I think Matt Williams and Jonathan Papelbon are both of the “old school” when it comes to this thing. I can easily see Williams himself doing a Papelbon on a fellow player after presumably not running fast enough to first.

    In fact, it was MW who started the whole ideology of “Harper doesn’t hustle” last year. And haven’t we heard stories of him physically pushing players into lockers during his playing and/or coaching days?

    I think Williams probably wondered what all the fuss was about–until all the ordure hit the fan later on in the afternoon and evening and somebody told him to make a statement.

    Please don’t let the slamming door hit you too hard on the buttocks on your way out, Matt.

    • Joe Seamhead - Sep 28, 2015 at 4:14 PM

      I’ve always the Harper hustle garbage started with Randy Knorr long before MW got here.

      • Dave - Sep 28, 2015 at 4:28 PM

        Really? Interesting…especially in light of speculation as to who might be the next manager.

  12. capoclemneza - Sep 28, 2015 at 4:05 PM

    Oh, Pappy, won’t see him no more.

  13. natsguy - Sep 28, 2015 at 4:05 PM

    The Nationals have further lost my respect. Rizzo now has to go also. Tired and sad about this. Not taken care of well. The part about Harper really sucks.

  14. funnationals - Sep 28, 2015 at 4:32 PM

    IMO Bryce is not without any fault in the matter, no argument is ever one-sided.

    But to say that Bryce is being benched “for his part in the altercation” when some of us already know he has today off is, well, a bit insulting to our intelligence.

  15. JamesFan - Sep 28, 2015 at 5:33 PM

    Punishing Harper for defending himself is outrageous. Away Williams, away.

  16. Skip Sterling - Sep 28, 2015 at 5:53 PM

    I am a big supporter of Matt Williams. He is honest, hardworking, and very supportive of his players. I wish the team had done better this year but I do not lay their difficulties at the feet of MW. I hope we keep him for a long time. This IS a winning team.

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