Sep 28, 2015, 3:33 PM EDT
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.
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